I have often wondered if afterlife enthusiasts and researchers are so interested in the next life because this one can be so miserable and confusing. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think my life or life in general is a negative experience or something from which we must escape–but I DO believe that the day-to-day can be overwhelming and lead us to long for something better, something easier.
For example: I spend, unfortunately, many hours in the day trying to figure out if I need to see a doctor about some ailment that plagues me. Yesterday, it was all about investigating whether or not I have Benign Postural Vertigo or a brain tumor, or perhaps one of the many neurological diseases that will ruin a life in small increments. I based this on the fact that I have experienced severe vertigo on a couple of occasions recently (no, not every day or even every week), and I’m generally dizzy. Allergists tell me it’s allergies, and opthamologists tell me it’s my progressively worsening–age-related–vision. My regular doctor thinks I simply need more Claritin. I don’t really believe any of them–surely they’ve missed something ominous. I won’t consult them further, though, since that would mean horrible tests that would drive me to the brink of insanity. Oh, I should mention that my therapist (hey, everyone has one, right?) thinks most of it is panic and anxiety, or a combination of an ear problem and panic. Whatever. No matter what anyone tells me, I’m secretly convinced that I have a horrible malady that will kill me by inches, and no one and nothing will be able to save me.
That “horrible malady” is life itself. It seems, therefore, that my interest in continuing life doesn’t make the best sense. Life leads to death, which probably leads to more life–is that a terrible thought? My unspoken assumption here is that “more life” isn’t just more of the same, but more of something vastly better: no body to worry about incessantly, no emotional pain, no more hard lessons and endless communion with loved ones who have passed on. Unfortunately, the fly in the ointment are the facts: it appears that more life simply means more challenges and more hard lessons.
As I’ve said before on this site, the best evidence–the most “scientific” in the best sense of the word–comes from Near Death Experiences, reincarnation memories of children (Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker), mediumship experiments (see The Afterlife Experiments) and the famous “cross correspondences” from Frederic Myers to a diverse and random group of mediums. There is much to add to this list, but this is enough for now–what do the results of all these experiments or studies point to? The same conclusion: there’s no fuzzy heaven with a shiny, happy God that endlessly finds ways to make your existence simple and beautiful. No, it looks like the afterlife is all about accounting for your actions in this life, making amends, forgiving yourself and others, and then heading to the next level. If this life is elementary school, you still have Middle School and High School to contend with, not to mention college and graduate school (which is where, I imagine, you finally get your angel wings instead of a Ph.D.).
It seems like we have barely made it out of fifth grade so far in this life. If Junior High is anything like it was for me at 13, I’m in for a miserable spiritual ride. I’m guessing that my rampant fears and life-long hypochondria will not disappear, but will actually intensify, since this negativity has to be burned out of me like a wart under a flame (what an unpleasant image, my apologies). If I don’t handle these fears of mine, then God will see fit to send me to India in the next life, inhabiting a disease-ridden body, unable to walk, begging for alms and waiting for salvation. Why? Simply because until I learn to transcend the petty issues of my physical shell, the lesson will become more and more severe, until I give up. My particular lesson is learning how to let go of fear and the need to control my circumstances; so I anticipate that the next life–unless I make real progress now–will up the ante in terms of pedagogy. With enough suffering, you DO learn to let go and give up, and therefore begin to heal.
I suppose it’s something like hitting bottom for the alcoholic. When you’re passed out in the street without shoes or a shirt, and bums are rummaging through your pockets, you realize that your entire life must change. Nothing that obvious will happen to me–I’m hoping for a moment of illumination, a divine revelation, a sudden epiphany. That may happen, but I continue to suspect that I’m looking for the easy way out. We have to work towards those epiphanies–they don’t magically appear on their own.
So what do I have to do? I wish I really knew the answer to that question. I will keep searching for that answer, because I don’t want to be born again with the stunning realization that the lesson wasn’t learned the last time around, and so, here we go . . . again.