Why it is hard to imagine there being no afterlife.

Now if you think about it logically and objectively, it doesn't seem that difficult. What's wrong with a consciousness ending, never to continue? Subjectively, however, it's a whole different situation.

The first problem is to make sure people aren't trying to think of the wrong thing. Often people talk about what it would be like without an afterlife in terms of a black void or somesuch. But that's incorrect. A black void, or a blue void, or even a plaid void is still a something. No afterlife would mean absolutely nothing.

Now, it couldn't be unpleasant, because for something to be that way requires you to experience it. But with no afterlife, there's no awareness, no consciousness to experience with. The closest we can come to that state would be unconsciousness, like that created suring surgery. Without the consciousness, there is no way to detect the passage of time, so it all goes by in an instant - you travel from the beginning of that time to the end instantly, from your vantage point.

But because no afterlife means you're dead and unconscious forever, there is no end point. The state goes on for eternity. But if, like with the surgery example, it all travels by in an instant, wouldn't that eternity also travel by in an instant, leaving you at the end? It seems like a paradox that you can't resolve. Forever passing by instantaneously?

I have yet to resolve this in my mind. It doesn't prevent me from not believing in an afterlife, but it doesn't make it easy.

Chinese paintings of landscapes are not just about
vaporous peaks, sensuous streams or tender pines. They
are landscapes for the mind. One enlightened will
sense eternity, truth and immanence.

"Nature" is constant in its lightening and darkening
cycles of change. Yet it belongs to and is home to,
the spirit of clouds, the play of ripples, and the
dance of rain on disappearing peaks. Where and how does human nature live today?

Should you wander into a landscape painting, you will
soon happen upon hidden dwellings and quiet signs of
life; and while tracing byways that lead in and out of
the painting, you might find yourself naturally
scaling waterfalls, cloud lifts, and cliff hangs. Do you wish to stay?

Is your mind still enough, no, noble enough, no,
Trusting enough, to know, communion?

Are you trapped in black fog (by questioning each
minute of every day), or have you lived in the golden spaces of eternal time?

Wandafuru raifu (1998)
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Released as 'After Life' in the US, and 'Afterlife' in the UK.

I'd seen a review of 'Afterlife' in the Sunday paper and it wasn't so much the words that caught my eye, but the pictures. A simple grid of four stills--so still they seemed out of place in newsprint. So simple, they held too much promise. they held something of the ghost-magic of Francesca Woodman's photographs, and i found myself struggling to turn the page away from them. Film reviews, I find, are almost guaranteed to give the wrong impression. but this was something halting, almost tentative, in its praise. so far from hype, but so full of warmth. A reference to "It's a Wonderful Life", a nod to other Japanese films, a whisper about beauty. An art film, at the ICA, gaining a good write-up so the reviewer could feel smug about appreciating the avant-garde.

So, of course, we went to see it, meeting in the cafe where the serious eyeglasses were eating their sunday brunch.

And the film, quite simply, was beautiful. standing outside, afterwards, watching the cigarette smoke in the autumn air with fresh eyes, none of us could stop smiling. I felt like someone had given me the most amazing present, and i was going to be able to keep it, carefully, in a pocket, and carry it around with me, so that I could reach my fingers in to stroke it, and remind myself, whenever I needed to.

It's a fantasy film with no special effects. Nothing special but a perfect location (an old schoolhouse), wonderful characters (and so many of them, each adding a layer of question, or understanding) and a simple premise. when you die, you have to choose a single memory from your life to take with you. a memory that you get to relive for eternity.

When you die, you go to a halfway house, where there's a team of people who will help you choose, and then help to recreate that memory on film, so that it can trigger the reliving of it for you. You have one week.

And this film covers a single week--opening with the staff walking up the stairs to their briefing, talking about the cases from the week before, to the arrival of the newly dead, and the explanation of the task ahead of them, through the interviews, and decisions, and evenings, to the film making, and the final screenings, and to the point where the cycle begins again.

I wonder, now, how much of the script came from improvisation (the director asking the actors to reach into their own memories) because there's a naturalism that's startling. it's not the heavy handed fumbling dialogues flecked with struggling exclamations of 'fuck!' that plagues some improv work, but a gentle stepping, carefully thought out honesty that sings a clear true note. not all the actors, perhaps, but some: the old woman with the memory of dancing in a red dress (a small child performing for a worshipped old brother); the woman remembering playing in the bamboo grove, having a picnic in the thrilling calm after the earthquake; the old soldier, eating rice with his captors. and some of the others: did the director sit listening to old people wander through old memories, and listen to those lost in their childhoods?

this is a film that would be killed by Hollywood. Any remake would be ruined with misty-edged flashbacks, slow-motion embraces, and gambolling puppies in poppystrewn cornyfields. every frame would contain a genuine Kodak moment. and all the beauty would be lost. Because this was an emotional, even a sentimental film that was never mawkish. Even when i found my face wet with tears, I never felt manipulated. and it was never heavy handed.

It moved my heart, and not my stomach. And I have a very low tolerance for syrup.

For weeks i had freeze-frame memories of the film (images of a geranium in a bare school room, the logo on the staff's uniform, the sight of two men watching a film of the woman they both loved, an old lady collecting leaves, a noisy band sitting on snowy steps, a ragtag procession along a muddy path, an almost empty cinema.

And again and again the question: which single memory would I choose? could I choose? How could I pick just one, and lose all the others? How long is a captured moment?

Afterlife is a strategy game released in 1996 by LucasArts, created by Michael Stemmle of the Sam & Max Hit the Road -- based on Steve Purcell's comic book, Sam & Max: Frelelance Police -- fame.

With a humorous outtake on the SimCity series and games like Outpost, in this game you're meant to manage Heaven and Hell, guiding the souls to their rightful place...

Instead of a mayor, you are a Regional Spiritual Director. With help from Jasper Wormsworth (let's say he's the Evil Affairs Secretary) and Aria Goodhalo (the Goody Goody Affairs Assistant), you have to manage your terrain with the Seven Deadly Sins and their opposing Virtues, so souls may find rest -- or suffering! -- in their respective places (even though it is our concept of the Sins, the game manual clearly states that the souls aren't from Earth! They are EMBOs -- Ethically Mature Biological Organisms -- and when they die, their SOULs -- Stuff Of Unending Life -- go to your playground) and stay there until they're fit for reincarnation. If you do your job well, you're awarded with Pennies from Heaven!

But as lots of strategy games have it, there are disasters too... such as Hell Freezes Over (the name says it all), Heaven Gets the Blues (the buildings freeze while a very sad blues song plays), Heaven Nose (which inhales Hell's evil constructions and sneezes them on to Heaven), Disco Inferno (where a polyester-clad demon boogies down your street, dancing to a disco song), Birds of Paradise (they, erm, pollute your buildings), Bats Out of Hell (same thing, but in Hell), Hell In a Handbasket* ..

If you mess it all up, you'll get a not so nice visit from the Four Surfers of the Apocalpyse, and your doom is certain.

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