Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Minor Milestone

Nearly a year, now, since I admitted to myself that yes, Virginia, there is no sky-fairy.

I find that I have milestones, some large, some small. The ones that involved my death and dying--death is the end, no playing harps on clouds or even boiling in a lake of fire . . . no nothing--were surprisingly not the hardest to come to. Maybe because I find that I have to deal with it everyday. Sometimes it hits like a freight train, and I'm left gobsmacked. Other times, I'm damn near zen about it. I understand, not just with my brain, but with my heart and my gut that someday,
I will die. That that day will be my last day as a consciousness, no matter what happens to my cells. The consciousness called "Rachel" will simply stop.

Admittedly, this sort of zen wasn't me on most days, at first. And I won't lie and say it's me most days now. But I no longer fear the act of dying. Sometimes I fear the pain that's likely to be attendant. I once feared not going on in an "afterlife", even though "not going on" is something no conscious being will ever

Now I simply feel betrayed, vaguely cheated. Not out of living forever, but out of living for a good thousand years or so. ( Though I imagine that on my eve of my 1000th birthday, I'd be bitching and moaning about, "fucking why do I gotta fucking
die fucking now? Motherfucker!")

I imagine, once I get my life on something I consider a "right track", that feeling won't fade, so much as be eclipsed by all the stuff that goes with a life fully inhabited and

So no, the thought of my death wasn't the worst realization, even on my worst day. The worst was realizing there's no Heaven, in which my grandmother watches baseball games at an angelic Shea Stadium, and drinks Miller Lites. That she wasn't smiling down on me, and that I would never, ever see her again.

Eight months since I had that mini-realization, and some days it still hits me hard. Not like a freight train. But like an asteroid, and it fucking obliterates me, almost every time. The only reason I want there to be an afterlife is for my Grandma. So that maybe I could sleaze my way past the bouncers at the gate and get a hug. 'Cause she gave the best hugs. And believe me when I say, I'm not a hugger. I don't like people touching me for pretty much any reason and I do not find touch
comforting. I don't even let my mother hug me and she knows not to try, but my Grandma . . . she gave the best hugs.

That's the afterlife that I mourn on good days and rage internally at being cheated of on the bad ones. An eternal hug from my Grandma.

Lately, I've looked at this mourning from the perspective of: when I'm dead, I won't miss my grandmother, or hugs, or anything at all. Death will be the cessation of desire for things I had, for things I never got and never will. Understood only with my heart and gut, it's a wee bit depressing, but with my brain in the mix, eternal rest sounds a lot better than even eternal hugs. I mean, if we had everything we ever wanted, and had it all the time . . . how long would we enjoy it before wanting something else? And something else after that? The wanting would never end, and speaking as someone who's wanted many things and gotten very few of them, desire is, more than anything, tiresome.

So, I want a hug from my grandma. Maybe not an eternal one, not anymore. But a good hundred years worth'd do me fine. I will
never get that hug, and that makes me sad. But if that's the price I pay for someday, finally, not having to be, period, well, it's an infinitessimally small price to pay.

I do like being alive, but it take so much energy and effort and care. More than I can imagine expending for eternity.

So, that's my milestone. Not a huge one (or even a coherent one, skimming over this post) but it's mine. One more step of many I'll climb till I can't climb anymore. And at the end of my climb, though nowhere near the "top", I'll look forward to a sleep so complete and permanent, I won't even know that I'm taking it--or know anything else, for that matter. Forever and ever, amen.

I find myself strangely optimistic.


  1. consciousness called Rachel,

    Congratulations are in order. I'd take you out for a drink, but my tendency to get handsy after having a few would probably cause you to sock me between the eyes. And I could do without that.

    I enjoy your introspective ramblings. When the injustice of being betrayed by a non-existent afterlife gets too much, always be glad you're not a sea turtle. When those little bastards hatch on a beach and run the gauntlet to the sea, dodging crabs and gulls, it makes me happy to be human.

  2. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. I haven't thought much about what "no afterlife" means, but, I agree that the most disappointing part of it is that there will never be reunions with loved ones. That realization makes me more determined than ever to enjoy people now, while I've got them.

  3. Very nice essay, VitaR. If FrodoSaves can't take you out for that drink, I can. Not much of a "toucher" myself. The alcohol is good enough.

  4. Consciousness (sometimes) called FrodoSsaves: I'd never sock you between the eyes--and certainly not for being handsy. I just can't stay violently angry at a guy with a handlebar mustache--never could. That luxuriant 'stache is one of my many Achilles heels.

    Hah! But the sea turtles that don't wind up crab food live for, like, 200 years. I think I saw that in "Finding Nemo."

    Chaplain: The no afterlife thing is what I think about the most. Or it was. Now, it's more of a there's no afterlife. Fine, whatever. What am I gonna do with my life?

    Now that my gobsmackedness is fading some, I find that all (well, they've intensified) the things I think and worry about haven't really changed at all. I still love the same stuff, hate the same stuff, and worry about the same stuff. I'm just super conscious of how much time I waste on those last two.

    Hope this post wasn't a huge downer for you. I'll tell ya, the only thing I liked about being one of the Flock is the idea of seeing dead friends and relatives again. I figured--with a few notable exceptions--we'd all be roasting in the same pit, anyway.

    Evo: Thanks! I didn't realize it was an essay, just thought it was more of my usual ramble-y brain-diarrhea. And I'm with you, on the touching. And the drinking. The only thing that makes booze better is cool people to share it with.

    Hah, and the upside of drinking with me is, the more I've had, the more likely I am to start paying for everyone's drinks :D

  5. Ah!
    The opiate of the Atheist religion!

    I remember it well.
    I used to be a junky, strung out on my unbelief.

    Sorry to burst your bubble VitaR.
    I don't think Frodo is old enough for peach fuzz. Maybe a collegiate soul patch at best.
    But you just keep on believing, if it's "true for you".

  6. Ah!
    The opiate of the Atheist religion!
    I was under the impression that religions demanded faith of some kind, and adherence to a central dogma. If atheism requires either of these things, my skimming of the atheist manual wasn't as thorough as I thought. Damn that Dawkins!

    As for opiates . . . meh, what can I say? I love downers. Uppers just make me psycho. We won't even get into me with a snootful of coke.

    I remember it well.Ah, yes. . . .

    I used to be a junky, strung out on my unbelief.That's kinda poetic. I like your turn of phrase. Plus, I'm glad you're not a junky, anymore. That's no way to be. Unless you wanna write a best-selling, only slightly divergent from reality autobiography, in which case, I hear that junkie-ism may pay off in the future.

    Sorry to burst your bubble VitaR.I'm not sure which bubble you think you've burst, but never fear! I'm still soapy and shiny and floaty :)

    I don't think Frodo is old enough for peach fuzzThere're so many ginormously wrongjokes I could make about sweet, sweet, on-the-cusp-of-legal jailbait . . . but I'll spare you my skeevy humor. Okay, no I won't, but I'll avoid the obvious sleeze-laughs about peaches getting their cherries popped. I'm classier than that.

    Okay, no I'm not, but I am a very lazy typist.

    Maybe a collegiate soul patch at best.That's fine. As long as he doesn't have those stupid white-guy dreads. Those look ridiculous--especially with blond hair. But don't get me started.

    But you just keep on believing, if it's "true for you".Proof is my thang, now. It's something I've grown into, like hot brunettes who can kick my ass at scrabble. Belief--like girls who say supposably instead of supposedly--while charming atimes, is something I just can't do anymore. No matter how naughty it's been or how much it needs to be spanked.


  7. Amen on the white guy dreads.
    What buffoons!

    When I lived in Hawaii, the locals called them Trustfundarians. lol! And that stupid, smug, content look on their stupid, smug, faces! Oy!
    I say that in all love. ;)

    I used to wonder it things were balanced out by some dumb kid in Jamaica wearing his hair neat and playing Patsy Cline songs on his ipod.

    What's weird, I've read that Marley, and all the classic old school reggae musicians were in fact big country music fans. Apparently Marley idolized Dolly Parton of all people.

    Back on topic-
    If proof is what you require, please pay a visit to my blog. You will have your proof this year.
    I take comfort in knowing that you live in NY and I don't have to work on getting you out of Cali.

    More on your religion of Atheism later, but for now.

    Father -time
    Son- chance
    Holy Spirit- Natural selection

    Pope Dawkins, and a orthodox priesthood of professors who tolerate no heresy.
    The neo-atheists have even been doing much in the way of evangelism lately, no?

  8. Hey, VR,

    excellent article. Truly enjoyed it. It made me face fears and illusions I hadn't thought about for a while.

    I don't think I've said goodbye to the afterlife yet. I just realized that deep down inside I still hope to see my dad again.

    But most of the time, death just sounds good to me. It means the end of all pain and anxiety. I suppose that what I've told myself is that if there is an afterlife it can't possibly be as horrible as all religions depict it, so I don't worry about it. I feel it is a win-win situation. I either rest from my troubles for ever, or go to a better place.

  9. VirarR - have you written about your deconversion elsewhere? Since it's a fairly new thing to you, it would make for an interesting essay or ramble-y brain-diarrhea.

  10. VirarR? Well, looks like I've started drinking without you. I don't even know how to explain that as a mere typo. One of these days this old man will learn to proof read BEFORE hitting "post".

  11. "So, that's my milestone. Not a huge one (or even a coherent one, skimming over this post) but it's mine."How incredibly self-centered, and defeatist! How are you serving yourself and your loved ones by basing reality on your perception of it - which happens to be a bad one, at that!

    You're expressing the underlying fear that all atheists have... that they might be shortchanging themselves on eternity. And, you'd be right... you are, by thinking like you do.

    If you want to see Grandma, again, it's entirely up to you.

    There... now you have to take responsibility for your life, and not use the crutch that matters are out of your hands. Your friends aren't helping you at all, by feeding you more hopelessness.

    This world is NOTHING like the one to come. Think on that.

  12. Lorena: I'm glad the entry helped some. This . . . joining the reality-based community isn't easy. I wasn't even particularly religious before, but I definitely "believed" in "something".

    I don't know that I've entirely let the idea of an afterlife go, in that I still wish there was one sometimes. But even that I can't imagine and wouldn't want to be forever. There's nothing I can imagine having or wanting forever.

    But yes, mostly the idea of a forever sleep isn't so horrible, anymore. What I feared was suffering, but knowing that there's no chance of that is a good baseline of comfort for me. If nothing else, I won't be in pain or misery. I'll be free of desire, disappointment, envy. I'll be extinguished. Nirvana, only without all the fancy, mystical hooraw.


    JE: I haven't written about the deconversion anywhere else. I blog other places, but not about this, though I make no secret of any of my leanings.

    But yeah, the Grandma thing, when I realized that, I was a wreck for days. The deconverting was nothing compared to that. Or maybe that was the day I really made the choice. It meant giving up something I've held dearer than just about anything for almost twenty years. I don't expect that part of it'll ever feel good, exactly. . . .

    You started drinking without me?!

    Well, I'll just have to catch up!
    ::breaks out the 151::

    Gideon: I was pretty much resolved to ignoring you till you went away for good, but since you wrote--it seems to me--so sincerely, if still condescendingly, it'd be rude not to respond.

    Increasingly, I base my "bad" version of reality on what I've seen proof of.

    I don't fear that I'm short-changing myself on eternity. Either this is no afterlife, and I won't be wasting this one by disregarding the notion, or . . . there's an afterlife.

    If there is, I've seen no proof or even a good argument it'll be the one you or any other living being subscribes to. The "world to come", as you term it is nothing we would be able to describe, existing as it supposedly does, outside of this universe. It'd be like hypothesizing about an up-down, or a black-white.

    An atheist doesn't think gods or ghosts will affect their lives in any way, and so, are the truest example of "taking life into our hands". Or, well, at least if they do go about blaming the bad things in their lives on someone else, it's someone who actually exists, like a spouse or a boss.

    Also, I don't necessarily want to see my grandmother again--to simply leave it as missing a loved one would be childish, simplistic and lacking in self-knowledge. What I want is that feeling of contentment that comes only with innocence and ignorance. With childhood. With completely trusting that your life is in someone else's hands. But there's a time and place for that specific brand of comfort, and no matter how wonderful the someone else doing the protecting/guarding/shielding, I'm too old, at senile twenty-nine, to live life on those terms. Life is too short, so I refuse to.

    So. If I came across as "defeatist", and "hopeless", or as if that's all being part of the reality-based community has given me, then the fault lies my vague writing, not my outlook. Generally speaking, I tend to be more even-keel and yes, optimistic, than I've been for years. Not all the time, but more and more, as time goes by.

    I won't argue with you about being self-centered. If not my own self, whose self should I be centered on? Seriously, now--and don't go naming beings you can't prove actually exist.

    Finally, I know the Flock tend to worry about the state of atheists' souls--when they aren't busy gloating over the fact that atheist and non-Christian souls won't get into their exclusive afterlife-jamboree of clouds and hymns--but feel free not to worry about my soul.

    Aside from the fact that there's no such thing as a "soul" that survives the death of its body, my "redemption" is in my own hands, to borrow from you. I take my life, and highly improbable afterlife into my own hands. And if there's a Hell with my name on it, it'll be none of your doing.

    So sleep easy, and feel free to keep replying to my blog. There's nothing so valuable as the loyal opposition, and, well--I like you much better when you're not making personal attacks and bringing people's genitals into our conversations. Cheers :D

  13. Don't think of me as opposition, Girl, think of me as a voice of hope in a society bent upon self-destruction. And, I AM responsible for you and all of my infidel friends. My Master tells me that I AM my brother's (and sister's) keeper!

    I'll sleep easy when I'm dead, and not before. Christians are the light-bearers in a dark world. Sure, there are those that feel comfortable allowing the ignorant to go their own way, even if it means their eternal death. I, however, do not share that complacency, and, if I'm rude and condescending, that's just the way to get attention in a world of ever-increasing docility, complacency, and indifference. If you see someone about to walk off of a cliff, you don't debate or plead with them, or pray for them, you grab them by the hair and YANK them back... and, you don't ask permission!

    You're right... there is no soul that survives the death of the body, the soul IS the body, the person. That is biblical. Read Genesis 2:7 CAREFULLY! (King James Version... newer translations are often suspect!) The church has adopted many pagan ideas, over the years, and a disembodied soul is one of those. So is the idea of an eternally-burning hell. The Greek translation of hell implies a grave, and the Bible doesn't teach any such doctrine. You're also right that your fate lies in your own hands, and deciding for Christ is the most responsible, self-edifying things one can do.

    LOL! Moi? Attacking people? Girl, I respond to how I'm treated, and I don't subscribe to the notion that Christians have to lie down like dogs. Turning the other cheek goes only so far, but, that doesn't grant license to abuse folk, either. After having seen your face in your pic, you seem like a decent young woman, and worthy of respectful treatment. I confess, my first comments to you on this and other blogs were made in ignorance - I thought that I was talking to a man!

    Thanks for the invite... I'll be keeping my eye on you, my dear. God is deeply interested in your welfare. Nothing in this world happens by chance... and, neither did the world come about by chance!


  14. Pardon me for interrupting, I have a question for Gideon.

    I took a look at your blog a while back, and to be honest, I thought you were a parody.
    I read your articles and they seemed genuine, and I appreciate your boldness. We have that in common.

    I was just confused by a couple of the, um, Images? on your sidebar.
    Do you think such images hurt your witness?

    I do.

    Otherwise, I liked your arguments.

    Baruch HaShem,
    Dani' El

  15. "Do you think such images hurt your witness?You're the first one to point that out.

    Anyway, we're all big boys and girls, here, aren't we?


  16. You're the first one to point that out.Bless my heart! ;)

    Anyway, we're all big boys and girls, here, aren't we?Yes and in the world, not of it.
    Narrow is the way.

    I catch myself all the time. I have a rather, ummm, dry? sense of humor and I am constantly reining my self in from "coarse jesting".

    Just an exhortation from a Brother, Gideon.

    Baruch HaShem,
    Dani' El

  17. If you have to address me by my gender, as opposed to the name I've freely posted everywhere in this blog, then perhaps you should call me "woman"? I think eleven years of working, paying taxes, voting, etc. entitles me to at least that.

    Despite the question mark, that wasn't a request.

    I don't hear voices in my head--from a Master or otherwise--telling me to do or think things. In that sense I stand in direct opposition to someone who does. I always have and I always will.

    As to Christians being lightbearers in a dark world . . . I find Xtianity, more than almost any other religion--when it's not sanctioning murder and abuse--laughable. Embarrassing and pathetic. Like a grown man walking around in a diaper and bib.

    And I don't know whether religionist's adherence to it is all ignorance and denial, or just insanity. Though I'm sure religionists wonder the same about atheists. It's a funny old world.

    By my picture you deem me worthy of respect, and judge me decent? Trust a religionist to assume positive atrributes where none have been proven to exist. And here, I thought you liked me for my mind, Gideon.

    My picture tells you nothing about me, except that I'm female (which you would've known if you'd ever actually read my blog), that I like metal rods shoved into bits of me, and that I'm vain enough to want to show the world.

    Though I'm curious as to why you thought I was a man.

    Dani'El: You're never interrupting, and thus need no pardon from me :)

    Those sidebar pics are interesting. And eerily accurate. I do see humanity's resemblance to other primates and I frequently give many people the New York Salute. Possibly because I'm a New Yorker, but more likely because assholery comes so easily to me.

  18. "By my picture you deem me worthy of respect, and judge me decent? Trust a religionist to assume positive atrributes where none have been proven to exist. And here, I thought you liked me for my mind, Gideon."Your comments had a decidedly masculine twang to them, especially when you were confronted. My experience with modern and younger women, is that they seem to deem it weakness to not engage in what has been traditionally men's abuse of the English lamguage, aka tough-talk and profanity. Your avatar is kinda freaky, too. Somewhat self-demeaning? And, guilty as charged, I didn't read your blog, thoroughly.

    Oh, and you wish to debate my intent ( by my comment on your appearance ) to compliment you, now? Really, girl, ( not a put-down! ) how far to do you want to analyze this?


  19. There's nothing to analyze, Gideon. In my blog, it's my way or the highway. Call me by my name(s)--or don't call me at all, if even that minimal respect is a strain.

    Oh, and the avatar is Rorschach, FYI. "Freaky", perhaps. "Self-demeaning". . . ? Is judging books by their covers and leaping to conclusions how you plan to respond to my posts and comments? If so, how disheartening. . . .

  20. "Is judging books by their covers and leaping to conclusions how you plan to respond to my posts and comments? If so, how disheartening. . . ."It's a way to find out about people.

    And you're doing a smashing job of judging my "cover", too... Rachel.