I like the Orthodox. They have ghosts. Catholics do too. They roam about and remind the living that death is not conclusive. Many also say that ghosts revenge the deeds not done while dragging skin and bone around. But, when Protestants entered, they killed off the haunts by theologizing souls springing to heaven, a presumptuous and boring end. Then, blend western enlightenment’s take on memory and subconscious behavior and psychology gets slapped sticky atop the church to seal the graves secure. There seems to be no threats to the life of the mind save one’s own world and the context of one’s own experiences.
“It’s a result of pain, of loss, of something within a person,” they say. “A dislodged spirit, a homeless soul. Nonsense. That’s not reasonable and is jumping off a psychotic’s ledge.”
I suppose the result is a society more educated and less inclined to believe spirits are around them, in dark corners and behind curtains, and even that individuals each have a soul hiding inside them, leaping out at the time of death.
It’s hard to define soul. It dwells on the edges of morose thought and most people avoid discussions about their body breaking from their soul. But at the end of a person’s days, something leaves and the flesh locks out any hint of blinking again.
If there is a soul does it see and hear what happens at the exit?
“Mom, Dad. It’s time. The cancer got me. Finally. I love you.”
Last breath. Tears. “Oh, Jim. He’s finally passed on. He did it so peaceful like.”
“No! Don’t shoot.” Gunfire. Death. Footsteps. “Rot in hell, bastard.”
“Hold on. I didn’t see the t-u-r-n...”
Crash. Blood. Sirens. “What happened here? These kids were drinking. I know they were. This is not good; this is not good at all.”
If matter is not destroyed, then perhaps the stuff which makes fingers move and the mind to reason and legs to run and the heart to love, carries some substantive form and cannot be discarded. And perhaps it’s the part that doesn’t expire- the garden touch of God receded into a person’s innards only to remember its affinity with a higher image at the very moment it needs fresh air.
But what happens next?
Reason gets lost. But, reason is a heavy anchor that must be cut in the end. Christianity does not promise that intellect will find peace in a devotion to the divine. Now free, mystery finds stability and things solid begin to pale as foreign shapes from some other land, some other time.
Looking down, feet dangle in a jump that never lands, suspended between the heavens and the earth with no where to go and no directions to follow.
What do you do? Try out a conversation with one of those moving shapes that seem to trip on gravity. “You, yes you. Do you know where I am? Can you see me?” There is no reply. You feel hungry, empty in some undefinable way. Then you see other suspended beings and they appear less blurred, more real. You approach hesitantly. They motion you to the clouds that have dipped down to arm’s reach. You go and discover the limits of science. The cumulous puffs in fact hold mountain ranges more grand than any of the fallen surfaces below. You see hundreds of beings that look happy and full yet waiting and wanting all at once. You remember that God guided Israel on a cloud and Jesus exited in the same mode. And nature itself claims the cloudy mystery as ethereal bellies carry buckets of water to keep the heavens as gardner of the earth. You are now part of that mystery and tangled up with the immortality always inside during your fleshy wanderings.
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Where are the borders of heaven? How does one’s soul find passage to it? Does heaven exist at all? Or are we spinning on some wheel that cannot be reprieved until some brahman moment? Jesus’ entry and exit stops such ideas of spinning and changes measurements to discount self-perpetuated goodness as rubble. There is some finality with death - winning the race to receive the prize, as Paul puts it. However, can we bind the afterlife so tightly that all its holes are plugged up and no Hebraic crowd watches? Will Elijah and Moses not get out to comfort the dying Son of God? Can no chariots fall in fiery dashes?
I’ haven’t seen a ghost nor an angel outright. Yet, the narrative of Scripture demonstrates the sky is closer than it lets on. Things drop down and get called up again in a dance that has not ceased since God declared the world below as good. May we have eyes to see what others don’t, ears to hear the hums from beyond, as close as our next breath.