- Liam Carroll
An Agnostic’s Idea of Heaven and Hell
Did you hear about the dyslexic, insomniac, agnostic? He couldn’t sleep at night, sick with worry, unsure if there was a dog. Poor fella. I have no idea if there is a God or not, surprise, surprise! Though I do love seeing Richard Dawkins debating various religious nitwits and anyone else deranged enough to indulge in arguments about all this impossible to prove rhetoric, getting all hot and bothered and abusive. If Jesus was indeed born of the virgin, Mary, and crucified for anything worthwhile, it was surely to allow these lunatics the freedom to debate such self-serving nonsense.
It’s impossible to know if there is a reason we’re all here, if anything is real or unreal, if maybe we’re actually all squooshed up naked and on top of each other in some amniotic fluid filled, Matrix-human-farm orgy, our priceless human electricity fuelling the machines of an artificially intelligent universe where even the dimmest of computers has Mensa membership credentials. Who knows, but fingers crossed humanity can find someone better than Keanu quarterback punk to save the day and a foe a tad more threatening than Hugo Weaving to overcome.
My gut instinct tells me that most things in this world are one almighty fluke. A big bang, a milky way, a green planet, a fine balance of every conceivable miracle between here and infinity all manifesting to result in me even being here in the first place and so immensely privileged that I can sit in peace and type this out. There can never be consensus as to why we’re here or who’s in charge, but there is one thing more certain than taxes. Smart people don’t pay those nowadays. No, there is the absolute certainty that you will die. I will too, don’t worry. We’re traveling along this one-way-cul-de-sac together.
I try not to dwell on the subject too often. But over the years of attempting to numb myself to the realisation that at some stage or another, I will most likely be alone, probably in immense pain, and with zero options aside from the very, very, very last one I want…I will be facing the abyss, whether I like it or not. After trying to wrap my head properly around how this moment will feel, I think I’ve stumbled upon a reasonable idea of what heaven or hell constitutes and how I want to live my life to prepare for the horror of seeing the fat lady singing.
You know in primary school when the teacher pulls out some illustrated timeline of the universe? They’ll point out that you’re just a pinprick in the overall scheme of things. Gee, thanks mate, so are you, jerk. What they don’t realize though, is the more personal fact that in your final living moment, whether you’ve been clipped by a bus, chomped by a shark, or nursing a heart that’s finally had enough, your own timeline is infinity. It might be a millisecond, maybe a whole minute, but sooner or later, your entire life’s timeline will be EVERYTHING. That’s your dying present, and for you, it will be eternal. What will be going through your mind in that moment of infinity?
I don’t know if there is a God or not. I have no idea if Catholics, Moslems, Jews or Tom Cruise are all barking mad or perhaps enlightened to something real and fantastic that my cynical mind simply can’t fathom. What I am certain of though is that we all know precisely the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. We are all blessed and cursed with a moral compass that will not be suppressed when you have one colossal moment to reflect on your existence and face mortality.
The difference between heaven and hell, the eternity you will be engulfed in as your eyes roll back, the reality you will understand with complete clarity and dying certainty is determined by whether or not you treated your fellow man and extraordinary planet with respect and dignity or hatred and contempt. You will no longer have a face-saving stake in the outcome. You’re at death’s door and forced one final time to look back on your lifetime. What you see will be heaven or hell, joy or despair. It really is up to you whether or not it's going to be a nice view.
What’s waiting next is anyone’s guess.
Liam Carroll is the author of Slippery, a story set in Southeast Asia about capitalism on steroids, it makes the world of Gordon Gecko look positively gentlemanly, and Sweet Dreams of Fanta, a nostalgic romp in time back to the Sydney of 1988, seen through the eyes of a freckly, moon-faced, seven year old Fanta addict and devoted Balmain Tigers lover.
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