Friday, August 14, 2009

Mortality By 3's

Deaths of famous people supposedly come in threes. My question is always: When do you stop counting? I mean, if you always reset the counter when it reaches 3, then, of course it does!

Anyway, Eunice Shriver, Les Paul, and Andy Kessler managed to check out within a few days of each other this week. So I've been trying to gain some lesson from that convergent coincidence.

In her long life, Eunice Shriver did some great things besides being JFK's younger sister and Arnold Schwarzenegger's mother-in-law. Most notably: as someone who controlled a great deal of wealth, she advocated charities that fought children's disabilities and promoted children's health, and was a key founder of the Special Olympics.

Les Paul, born Lester William Polsfuss (good Lord! no wonder he changed his name) is credited with almost all the important innovations that made Rock 'n Roll and modern music what it is today. His creative tinkering combined with his musical talent to achieve great accomplishments. Some of his guitars are valued at over a million dollars apiece because of their historical significance in the world of music.

Andy Kessler was famous for his feats on a skateboard. He not only was a master of the board, but also instrumental in building several skate parks in New York and Long Island.

Eunice was 88, Les was 94, and Andy was 48 at the time of their deaths. The deaths of Eunice and Les did not come all that unexpectedly given that they were both fighting some afflictions, and were considered "elderly". Andy's demise, however, came suddenly in the form of a heart attack that occurred as the result of a wasp sting. Murder by insect, so to speak.

As we all will eventually pass into whatever awaits us after this life, I wonder what is in store for us. Is it better to live to a nearly feeble state or to check out suddenly and unexpectedly at the hands of some quirky fatality?

My brother recently wrote to me: "Wouldn't it be wild if the Afterlife was a place where you had to live out all the scenarios presented in jokes on the internet?" He added, "I think I'd want to be either a priest or a rabbi; at least they spend a lot of time in bars."

An afterlife is a fairy tale to me. If some part of us lives on after our body dies, then physical sensation would be meaningless. Any description of "Heaven" that involves any of the five senses sounds to me like something made up by a child. Golden lyres, pearl gates, silk robes - all things easily imagined by someone living by their senses every day, but not very important to a spiritual being.

Same thing goes for "Hell". Burning would be fairly insignificant to a spirit that cannot sense temperature. Plus, it always seemed to me that eternal damnation was a very hefty price to pay for a sin (even for murder) committed by a being who lives less than a hundred years.

My current take on the metaphysical plane and religion is that God is a concept created by man. The human mind is able to see patterns where none exist. Just as we see patterns in the clouds that represent faces or animals, so, too, do some people look at the abundant diversity of life on this planet and see some magical laboratory where it all began.

"All things have a beginning, so the Universe must also have a beginning. And that beginning was started by God."

What started God?

"He has no beginning and no end. He has always existed and always will."

Well, if that concept can apply to God, why can it not also apply to the Universe? If it applies to the Universe, then it needs no creator.

I can easily imagine early men wondering what caused the tree to fall on their uncle, or what caused the sky to rain, and so on, and as a result of thinking about these things crouched around the fire in their cave conceiving of a god that had the power to do what they could not or could not explain. As different god concepts evolved, then it became a question of which god did what.

The concept that one God is the big kahuna and god of all gods to me sounds more like the winner at the "My God Can Kick Your God's Ass" contest.

MY God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and endless. He is not only the kindest, gentlest, most generous God, but also the biggest Prick you can imagine. He has a Plan that neither you nor I can understand, so floods, hurricanes, asteroid strikes, and pestulence are aspects of this "Plan" that we just don't understand.

While I do hope that dying is the start of something interesting, I cannot justify spending much time pretending to know what it is like until I've had some taste of it. Not that I want to find out right away, mind you. There are many Happy Hours and Jamborees to attend before that.