Tag Archives: Unity Church

The Alleged Afterlife

Of all the things I find seriously hard to accept about religion (at least the top three–Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), this is the one I have the hardest time with.  Three things seem to be going on here, as far as I’m concerned.  One, we just can’t believe that a person as unique as ourselves–there will never be another person like us–can simply disappear.  Second, we want to believe that we will be reunited with the people we love.  So the afterlife will be just like real life, except better somehow.  (I wonder if Heaven has Facebook?)  Third, we need to believe that our suffering meant something.  That we will be rewarded for it. 

I say, what is so bad about disappearing? 

When my friend Art died (friend being not quite the right term) in October of 2005, I went to a New Year’s Eve ceremony with my friend Judith at her church, the Unity Church.  Technically, I think the term “church” here is used very loosely.  But I wanted to go because they have a traditional ceremony called The Burning Bowl.  It’s to leave behind things you want to…leave behind.  So I wrote a very long letter to Art, which I intended to burn.  But it turned out that due to restrictions imposed by the Fire Department–because the Burning Bowl was inside the building–you had to write one word, in pencil, on a small piece of onionskin paper, which whooshed itself out in a matter of seconds.  Kind of like life, on a shorter scale. 

However, they had created a bonfire in the back yard, so I was able to burn my letter to Art in the bonfire.  When I threw it in, someone said, What is that?  And my friend Judith said to him, Shhh. 

My dog had died earlier that year.  He was 13, and I’d had him for 12 years.  My letter said something like this:  Dear Art.  You and Troy Russell are now both part of the universe.  Neither you nor he will ever be “you” again, but you will be part of something new and amazing.  You will be part of a flower or a star. 

So I guess you could say I do believe in an afterlife, but it’s an afterlife of atoms.

The Meaning of Life

Fellow Tallahassean and Blogger Extraordinaire, Nick Hardy (see http://eehard.wordpress.com) posted a blog today called, Is There Supposed To Be a Meaning? 

He says he believes there is no Paradise, reincarnation, “Heaven”, or “Hell” awaiting us at death.  This, this life, is it.  Use it or lose it.  I couldn’t agree more.  I hate it that I haven’t used it better.  Except I have a little different perspective, and I have a story to go with it.  What would a blog of mine be without a story?

In 2005, my friend Art died unexpectedly in October.  Earlier that year, I had lost a dog.  I was pretty much over the whole death thing.  Then on New Year’s Eve of that year, I was invited by a friend to attend her church, which has a Burning Bowl ceremony and also something called the White Stone ceremony.  I was very reluctant, especially since I figured my attendance might cause the church to be struck by lightning. 

This particular year, they decided to do away with the White Stone ceremony, but the Burning Bowl thing took place.  I thought it was a great idea.  The concept is that you say goodbye to things from the previous year you’d like to let go of.  I’m completely okay with symbolism, as long as you don’t take it too seriously.  In preparation, I’d written a long letter to Art.  Turns out, when I got there, I couldn’t use it in the Burning Bowl Ceremony.  Due to concerns expressed by the Fire Marshall, the Burning Bowl was confined to burning teensy postage-stamp sized pieces of onion skin paper which had enough room for you to write maybe one word…in pencil.  Pencils provided.  So much for the religious nature of the experience. 

But, in the backyard of the church, they had a giant bonfire going, and in that bonfire, you could cast off things you weren’t allowed to use inside the Church.  So I cast my letter into the fire, and it said (condensed version):  Dear Art, Tonight I hope the atoms of this letter will someday find you and the atoms of Troy Russell (the dog) and you will all recombine into another being as awesome as you both were in this life. 

There you have my version of reincarnation.  It does occur, just not in a recognizable form.  Troy Russell’s ashes are buried on St. George Island, and they will nurture some flower or some sea oat plant.  In my lifetime, I will never see him nor Art again.  But they have become part of the universe now, as will we all.  That in itself is awesome enough to suit me.