"Intellect is a fire: rash and pitiless
it melts this wonderful bone-house
which is called man."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Graphic accompaniment: Vitruvian Man (Leonardo da Vinci -- 15th/16th century)
Musical accompaniment: Orpheus in the Underworld (Jacques Offenbach -- 19th century)
Caffeinated accompaniment: Four-hour-old coffee (With a shot of rum -- 21st century).
Continuing with my McSheey research...
Lost amongst the papers in the library at Stoneycliff University are the following musings by 20th century writer/poet/beach gate attendant Thomas J. McSheey. They were penned (well, actually, No. 2-penciled) by McSheey during his senior year while reflecting on the above Emerson passage as he prepared to write a paper on the 19th century essayist.
Although the paper itself was lost (or, as McSheey told his professor, "My dog ate my homework!"), his notes were recently discovered at the university, accompanied by doodles of Orpheus in Hades playing poker with Old Scratch, Mephistopheles, and Beelzebub. In the picture, Orpheus is the only one not smoking a cigar, as his doctor had told him to cut down ... and to also include more fiber in his diet.
The following notes, arranged in 10 segments, hint at McSheey's emerging views on life and death and religion ... and his newfound belief that God did not actually create the universe Himself but instead built it based on a packet of mail order plans He sent for with four box tops from His favorite cereal - Eden Flakes.
1. Intellect is rash and pitiless - it tells us that that which we see around us in our day-to-day travels is all this life is all about. There is nothing more.
We are born, we grow, we learn, we eat, we drink, we procreate, we wane, and we die.
That's all there is to it.
Well ... that and paying our fair share of income tax.
2. No existence beyond this realm. No afterlife. No hereafter. No Kingdom Come. No great reward. No right turn on red.
Lights out. The end. Finis. Kaput. C'est la vie. Kind of a gloomy prognosis at best.
That is, unless you slip St. Peter a twenty at the Pearly Gates.
3. We are flesh on bone. That's what we are. Oh sure, we have a brain. Intellect it may be called. But what has this so-called intellect ever done for us? Our "intellect" reasons that we are too important to have just one measly mortal life. We must have an afterlife. There must be a place, call it Heaven or Valhalla or Shangri-La or Sunset Lake or whatever, where our soul resides after our mortal bone-house has ceased to function.
If it's true - if there is a Heaven - then I have just one burning question.
What's the monthly rent and does that price include utilities?
4. Why do we feel this life is merely a dress rehearsal for an afterlife yet to come? We have no facts to back this up. The only facts are thus:
That's all we know for sure about life.
Well, that and never take Route 6 westbound on a summer Sunday afternoon.
5. Some will point to religion as the answer to all of life's mysteries. They will point to Holy Scripture as if those words written so long ago represent a user's manual for the soul's salvation.
With all our knowledge - and all our technology that can "look" inward to the very building blocks of nature, and "look" outward through space and time back billions of years to nearly the creation of the universe itself - with all these instruments of science that measure hard facts, why do we still cling to texts written thousands of years ago?
As for me, I choose science - knowledge - fact - theorem and proof.
Except for the tale about Noah and the Great Flood that God sent to wipe out "man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air" (Gen 6:7) ... now that's something I can believe in!!
6. If there exists a Heaven for me, then there must exist a Heaven for every other creature that God created. There must be a Heaven for the squirrel currently foraging for acorns in the grass outside my window. And for every fish that swims in the oceans of the world. And for every organism, however microscopic, that inhabits this planet earth. And for all creatures and organisms that inhabit every other life-bearing planet throughout this vast cosmos. For in the scope of the universe, I should be no more important in the Creator's eye than a single-celled amoeba. And if that is truly the case, if an amoeba and I are equal in the scope of the universe, equal in the mind of the Creator, then an amoeba that barely knows of its own existence, and certainly knows nothing of God's existence, is equally welcome at the "Pearly Gates."
In which case, I want a full refund!!
7. Intellect, rash and pitiless, thus produces the following creed:
I am mortal. I am a bone-house, nothing more. I am a member of the species Homo sapiens, currently residing on the third planet of a solar system orbiting a typical M-class star in an average spiral galaxy. As a male of that particular species, I can expect a lifespan of about 75 years on this revolving and rotating celestial rock. Seventy-five years to live out my life. And then, lights out. Deathful, restful repose. The infinite sleep.
That is, unless my dog wakes me up at 3:00 in the morning to go out!
8. And after my time is done, and my death certificate is filled out and signed and dated by someone trained in such grave matters, please scatter my ashes into the babbling waters of the Monatiquot River. No fanfare. No cemetery vigil. For in the scope of the universe, within the mind of God, I am a bone-house, an evolved amoeba, nothing more.
Although, unlike an amoeba, I do own a set of personalized luggage.
9. Seventy-five years. Seventy-five years! Suns burn and solar systems churn for billions of years. And all I get is a meager seventy-five!
What a celestial rip-off!!
10. Pssst ... Just in case I'm dead wrong about all of the above ... I'm a Catholic! Call a priest!!
Epilogue: The poker game in Hades ends abruptly when Orpheus' wife, Eurydice, storms in and drags him away by the ear back to the Upperworld.