Way back in May of 2012, I ventured into the then budding self-publishing arena with The Hereafter Handbook.
To say the book was a huge success would be an incredible overstatement. (OK, it would be an outright lie.) In fact, if Amazon maintained a Worst Seller List, I am reasonably confident that my book would have consistently held a place of dishonor.
I haven’t been too discouraged by this. I wrote the book more to organize my own thoughts and beliefs than to become an internationally renowned author. I did attempt to lighten the subject matter by injecting a bit of dry humor, which I thought might broaden its appeal.
The premise of The Hereafter Handbook is that our starting positions in the Afterlife are largely determined by our behavior on this life. In pursuit of that concept, I included admittedly frivolous chapters on Hereafter Workplace Conditions, Communications and Limitations, as well as a short quiz to evaluate reader understanding of the material presented.
After all, it is a handbook, authorized by The Universe, Itself – your future employer.
More than seven years down the road, I find myself having what might be described as an out-of-generation experience. Although I am very much a Baby Boomer, it seems that my thoughts about life in this world and the next bear a strange resemblance to those being assigned to a generation I had never heard of at the time I wrote the book – the Millennials.
In The Hereafter Handbook, I stated my belief that “God” is just another name for “The Universe.” Lately, I have noticed television program dialog increasingly using “Universe” in places where one might normally expect to hear “God.” Was I ahead of my time?
I also believe that people can be spiritual without being religious. Now, I’ve read that Millennials tend to reject traditional churches yet see themselves as spiritual. That makes perfect sense to me.
Modern day religions have a relatively basic arrangement. True believers enjoy a social support structure of like-minded individuals and are promised eternal life, somewhat assuaging their fear of death. In exchange, religious organizations receive donations of time and money (mostly money) to maintain their infrastructures and to expand their market shares.
I also took issue with conservative ideologies, which ironically do nothing to conserve our planet but do everything to conserve personal wealth.
They have a fervent, inexplicable desire to return to rigid, traditional values which have little or no relevance to the current world. They prefer to create jobs overseas and bank their cash in foreign countries, deplete the planet of all natural resources, and push their practices on others at every conceivable opportunity. Saving the planet is not on the conservative agenda, unless that should somehow become more profitable than destroying it.
Maybe I’m just prejudiced by my mindset, but I’m extremely tired of hearing people of my generation characterizing Millennials with words like “lazy” and “entitled.” We should be using words like “concerned” and “engaged.”
The denial practiced by previous generations is a luxury for which time has run out. Millennials are possibly the most motivated generation in human history because no stakes are higher than survival for themselves and their children.
Millennials have become the last hope for our destructive species. Treat them with the respect they are due.
Don’t mess with the Giant.
We learned that fundamental rule very early in our stay here. The natives take their god seriously.
“Do Not Touch” is a simpler way to put it.
Our lesson came the hard way. Six of our best people were killed on the first expedition to the Giant – felled by the otherwise most congenial people we have ever encountered on our planetary explorations.
We don’t know whether the Giant is animal, vegetable or mineral. It was visible from orbit upon our arrival, which was the primary reason we set down here. The giant rules the horizon, driving us crazy with its nearby unknowability.
The giant appears to be worshiped by the planet’s primitive humanoids. We’ve been close enough to see the structures erected at its feet. Temples?
We’ve observed that some of those who march, single-file to the temples every four planetary rotations don’t always come back. Sacrifices?
Theories about the nature of the Giant abound, as one might expect in a scientific community denied access to the focal point of its curiosity and further hampered by an incredibly hostile environment.
A few of us speculate that the Giant is a natural landscape feature, mindlessly forged by the same forces that shaped the planet as whole.
The least discerning eye cannot escape the detail of the Giant’s sagging face and posture. Random elements of nature could not create that figure.
More likely. The Giant is a mountain, painstakingly transformed, Mount Rushmore-style, as a tribute to some fallen hero from the planetary past.
Yet, the inhabitants to not appear to have the technological means to create such a monument.
That leads to my pet theory: The giant was a living being. He was a member of a king-sized race which preceded the current dominant species.
Slumped in despair at the demise of the rest of his kind, he was the final victim of an ice age that suddenly engulfed his world.
I am alone in this flight of fantasy. Most scientists, meaning those who are not me, require empirical data to support a hypothesis and form a theory. I had gone straight to theory.
I argued that, completely lacking scientific evidence for any theory explaining the giant’s existence, my conclusion was as valid as any other. As highly-educated and rational people, my fellow expedition members refrained from burning me at the stake, but I could read the look of dismissal in their eyes whenever we met.
Then came the awakening.
I had taken advantage of a toasty, minus 40-degree day to make a solo trek to an ice ridge about a quarter-mile from camp when the ground abruptly heaved and tossed me on my face. Somehow, I did not feel surprised when I looked back to see that the giant had risen and was facing the camp.
He did not look pleased.
I watched in horrified fascination as the giant strode purposefully toward the camp. The ground shook with each step.
When he reached the camp, he paused to look down on those who had invaded his domain. The entire expedition had grouped at the edge of the camp, staring up at the giant with, I assumed, an intense, scientific thirst for knowledge.
I cupped my hands and shouted in their direction.
“Ha! I told you so!”
Big mistake. As my words of vindication still echoed across the barren landscape, the giant squashed all of my colleagues with one well-placed foot.
Now, he’s coming in my direction. I wonder if I can somehow convey “I believe in you, Mister Giant,” when he gets here.
In the beginning, well, a long time ago, anyway, were the Anabaptists; and the Anabaptists begot the Mennonites; and the Mennonites begot the Amish; and the Amish begot the religion known as the Pedestrians.
The Amish split from the Mennonites during the late 17th century over disagreements in, among other things, the practice of foot washing. The Pedestrians left their Amish brethren in early 19th century, following another podiatric dispute. While the Amish condoned the use of horse and buggy, the more conservative among them felt that if God had intended humans to travel recklessly about on wheels, He would not have given them feet.
Wanting to move beyond buggy range of the wild Amish, yet mindful of their only sanctioned mode of travel limitations, 13 Pedestrian families trekked south in 1815 and settled in a area north of Freeland, Maryland. The settlement is known to its residents simply as “home,” although today’s tourists commonly call it the “Pedestrian Zone.”
The community, now numbering approximately 2,000 souls, has survived if not flourished. Current members of the faith are all direct descendants of the original 13 families. Converts are not accepted, and outsiders, “Yankees,” to the Pedestrians, may not live among them. Contact with the Yankee world is not encouraged. Largely self-sufficient, the Pedestrians produce their own food, clothing and shelter. They school their own children, tend their own sick and field their own semi-professional football teams.
By Pedestrian law, no wheeled vehicles are permitted within the community: no cars, no wagons, no rollerblades, no baby buggies, no rolling suitcases. Horses are used to pull plows, but they may not be ridden. All travel within the community is along a network of footpaths.
The paths are intentionally wide enough to accommodate only one walker. Whenever members of the faith traveling in opposite directions meet on a path, one must step aside and initiate the traditional Pedestrian exchange by saying: “Good day, my friend, what’s afoot?” The other must respond with: “We are, my friend; we are.” Both then continue on their opposite ways.
The faith has not been without problems. Although the foot is revered in Pedestrian teachings, it is not worshiped. Foot fetishism is strictly verboten. Any member who appears to be growing overly enamored of the foot must face the dreaded “Circle of Toe Jam.”
In this interventional procedure, the transgressor is placed in the center of a circle of back-facing chairs. Following a long, hard day in the fields, the Pedestrian elders enter the room, remove their boots and position themselves on the chairs so that their legs are propped on the chair backs with their feet dangling toward the center of the circle. Thus surrounded by a veritable forest of hideous and odoriferous appendages, the errant member quickly loses all lust for the foot and is allowed to leave the circle.
More trouble looms on the horizon for the Pedestrians. Tiptoeing among the faithful is a growing faction which believes that if God had intended for His children to lumber ungracefully about on their feet, He would not have given them toes.
Adapted from Truth Is An Amusing Concept