Would the soldier, afforded an afterlife and a memory of the things they were and the places they’d been, conjure up thoughts of well-placed shots, violent ambushes, victory over the enemy? Would a stockbroker dream of their numbers, their material things, their portfolios? Would a priest recall the moments they stood on the dais above their flock and spoke repeated words of faith and folly?
Are these the things we would inevitably cherish given an opportunity to reminisce? Fortune? Glory? Faith?
Would you remember the times spent with family and friends? Could you reconstruct the sparkle of your mother’s eyes? The smell of your grandparents’ house? The feel of old wood and shelter?
I would remember the sound of water running over stone. The press of silence in a closed room. Birdsong over rays of light breaking through a canopy of trees overhead.
I might find solace in the texture of dirt, soft grass, wind that carries the scents of forests and the sounds of buzzing life.
If death were not the end and I were given a collection of moments of my life here, I would most fondly revisit the moments where I, alone, existed in harmony with nature, the world, the universe. Even now, I hear the soundtrack of my life playing over scenes of sparkling aspens, murmuring streams, the lapping of waves against pebbled shores. Hammers would strike phantom strings of memory, and I would hear, echoing interminably, the way a piano sounds when you depress the sustain pedal and all the strings sing softly for just a moment—a breath taken before song, a tensing of muscles before action, perpetuity in the penultimate.
These are the moments that make this life worth living. Stripped of all the history of humankind and its constructions and inventions, the world is a simple collection of sounds, smells, and placement. It is our great power over this absurdity we find ourselves waking to wade into each morning that we can choose to revisit places in this world that bring us that savage, untamed joy. For me, it is those moments I can conjure up without effort, and with treasured pleasure.
In all my life lived, there are only a handful of people I have become close to that I believe understand that ultimate peace in the way that I do. They’ve lounged in the crook of a twisted tree branch and felt the deep groan of its dance against the wind. They’ve descended beneath the surface of water to feel weightless and caressed by the light and sound of the depths. They’ve stood on pinnacles of rock overlooking miles of land, sea, and infinite horizon. Yet, I find myself alone in these thoughts now. Even as I write this, the moments I remember so fondly are not populated with these kindred spirits. I only feel my presence in these places, and not the presence of those I wish could share that sense of oneness with the all with me.
The sun sets, painting clouds purple and pink. An orange glow radiates over the horizon as the light of billions of stars begin to pierce through the overpowering light of Sol beyond. In a glance into that never-empty sky, we know that worlds stretch away into infinity and in each is the potential for these same moments of bliss in nature we find here on this planet.
Will there be a day in our distant future when a human being will lay back on pillowy vegetation, in alien forests echoing with unfathomable sounds of things we can’t imagine and stare up at distant stars just as we do now? Will the soundtrack to their lives allow for that depression of the sustain pedal that brings that moment of song across all strings? Will the savage, untamed joy of finding oneself situated among the infinite still resound as deafeningly as it does here for me, and perhaps you?
After death, these things will have been, whether the universe recognizes they happened or not. In all of infinity, there will be that one moment we were the one and all more than any other moment. With the right kind of acceptance and perseverance through the absurdity of all things, we can make each successive moment we exist here that one and all moment over those that precede it.
We can peak when we die. And, we can but hope that we neither live nor die alone in the meantime.