This past week, our Men’s book club discussed a book we had been reading called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, by David Eagleman. The book is written by a neuroscientist, and includes imaginative vignettes supposing an afterlife in various forms. The aim of the book isn’t to portray a Christian or even religious view of the afterlife, but instead one that captures different aspects of living and projecting them into the world to come. One of our group, Scott Kirtley, was inspired to put pen to paper and come up with his own idea, but also tried to include a sense of our religious (and I would also add American) tradition. I thought the portrayal was great and thought provoking, and asked if I could share it with a wider audience—so without further ado, my own transcription of Scott Kirtley’s notes of the vision of an afterlife:
When you arrive in the afterlife, you find yourself in a large outdoor stadium with a retractable roof, as there is not only sunshine, but mild seasons and occasional rain in heaven. Each day is different. On one you are the pitcher, one the catcher, designated hitter, umpire, announcer, scoreboard switcher, national anthem singer, one day as a fan, one as a vendor, and the occasional day as the custodian. Every day you have a different perspective on the glorious game that unfolds. Some days you win, some days you lose. Each day is better than the day before and you can’t wait till the morrow. Jesus, the apostles, the saints and those who passed before us all play right along.
We are not all 18 year old phenom rookies. There is generally a range of what might be considered “18-40”, but age isn’t really important anyway, so it is not a concern. There are a lot of people, so there’s more than one city, and you travel all over with your team. There are teams all over the world. (My home team [says Scott] would be Mayberry RFD.) Yours might be Chicago, Tokyo, Pine Bluff, or Prague. Fun, sportsmanship, camaraderie, responsibility, dedication, and respect are eternal mutual characteristics of the “Stadium of Heaven.” Instead of streets of gold, there is tight cut grass, ivy on the centerfield wall, with tulip and begonias blooming.
Each game is hard fought. There are aggressive spikes up slides into 2nd to break up double plays, outfielders crashing into the walls, brushback pitches, homeruns, blown saves, extra inning games and blowouts. But there is peace after the last out. How do we address the people we know and don’t know? Sometimes we’re teammates, sometimes we’re opponents. The blind, the poor, and the lame? All are capable of throwing a no-hitter or hitting a game winning RBI. They spend days picking up the trash or striking out when the bases are loaded. There is recognition of our fellow humans, but without jealousy—and we all know something good about each person. For example, “that guy selling cracker-jacks was the principal of a junior high and did all he could to encourage the kids under his care.”
Baseball is a symmetric event. 9 players, 9 innings, 3 outs, 3 times through the batting order, 3 strikes. But no time limit. Heaven—It’s over when it’s over, which is another way of saying “eternity.”