Drives Me Crazy
You know what drives me crazy? You wouldn’t think that anything here would have that effect, but it can and it does. It’s all those sceptics, those humanists and existentialists so certain they’re right and everyone else is just fantasising. My mother didn’t take too well to my passing, a bit ugly for sure, nothing anyone would want to relish, but it was over in a flash, about thirty seconds of agony and then, whoosh, I was gone. Wasn’t sure quite where but I was gone, that I knew. No car, no fire, no broken body. I was floating, then I was sleeping, then I woke up in a bed, all comfy and cozy. Not sure for how long. The first nurse told me not to worry about that and just to rest, which I did, passing out almost immediately. The second, at least I think she was the second, the drugs here are more than effective, smiled sweetly and charmed with some easy chat and some Earl Grey tea. How did she know that was my fave blend? Ages later I puzzled on that one.
I was there recuperating until, well, I felt better. They fed me soups and toast until I could get up and walk. Bit wobbly but I got the hang of it and made it through the French doors into the garden and flopped onto a bench where I gazed at the flowers and the woody patch beyond. Lovely spot I had to say. I really lucked out when you think of the dumps I could have wound up in. Blair Memorial? I’ve heard folk say they wouldn’t take their dogs there. It’d always had a bad rap, at least since I was a kid.
When I got my strength back they found me an apartment in a compact and pretty complex nearby. It looked so like the set up my ex Brittany had for a couple of years that I wondered if I might run into her somehow. I’d heard she’d moved to the west coast, packing all her stuff and cats in the back seat, but maybe that was just gossip. I’d also heard she’d found a vegan resto to her liking and slotted herself in, doing the ordering and accounting, which seemed more like the Brittany I couldn’t handle. With my degree in philosophy of mind and career-free lifestyle I was far from her ideal mate. Practical, earthy and healthy, she saw me as some overweight pretentious intellectual who was, unfortunately for the big picture, awesome in bed.
Yeah, I’ll admit it, the mind-body problem and how the heck consciousness arises from it like some phoenix from the ashes of nothingness, had me firmly in its grip, and I could rattle on for hours if anyone was vaguely interested. Brittany was fascinated by the intricacies and challenges of organic farming and how it might continue to expand its successful niche in the global rat race of agribusiness warfare. A doomed relationship you say, and yes you would be right but for the sparks that used to regularly fly between us.
Was my ‘accident’ my fiery exit, a result of the grim self-pity of our break-up? That’s what some thought, but at the time I was tussling over some finer points in the endless debate my bubble contains. In the head-on the other guy was way over the limit and was adjudged to be at fault, but I’d pulled out carelessly myself. How do I know? I attended the inquest. Not that I cared much for assigning blame, but I was curious as ghosts can sometimes be. In my time I’ve met a few who are obsessed, but being the philosopher I never got passed curiosity. For a while after I returned to the courthouse to observe other cases, something I’d never taken an interest in before.
It took a while to tune in the audio, as it were, and actually clearly hear the words being spoken. Then I found out how to turn it off and became fascinated with the ballet of body language. Okay, maybe ballet is a bit much, but the dance of it all, emotions propelling muscles and joints. In between all this I attended to my mother, her grieving and sense of hopelessness. Having broken with my elder sister years before, pretty much over her choice of a Muslim husband and retreat to Dubai, she’d come to depend on me for family. Dad had disappeared into the alcoholic gambling trail ages before, and not only had we given up on him , we couldn’t actually ever locate him, reckoning he’d changed his name to avoid creditors. If he’d been found dead in the back set of his car in some parking lot we would not have been shocked. His brother Bill, a decent sincere pastor in a faith we couldn’t share, had done his utmost to fill in when he could, but his congregation and five kids two states away kept him busy.
So here’s my mother, an office manager for a large real estate outfit, filling in on sales when others were on vacation and human being of distinction, doing her darndest to keep her head above water with me making various efforts to reassure her, none of which seemed to have to intended effect. I knew she had taken a passing interest in one or two of those famous psychics like John Edwards and that Van Praagh guy, but now that the shit had really hit the fan, it was a whole different story. I could actually see that aura of gloom hanging about her, like the cartoon image of a sunny day with that cloud darkening over the head of the figure in the frame. I could see it but did not know what to do about it. Cheerful loving thoughts just kind of bounced off it, like a rubber ball against a brick wall.
And the sceptics, those naysayers knowing nothing but sure they knew it all, some of them were the bridge club team, all caring and kindly after years of friendship, but solid in their atheism. God was for wimps and all that. The afterlife was some compensatory fantasy projection for all those losers in life. Reincarnation fit only for Shirley MacLaine and Oprah. They encouraged mum to pick up the pieces and get on with her life and maybe drop her pride and reconnect with her grandchildren. Then there was a couple of retired execs from dad’s old place who’d taken pity on her years before and kept in touch, especially after their own wives had divorced them to make a life out of finding themselves, both of them hard line materialists who wanted to show mum a rollicking good time after I was out of the way. At seventy or so each of them, mum’s trim fifty-eight looked pretty good. At dinners which I attended as an observer they reinforced their all too sensible view of things, ruining whatever progress I’d made in the interim. Don and Dan, golfing partners and friendly competitors for the freshest babe they could find when not toasting my mother over lobster and crème brule.
They’d both read the articles claiming certain college girls at fancy institutions were ready to trade favours for a sugar daddy who’d fund the lifestyle they aspired to. They both could afford the dinners and weekends away but not the condos and wardrobes lusted after, so they soon got squeezed out for better offers. Again, as with the court house it was fascinating to observe the careful courtship dances as Don and Dan made their plays. Those fine specimens of young womanhood took no small pride in playing the stylish part of the wooed. Feathering a nest yet to be built never mind conceived seemed uppermost in their minds, most of which I could now read like a open book. But I refrained from interfering. They felt my reactions as random thoughts barely registering in the swishy carnival of their charm campaigns.
All this observing and analysing kept me close to Earth and the old life, instead, as I now know better, accustoming myself, to the new life here, here being the life after life, the one the doubters and deniers keep in the shadows with their insistence. After many frustrating bouts of elevating mother’s receptivity beyond her well tended garden of grief only to find the sensible words of the sceptics nudging her back into what I was seeing as some prison of belief, and doubt is an inverted belief, I began to wonder why such an unproductive situation was allowed to continue unabated, despite the bullying of religions having largely lost their punch.
Was it that minor deity of consumerism, keeping them on the carousel of purchases, endless renewals and upgrades? Was it the dizzying spin of sexuality tying them to attraction and repulsion, the endless reproduction of character traits in newer models? Was it some robot-like attachment to established behaviour patterns, playing society’s games to keep one’s self-respect and credibility on a par with expectations? Was I diving too deep for some simple answer? Maybe, but philosophy was my game, and while I never thought to make my way up through the ranks to the greats, I did love to turn it all over in my mind. That simple living of life was never enough for me and my kind, we had to think it all over and come to some series of understandings. Maybe it was just another bad habit in a list of such, ripe for retirement and some return to the simple pleasures, those habits lifestyle magazines rhapsodised over?
In the midst of all this, trying to help my mother cope and trying to understand those who would have her back off from the truth of my continued existence, not to mention the millions of others, I began to take my continued existence more seriously, checking out a number of options that my friendly neighbours in the complex chatted about. Some of them had learned to redecorate their rooms by imagining the changes they would like to see. It sounded like fun, I had to say, so I tried it. First thing I noticed was how chaotic my thoughts were, and then how little consideration I had previously given to design and placement. I had inherited a paint-by-numbers apartment that I’d barely noticed in my earthly concerns, but the effort to make change soon lost its charm for me. Making a mess was more my style. On whining to my neighbour Colleen I discovered others were happy to lend a hand. So while I was off tracking the ballets of courtship and the ups and downs of my mother’s mental state, she kindly and I’d have to say inventively redecorated my living space. It was weird and wonderful and I can barely begin to describe its unique appeal. Colours and textures I never would have considered were meshed most daringly for something that sometimes looked like a stage set for a very otherworldly play.
I thanked her profusely, asking how I might ever repay her. Turns out she’d done the same for a few newcomers to eternity and was really enjoying her part in helping folk get settled. Sure they were all relieved to be, you know, not dead, but were quite overwhelmed with the magical charms of it all. Hearing the lawn grass sort of chime with tiny musical whispers was more than enough for some. Seeing people walking on the water of the nearby river did it for others. And flying, well that was just too much. Teenagers of course, took to that like ducks to water. Miserable from drug deaths, car crashes and suicides, the magical gift of flight made them into happy campers almost over night as we used to say when the falling dark was a daily occurrence.
Eventually I tried it myself, and boy what a charge! Of course one of the first destinations I attempted was some academy of philosophy and metaphysics in Greece. Astral Greece that is. And sure enough there were replicas of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle giving talks and leading discussions. They all looked the part, spouting wisdom in flowing disquisitions and wisdom in bite sized chunks. One beauty was “Why question when you can answer?”. Another was “The perfect state produces the music of its own intrinsic harmony.”
Chatting with an audience member seated next to me, a being of indeterminate gender I later understood as androgynous, reassignment not being necessary here, I heard that the replicas I was seeing and hearing were soul projections from the originals who had long departed for what were a called higher spheres, areas where character and personality were subsumed what he termed ‘some deeper pool of knowingness’. Sounded a bit bullshitty to me but I was not about to cause any ripples. I had a lot to learn and not just about decorating.
I began hanging around my mother’s bedroom waiting to connect. Several acquaintances had advised it was a more reliable technique to get your point across. My point was basic: No worries, I’m still here. I’d been told that most likely she’d rise from her sleeping body and you know, be there. I waited for some time before that happened, but it did and I watched her float and slowly become upright and then sit on her bed, looking straight at me for a moment before exclaiming, Oh my god it’s you! William! When I moved to hug, raising her to standing, she whispered in my ear, I knew you were around somewhere but I never allowed myself to think it for long. Later she added that it was like being stuck in some swamp and trying to drag herself out by grabbing at the rushes and pulling but they were greasy and she’d couldn’t get a grip for long.
We sat and chatted for what seemed like ages renewing the bond that seemed deeper than mother-son, much deeper. Then she said I seem to be getting sleepy, or weaker, or something and she began to fade, growing translucent so that for a moment I could actually see through her to the wall behind and then she was suddenly not there and I was left with her silent form under the sheets. As I went about my life in paradise I couldn’t help but wonder how our meet-up would lighten her gloom. Turned out to last about three days. She could not bring herself to mention it at bridge, fearing, I guess, being upbraided for some foolishness. I could not bring myself to be following her around all the time, that is her time in her world, but I did pop in on occasion. At one house showing her client broke down and began to weep and in comforting her and discovering her husband had passed the month before, she found the confidence to speak of her by then vague memory but it was enough to bring the woman round. I watched as mum’s energy wafted about her client. I thought of it as the light of compassion and I wondered about my role in the process. I was some link in a chain. Acquaintances had told me of the bedroom assignation possibilities, I‘d tried it, it worked and now a stranger was receiving the blessing, if that doesn’t sound too new-agey pretentious. I only say that as I’ve known a few, college dorm smudgers I called them.
When I visited mom the next time she spoke excitedly about her experience, as if telling me something I didn’t know. She also seemed to almost forget our first meet-up, nattered on like it never happened. When I checked with Colleen she told me Yeah, a lot of them are like that, they have a hard time bringing the memories through. Vague reassuring sensations are about it for most of them. Annoying for continuity but you’ll have to get used to it.
Another breakthrough, least ways the way I see it. Being able to reach out to that client and see some benefit in her own self-confidence got mom to share it with dad, who’d shown up out of the blue the day before, cap in hand and surprisingly trim and neat, refusing all offers of drink and keeping his own counsel as she struggled to articulate her grief and renewal. I doubted he felt my presence as he slept in the spare bed that night, but you never know for sure, not even us ghosts. He certainly held back from sharing at breakfast, maybe out of the long held respect that a decent woman asserts by her very presence. Did it bond them more deeply or merely reaffirm some subterranean trust his wanderings conveyed? I guess I mean she’d learned to trust in his path of deception, so much so that his evasions were his truth? That’s the sort of quandary I quiz myself with.
But I’ll stop short of writing a treatise, unlike a few tyro philosophers I’ve met up here, comparing notes and debating. I’ve also met some baseball nuts still talking stats and outcomes, fed by the easy access to earth-side sports channels. Don’t ask me how it’s done but it is. Like many earth life institutions and cultural hotspots, sports bars have not lost their popularity. And the beer is top notch. When they call them heavenly ales they’re not joking. Of course there’s those heavenly hangovers, though Colleen swears they’re just a habit folk are attached to.
I thought of getting back to Brittany and making sure there were no outstanding issues between us. I wanted her life to go well without any guilt over me or us or whatever. By just getting her image clear in my mind as I had been advised to do I found myself at her side, somewhere. She was munching on a healthy looking salad plate and examining some account sheets. I could not get her attention and thought to return later, when maybe she’d be relaxing and daydreaming or maybe sleeping like my mom. When I came back she was in a garden, maybe hers, not sure, with some friends, kicking back and sipping on some drinks. What looked like ginger snaps lay on a plate but by the way they all nibbled at them I guessed they were pot cookies. I waited until her friends left and she lay down on a couch to well, you know, really feel the buzz. I tried the manifesting trick and she seemed to have some visual contact. Enough to make her sit up and stare. Yes, I telepathed It’s me and I’m fine. No worries. Enjoy the rest of your life. I figured that was enough for the first time. She lay back to, I dunno, maybe reassure herself of sanity. I hope it worked. Freaking her out was the last thing I wanted. I could see that our relationship was something we had to work on and then let go. And let’s face it she’d done that better than I. I’d always recognised that but had clung to some hope that self pity had pulled me sideways only to unveil some dramatic ego reassertion would correct my drift. No such luck.
Life here continues to unfold its amazing cool. Do I deserve all this ease and fun? After I got through my first level of desires and excitements I found there were plenty more. The other day Colleen met me in the recreation area of our complex, on her way to play croquet with her new boyfriend, looked at me and smiled Yeah you’re really starting to open up. I sat back in my lounger and continued with Wittgenstein’s astral contemplations. Why not, you think a guy like that can stop thinking? After a pause we find our humanity has continued, as habits and obsessions return to haunt or entertain us. Are our behaviour patterns the sum total of who we are? I doubt it but sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other.