“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 mortals. Spinning stories started a long time before ‘mass media’ came along. From stone tablets, to papyrus scrolls, to printing presses, you guys twisted truth into mangled myths.”
“I’m confused—so I get to choose? I decide my own fate? It’s my call—either to be reincarnated or to go to Heaven or to go to Hell?”
Angels don’t have wings. They have stun guns—at least this one did. Because what it said shocked me. If I hadn’t died from a heart attack already, I’d have a heart attack right now.
“So the whole ‘good people go to Heaven, bad people go to Hell’ thing, isn’t a real thing?”
“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 surprised 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 he or she has acted on.”
“Huh? But that would mean we all end up going to Heaven. It would also mean that no one really goes to Hell.”
“Only those who choose to go to Heaven.”
“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—needless to say, it takes a lot out of you. With all that was left of me, I tried to remember what my ‘greatest good’ was, but to no avail.
“And… there it is,” Angel chuckled.
“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! 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! That donation I made to Save the Children! It was a pretty generous donation!”
Angel rolled its eyes, “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 intended as a tax deduction. And, you were a Big Sister so you’d have a community activity to include on your university application.”
“I give up.”
Apparently, angels also snort when they laugh out loud, “Death ends you human beings’ ability 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 what you ‘greatest good’ was???”
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’.”
Angel snorted again— so hard, that if it were human and had a nose, snot would’ve shot out. “You think I’m going to replay your ‘greatest good’ in this is crystal ball? Hate to disappoint, but it’s just a lamp…being that it’s getting darker and almost nighttime now.”
“WOW. Angels are really not that nice at all.”
“Misconceptions from the stories you guys spin, my friend. ‘Nice’ isn’t part of our job description—‘fair’, yes… ‘righteous’, sure… being ‘your guardians’? Ekh—we throw that bone to newbies/interns.”
“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…
“BUT, just before you turned 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 can’t tell you why—as that’s not within our realm of knowledge—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 all the money you had, and handed 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 #2: Besides the whole ‘good people go to Heaven’ story, 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 Angel just spoke.
“I’m sorry. But I don’t even recall that.”
Angel laughed, but this time, in a great kindness with which I always imagined Buddha would’ve laughed.
“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? Gandhi?? 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: A much younger and MUCH less famous Gandhi accomplished his ‘greatest good’— um, as his movement grew though, so too did his pride.”
“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? Mohamed?”
“Not gonna lie— all very close. But, still… when He parts the Red Sea for ya… come on, ya know Moses must’ve looked on at the children of Israel, and thought, ‘WHO’S YO DADDY?…”
“Mother Teresa? Dedicating her life to the poor?”
“Yeah, her intentions… 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 man?”
“Stupid. Really stupid. But, yes, voided.
“The 10 more times that I cheated on my man with his best friend?!!”
“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 people, back-stabbed colleagues, 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 intention is: 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— um, but 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 human—including every single victim—CHOOSES to forgive the criminals who have wronged him or her, once he or she arrives 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 GUILTY 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!”
Angel burst out cackling. For what seemed like eons, Angel continued to cackle. If I knew where to storm off to, I would have run out on Angel
“YOU GUYS REALLY SPUN THAT STORY GOOD! Even 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 compassion and forgiveness innately take over—you WANT to be compassionate and forgiving irrespective of being wronged…
“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 those people 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, when you guys get here, out of love in its purist form and your own free will, you guys end up forgiving. All of you—so far, at least, every single one of you people.”
“What about all 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 pleasure—but, not much else. In such a perfect world, compassion and forgiveness wouldn’t have been 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.”
“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 choose to let go of the guilt and shame that you feel. You can feel the purity of love—but even in feeling that you still have difficulty in deciding to let go of guilt and shame, simply 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 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 gelling 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… what you people call an ‘identity crisis’…
“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 CHOOSE to feel even more guilt and shame.
“Some, so much so, that they choose to go to Hell.
“Some, a little less so— 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 ever chosen to 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? Buddha? Moses?”
“Nope, nope and nope.”
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?
“And… there it is,” Angel sighed.
“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 its tone down to a frustrated whisper. “There’s no need for your guilt and shame. You can choose to let go of them—so LET gooooo.”
“If you tell me how, I will.”
“Okay. Step one: let go. Step Two: let go. Step three—”
“I know, let go!”
“No—step three is: make a decision!”
I concentrated as I had never concentrated before. In the stillness of all that I now was—in the presence and consciousness of all that is Him—I tried to let go. I attempted to choose to release my guilt and shame… to relinquish myself of their weight…
I really, really, REALLY tried.
“And… there it is.” Angel gazed at me and shook its head, “Is this what you truly want?”
“Not sure… was I this hesitant last time?”
“Nice try—but you are not privy to anymore than I’ve already told you… do you want more time to think? I can give it to you—it’s called purgatory…
“But I must warn you: having more time can work against you— because time gives you more to think about. Instinct ignites epiphanies. Logic leads to looping… What does your instinct tell you?”
A sudden silence overcame the sky—muted, not even a quantum ripple resonated. Every corner of its infinite space was a vacuum of quietude.
Whatever physical post-death form I was in, immediately felt lighter—my being instantly shattered into molecular fragments, floating in slow motion, through what seemed like air— atoms, electrons, nuclei, dancing further apart, further away, musically sweeping into something bigger than any I, I ever was… the distance between me and myself dissipated into Us.
A cold rush of elation showered over me. A warm gust of light hugged me.
“And… there it REALLY is.” Angel smiled in a way I always imagined Buddha would’ve smiled.