“WHAT? It’s MY choice?”
“Correct. Your choice. 100%.”
“But you guys always made it sound like it wasn’t our choice at all.”
“That wasn’t us, it was you. Media began a long ass time before TV and radio came along.
“From stone tablets, to papyrus scrolls, you guys have a history of spinning some really unbelievable stories.”
“I’m confused. I get to choose to whether I want to be reincarnated or to go to Heaven or to go to Hell?”
“So the whole ‘good people go to Heaven, bad people go to Hell’ thing isn’t real?”
“People aren’t good or bad. People are simply people.”
“I’m sorry. This isn’t making any sense to me.”
“He created you, and put in you all those qualities that drive you guys to make dumb-ass decisions. So, He’s not that shocked when you guys follow through on your dumb-ass decisions.”
“Good and bad don’t exist then?”
“I didn’t say that. I said there are no good and bad people. There are, however, good and bad intentions.
“And, almost every soul ever created, has at least ONE good intention that is so awesome, it cancels out any other bad intentions they’ve acted on.”
“You, like almost everybody, have one ‘greatest good’, which determines your final judgment.”
“But that would mean we all end up going to heaven.”
“Only those who choose to go to Heaven.”
“It would also mean that no one really goes to hell.”
“Not unless they want to.”
“Who WANTS to go to hell?”
“I’ll explain that later. But first, let’s focus on the ‘greatest good’ thing.”
Dying, apparently, is a pretty exhaustive process. With all that was left of me, I tried to remember what my ‘greatest good’ was, but to no avail.
“And… there it is.”
“There what is?”
“You trying to figure out your ‘greatest good’. As soon as anyone finds out the ‘greatest good’ thing, they always… ALWAYS… ALWAYS wonder what theirs is and then—”
“Oh, oh! Hold on! But of course!
“The summer I participated in Habitat for Humanity! Who would have thought that little decision would go such a long way, right?”
“Uh, yeah. But no.”
“Wait! Wait! Oh! It was that donation I made to Save the Children! I mean, it was a pretty generous donation—so that’s gotta be it.”
“Nope. The size of your donation doesn’t determine the size of its goodness.”
“Summer of ’92! Joining the Boys & Girls Club as a Big Sister! HA!”
“You still don’t get it—I said ‘greatest good’ intended.
“If you remember, the Habitat for Humanity gig was a choice you made with pretty selfish intentions. You were crushing on a guy, and decided to go once you found out he was going.
“The Save the Children donation you made was really intended as a tax deduction.
“And, you were a Big Sister so you’d have a community activity to include on your college application.”
“I give up.”
The Angel started to snicker.
“Death ends you humans being able to eat, drink and breath—but it still doesn’t totally kill your Egos, does it?
“In stead of assuming to know the answer, ever think about asking me what you ‘greatest good’ was???”
“Angels are way more sarcastic than they’re portrayed on earth.”
“Part of humanity’s story spinning, my friend, part of the spinning.”
“God Damn it! Just tell me!”
Crap. This is probably a really bad time to use the Lord’s name in vain.
“Relax. He always cuts the newbies some slack. I think He even finds it a bit amusing.”
Collecting what I can only assume are my atoms, I recomposed myself and calmly asked again. “Please, do tell, what is my ‘greatest good’?”
The Angel pulled out a glass orb. Within seconds, it was emanating a glowing light so glorious, it lit up the entire sky.
I drew closer to the orb, concentrating on its yellow-pink incandescence.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m waiting for you to show me my ‘greatest good’.”
The Angel snorted with laughter.
“You think I’m going to replay your ‘greatest good’ in this is crystal ball?
“Hate to disappoint, but it’s just a lamp… ya know, being that it’s getting darker and almost nighttime now.”
“WOW. Angels are really not that nice at all.”
“Com’on, learn to laugh at yourself a little! Death is so much more laid back. Enjoy it!”
“Can we please get back to my ‘greatest good’?
“Right! So, one day, you were running late to an important meeting. You were stuck in one of the worst traffic jams evah. I mean it was lock down, bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper CRAY CRAY traffic!
“As soon as it started to loosen up, you had a clear left you could have taken, which would have given you access to a less congested route.
“Just before you were about to turn left, you saw a poor woman in the street, exhausted, walking with her child. The little girl, who was very thirsty, kept trying to suck out the last few drops of water from a bottle she was holding.
“I don’t know why, or exactly what it was, but in seeing this woman and child, a sincere, deep and genuine sense of compassion overcame you.
“So you parked your car on the side of the road—and although the meeting you were going to was super important, you didn’t give it a second thought.
“You ran to a kiosk, grabbed a few sandwiches and bottles of water, crossed the street, and gave them to the woman and the child.
“You then pulled out 100 LE, handing it to the woman. As you gave her the money, you also intended in your heart for it to be a charitable donation in the memory of your deceased father.”
Myth number two: Besides the whole ‘good people go to Heaven’ bullshit, it also isn’t true that when you die, your entire life ‘flashes before of you’.
I remember certain people, certain events, a few milestone moments, but in no way could I remember the incident of which the Angel just spoke.
“I’m sorry. But I don’t even recall that.”
The Angel laughed, but this time, with great kindness.
“That’s because you guys remember what you think is important and meaningful. But you guys never give a thought to what is actually important and meaningful.
“And compassion—that emotion of selflessness, that sentiment which enables you to step outside of yourself and connect with the world, with others and by default with Him—well, its one of the two most meaningful intentions a person can act on.”
“And that’s my ‘greatest good’? Really?”
“Of course, you’re disappointed. You humans, you just love your Hollywood endings—those stoic, heroic acts of sainthood.
“Well, my friend, there’s not a person in history whose ‘greatest good’ was on that grand a scale.”
“Uh, he-llo? Ghandi?? Passive resistance movement? Dying for his cause?”
“I’m not usually allowed to share the details of other cases—it kinda goes against the whole Angel-dead person confidentiality thing.
“But, I can tell you this: throughout Ghandi’s quest, in his heart, he was a wee bit too proud of himself.”
“Look, I’ve already said too much. The point is, until today, no one, and I mean literally no one has ever achieved his or her ‘greatest good’ in a big way.”
“Jesus? Moses? Buddah?”
“Not gonna lie—closest ones to it. But, still… a tinge of glory-seeking there.”
“Mother Teresa? Dedicating her life to the poor?”
“Yeah, her intentions are messed up on so many levels, I can’t even begin.”
“So, because I stopped for this woman, fed her and her kid, gave them some money, everything bad I ever did in my ENTIRE LIFE, is—whoosh! Completely voided?”
“What about the, like, 50 times I shoplifted as a teenager?”
“The gazillion times I’ve lied to people I love?”
“Cheating on my husband with my boss?”
“Stupid. Really stupid. But, yes, voided.”
“The five times after my boss that I cheated on my husband?!!”
“Nasty. Low. SHAMEFUL. Horrible. Incredibly dishonest.”
“Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just implement them.”
“I’ve stolen, lied and cheated. I’ve screwed up my marriage, back-stabbed friends, and just in case you don’t remember, hurt my family and friends so much, that NO ONE showed up at my funeral.”
“I didn’t say you were a wonderful person. But remember, it’s not a numbers game.”
“What about others who have done some really, really, really bad things, like KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE? This makes NO SENSE AT ALL!”
“Relax. Chill out.
“If you remember, I said that almost everyone has a ‘greatest good’, which voids anything bad they’ve done.
“I also said that compassion was one of the two most meaningful intentions a person can act on. The other one being, forgiveness.”
“I’m sorry, but who forgives Hitler? Idi Amin? That Pharaoh who killed ALL THE BABIES?”
“Yeah, you mortals are actually pretty impressive when it comes to compassion—forgiveness, not so much. The funny thing is, when you guys die, you are SUPER forgiving.
“I don’t why, I just know that, everyone who’s died, up until today, has, independently, decided to forgive anyone who’s wronged him or her.”
“You’re telling me that allllllllll those killers, rapists, terrorists, tyrants, dictators, child molesters, MONSTERS, are…”
“Forgiven. Yes. Everyone.
“When you guys forgive these people, He does too. But only if you have—and like I said, every single victim wants to forgive these criminals when they get here.”
This is utterly ridiculous! Where the fuck am I? Is this a joke?
“I’ve lived my life, if not feeling guilty for the bad things I’ve done, at least knowing I SHOULD feel guilt for them!
“Now you’re telling me, ‘hey, doesn’t matter what you do—forget the Ten Commandments! Forget the whole ‘right to life, liberty and happiness’!
“Anyone and everyone GETS AWAY WITH ANYTHING!”
The Angel started laughing again. For what seemed like eons, the Angel continued to cackle. If I knew where to storm off to, I would have run out on the Angel.
“THEY REALLY SPUN THAT STORY GOOD! You guys fell for it hook, line and sinker! Let go… let GO of everything you were brainwashed to believe.
“The real question you need to ask is this:
“What is the point of it all?”
I had spent my entire life asking myself that question—frustrated, angry and resentful, I kept asking it, knowing I could never get the real answer.
Yet, in a place and at a time where someone who knew the answer could give it to me, I didn’t once think about asking it.
“Well, what is the point?”
“The first point—as corny and cheesy as it may seem—is love.
“You guys never got that as mortals, because you really hadn’t experienced love in its purest form.
“When you’re alive, your ability to love is tainted. Even the kindest, most generous and selfless of you cannot experience love in its purest form.
“Because even when you are kind, generous and selfless, you inevitably feel good about… well… yourself. In essence, every selfless act in life is a selfish endeavor.
“Your kindness, generosity and selflessness, ultimately, are always tainted by a selfish pride and the pleasure of ‘being a good person’.
“Like splatters of ink on a white dress, these stains of vanity might be small, but still… the dress ends up being ruined.
“Once in a lifetime though, for a split Nano of a Nano of a Nano second, you guys experience a glimpse of unabated compassion or forgiveness. And that moment always becomes your ‘greatest good’.
“When you die, you are disencumbered by the stories you’ve spun, and begin to feel love in its purest form. So you willing exercise complete compassion and unconditional forgiveness.
“Bringing us to the second point of it all—freewill.
“From the beginning, you guys had the will to create and be what you aspired to. Even when it came to Him—He is who you wanted Him to be.
“Some of you turned Him into a human and put Him on a cross. Others didn’t believe He was human, but might as well have, since they ended up personifying Him as angry, jealous, vengeful and punishing.
“Truth is, He never punished anyone—He only defended the rights of people who willed to believe He would defend their rights.
“I promise you—if ONE victim of the BILLIONS that were wronged at the hands of ANY criminal, didn’t will to forgive those criminals, then He wouldn’t forgive them either.
“But, out of love in its purist form and your own free will, you guys end up forgiving. All of you—every single one of you people.”
“What about those who lost children, got illnesses like cancer, people who SUFFERED?”
“Let me ask you this: what did I tell you your ‘greatest good’ was?
“Stopping for the poor woman and her child.”
“No—I said it was the compassion you had for them, which then triggered you to stop for them.”
“I don’t get it.”
“There’s no doubt He could have created a world sans suffering.
“If life was all peaches and plums, you guys would experience non-stop happiness—but, not much else. In such a perfect world, compassion and forgiveness wouldn’t need to be experienced.
“Suffering and the witnessing of suffering are the only reason you guys feel compassion and forgiveness. And compassion and forgiveness are the only means for you to connect to one another and to Him.
“Happiness is a selfish pleasure—sure, it can foster gratitude, but inevitably, you guys take that happiness for granted and stop being grateful.”
It was such an inane explanation, that it made total sense.
“But if it’s this simple, why the hell was it made to be so complicated on earth?”
“Ah—that brings us back to your earlier question. Remember when you asked me, ‘who wants to go to hell’?”
“Oh, yes! Forgot about that question!”
“The simplest and most meaningful intentions known to man—compassion and forgiveness—are ALWAYS complicated by guilt and shame.
“So rather than overcome these two, you guys spin stories around them—and they are some fucked up stories with some serious complications. The deeper the guilt and shame get, the crazier your stories become.
“What’s interesting is that—even after death, you guys find it hard to let go of the guilt and shame that you feel. Mostly because, you don’t want to.
“That’s why you opt to be reincarnated or you opt to go to Hell. And He sends you where you want to go—no questions asked, it’s all up to you, honey bunny.”
“Listen, I get that you’re an Angel and everything, and that you have all the answers—but I think you need to Google the facts of your story again. It’s not gellin’ together.”
“Okay—on earth, don’t some people decide to see the ‘up side’ of life, while others seem to always assume the worst?”
“Following that logic, wouldn’t that mean that some decide to create their own Heaven, and some decide to create their own Hell?”
“Uh… I suppose.”
“And why do you think some will a Heaven for themselves, while others will a Hell?”
“Uh… because… because…”
“Guilt and shame.
“Those who have freed themselves of guilt and shame are able to will a Heaven. Those who haven’t freed themselves, will a Hell.
“Or, if they don’t will a Hell, they will a new identity for themselves—seeking to be someone other than who they are.”
“Holy shit! HOLY SHIT! This is EPIC!”
“And, because you guys don’t want to let go of your guilt and shame, you spin stories about how He’ll relieve you of that guilt and shame once you die.
“Your idiotic stories even boast about Him rewarding you for your guilt and shame!
“Yet, even when you get here and find out what the point of it all is, rather than bask in the beauty of it, rather than feel joy and happiness, rather than sing and dance, you guys feel even more guilt and shame.
“Some, so much so, that they choose to go to Hell.
“Some, a little less so—and those ones ask for a ‘redo’. Hence, they are reincarnated.”
“And the ones who let go of the guilt and shame, they choose to go to Heaven?”
“Sadly, my friend, to date, no one who’s come here has let go of their guilt and shame.”
“Wait—that would mean no one’s ever gone to Heaven.”
“Correction—no one has ever chosen to go to Heaven.”
“Jesus? Buddah? Moses?”
“Moses was a bit hard on himself— it took a while to persuade him to at least choose reincarnation.”
This left me in quite a pickle. If people like Moses didn’t even think they were worthy of Heaven, who was I to choose to go there?
I don’t want to go to Hell, but then again, I sort of feel it’s where I belong.
Damn, the Angel is right, shaking off the guilt and shame ain’t easy.
“And… there it is.”
“There what is?”
“You trying to decide where you want to go—stop comparing yourself to other ‘good people’. I told you, there are no good or bad people—which means that no one can really be better than anyone else.”
“But nothing! Listen, my job isn’t to decide for you where you should go. My job is to tell you all the facts, so you can make an informed decision. For ONCE, one of you guys, PLEASE, just accept the facts as they are!”
“Can I at least think about it?”
“What’s there to think about?! You don’t need to think! You need to let go of the guilt and shame!”
“I can’t! I can’t!”
“You CAN! You just don’t WANT TO!”
“Stop yelling at me!”
The Angel brought his tone down to a frustrated whisper. “I’m not yelling, I am pleading with you—there’s no need for your guilt and shame. So, please just decide to let go of them.”
“If you tell me how, I will.”
“Okay. Step one: let them go. Step Two: let them go. Step three—”
“I know, let them go!”
“No—step three is: make a decision!”
Pausing, I concentrated as I had never concentrated before. In the stillness of all that what was—an existence, a consciousness, HIM—I tried to let go.
I attempted to release my guilt and shame… to relinquish myself of their weight…
I really, really tried.
“And… there it is.”
The Angel let out a melodious sigh, “Well then, Ready?”
“Yes. Really ready.”
“Then, my friend, let’s go.”