Ghosts and Eschatology

Chagall Bride 

I have serious issues when it comes to ghosts and to eschatology (not to be confused with scatology). In general, I do not buy the whole ghost thing. I think they are pulling my leg. In terms of life after death, I get the feeling that no one has really thought the whole thing out. My guess is that it is a lot of hype and probably not worth it. Let me explain . . .

Let’s start with ghosts. First of all, I think my initial problem is that I am simply too trusting. I don’t think I am naive, but maybe I don’t always think people are clever enough to be intentionally deceptive. For example, a few weeks back I went to see Almodovar’s new movie “Volver“. Almodovar introduces the character played by Carmen Maura as a ghost who comes back to take care of her sister and then her daughters (got it?). Now, I have no specific reason to believe that Almodovar is just playing tricks on us. I really didn’t think he was that clever. But, then a little into the movie, the ghost is hiding in the trunk of a car and is making noise so that her daughter will let her out. Of course, I get really annoyed. Recognize that I still think that Carmen Maura is a ghost. How can she be a ghost if she can’t get out of a car? Shouldn’t she be able to pass through walls and all of that stuff? So here is my problem.

If ghosts are translucent and can pass through walls, why would they ever need to open doors? And why aren’t they naked? I mean if they can pass through a wall, how would clothes be able to stay on their bodies? And how would they be able to make noise? I don’t see why ghosts get to have their cake and eat it too? I know they float around, but that must be because they can’t stand. If they were to stand on something, they would fall right though, just like the living with a cloud. Try putting a dress on a cloud. I am sure it will fall right off.

This brings me to eschatalogy. Here I have a bunch of concerns. Like ghosts, if a person accesses eternal life or an after life, what do they look like? Are they the same age as when they died? Or are they a different age? What are they wearing? It seems like ghosts are always the same age as when they died and are wearing the same clothes, so wouldn’t it be the same for the rest of us? That makes dress code especially stressful. What you put on in the morning you just may have to wear for eternity. That also makes living a long life fairly unattractive. Imagine that you knew you would live forever, ad finitum after death, strategically you would probably prefer to die young and healthy. But no one ever considers these important issues. We are talking about FOREVER. That’s a pretty long time.

Years ago I read Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. Conclusion: hell is other people. Most people find the idea of an after life attractive. You get to see all of those loved ones that preceded you in the after world. But, imagine that my wife dies young and I die old. Here I am a 90 year old with a 40 year old wife FOREVER. She’s going to want to do all of these different activities, and my legs really don’t work anymore. I can just see the nagging and complaining. What if I precede my wife and later she remarries? Does that mean that I have to spend eternity with her and her other husband? Did you ever notice that at weddings they say, “until death do us part”? That’s because eternity is much too long. Some people can’t wait to die to get away from their spouses.

Next imagine that, like the Mormons believe, we are reunited with our family for eternity. In the real world, our animal instincts force us to cut the umbilical cord both literally and figuratively to move out of our parents’ nest. We grow up and move on. When people spend too much time with family, they go crazy. So, now imagine spending eternity with your parents or your children. It would drive anyone out of their mind. Hell just may be other people, but in eternal life there is no suicide or liberation.

When I was 13, I had the entire screenplay to Enter the Dragon memorized. There was a particular line from the movie that stuck in my mind. “We are born knowing only life”. So if we gage our expectations on an eternal life based on what we know as life, we are bound to be disappointed. Death is different. It is not life. Just like in Sartre’s No Exit, imagine all of those little things in life that we take for granted and we will no longer be able to enjoy in a new after-life. Why won’t we enjoy them? Because they have to do with homeostasis and maintaining the organism in tact. In an after life, there will no longer be a need to eat, sleep, brush our teeths, procreate, etc. Imagine never being able to sleep again? That’s jet lag you can never (ever) get over.

The Buddhists solve all of the problems. Instead of making eternal life the solution, they make it the problem. Salvation for them is ceasing to exist, in other words exiting. But I am not a Buddhist, so for the mean time, I do not trust ghosts and I think the eschatologists are trying to pull a fast one.  It’s more scatology than eschatology to me.


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  1. Pingback: Grave Error » The Aging Process as a Defense Mechanism

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