Oh rules. They’re always there in life. Whether you play by your own rules, are religious and follow the rules of your chosen path, or are referring to the laws of the land in which you live, all of our lives are bound by rules.
So some of you might be thinking, “Hey, I’m reading this because I clicked a link on Facebook, which means you posted to Facebook — doesn’t that mean that you’re breaking the rules and are not on a break from social media, Rae?” Well, yes and no, but mostly no, since I’m writing this, and am not reading it. The whole point of the break from social media is to help control my PTSD, and writing about life and dealing with PTSD, MS, and epilepsy is not likely to exacerbate it, in fact, it’s one of the most therapeutic things I do, and it’s a wonderful step toward having a better life! Not writing would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I’ve been thinking a lot about rules lately. Rules are different in different religions about what you should and shouldn’t do to be happy. The laws in different religions are enforced differently too based on whether or not that particular religion believes in an afterlife.
Me, I don’t believe in an afterlife in the traditional way that likes to get played up in American pop culture… some mix of various Christian Protestant dogmas and the finer works of Dante, Milton, and whoever else felt like playing around with hell. Kevin Smith had a good time with Dogma, and writers Tara Butters & Michelle Fazekas did a pretty good job recently with Reaper. Too bad it ended in Season 2 just as it was starting to get its own feel.
But hey, what are you gonna do? You can’t expect the world to want new mythology all of the sudden. Especially not in comedy form. And especially not when they do what they did in Reaper, where humans are dating shape-shifting demons who regularly refer to themselves as fallen angels, a guardian angel is *gasp* gay and is believed by the lady he’s protecting to be her “fairies.” (Such an awesomely inappropriate joke!) That’s really asking an awful lot of your average viewing audience. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I enjoyed the heck out of it both for its entertainment value and on an artistic level. It showed guts that networks bigger than the CW wouldn’t have had.
The thing is, the show’s primary arch – the plot device that drives the whole series – from beginning to end was “How does our hero get out of being owned by the Devil?” or put in a more universally felt way – “How do you use the rules by which we are bound to escape the pain we are currently experiencing?”
And really, that’s what life is all about, I think – figuring out different ways that we can use our bodies, minds, and hearts within the parameters of the rules by which we are bound to experience joy and to improve the world around us for ourselves and for others, so that we all may live in less pain and with more happiness.
I believe that as adults, we mostly choose the rules by which we are bound.
We choose where to live and thus choose the laws to which we submit ourselves. As adults, we choose our religion or lack thereof. We choose the friends we surround ourselves with and the family members that we communicate with, though I am of the opinion that you should always communicate with your family, even if they’re dicks. (Hey, assholes need love too. They’re usually jerks because they didn’t get the love they needed at a crucial time!)
But the thing that sucks about choosing your own rules and being an adult is that it comes with a built in bullshit detector – meaning you know when you let yourself down. Sure G-d is watching you, but so are you! And I don’t know about you, but I have always been my worst critic and strictest rule enforcer… which has often lead back to suicidal thinking. Clearly, I need to learn how to lighten up on myself. Still haven’t figured out the “how” on that one. If anyone has helpful suggestions, I am all ears.
But anyway, back to that whole afterlife thing. If you think about it, there is only one of you in all of time and space. One genetic specimen with the exact environmental experiences that you have had. And therefore, I believe that both Heaven and Hell exist here on Earth during life and that any “afterlife” means literally after life.
For example: I can tell you from experience that having electrodes glued to your scalp for a week while they take EEGs of your seizure activity is Hell.
After I’m dead, and there’s no more me, after all of life is said and done and the whole of the universe has gone kaput, I would still have spent that week in hell in July of 2008. For all eternity, that will be true.
I think that’s what the bible was trying to say about an afterlife to begin with. Just that when you die, you’re done. So choose to not do things during life that will bring you pain. If you look at the list of sins in any religion, it’s all stuff that would bring you pain or death when they were made sins.
Basically, what every religion says to me is the same thing: that the creator does not want you to make choices that cause you pain, because this life is all you’ve got. What you do to change the world in a positive way and the memories you make with each other are the legacy you leave behind – and that is your true afterlife, the presence that will be felt of you long after you are gone. No more, no less.
The rest of it, I think just comforts people or scares them in line. But that’s just my take.