Eternal Lives

April 12, 2024
4 mins read
Michael Houston, Mariachi de la Calle

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto
Así yo distingo dicha de quebranto
Los dos materiales que forman mi canto
Y el canto de ustedes que es el mismo canto
Y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto

Violeta Parra, 1966

If you got past twenty-seven years old, you probably weren’t a rock star. Those of us who survived the 60s twice are now thinking about what’s next? Nirvana or some other band of angels, demons, bar flies, saints, scholars, open mic folk, standup comics, human or not human aliens etc. 

Jaysus, I was minding my own business and blundered into a spiritualist transcendental book shop in Berkeley the other decade, and what did I come across, but an Illustrated Tibetan Book of the Dead? It’s a dead person’s Yelp or TripAdvisor to select a demon to help you keep you suffering or a angel to transcend that stuff. 

In this tradition, after you die your soul is still in your body for a few days waiting for what’s next. The Illustrated Tibetan Book of the Dead enables you to memorize the images from ancient sacred scrolls to recognize and select your afterlife travel guide.

Not as easy as it sounds. There are zillions of beings who would take you to the good place or worse. A bad choice could lead to what is called an own goal in soccer. Terrestrial history and the rest or our lives are filled withown goals and unfavorable outcomes. For example, on 2 July 1994 Colombian soccer player Andrés (not Pablo) Escobar was executed by gangsters for making anown goal in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Kharma. The rest of us just land in divorce court, the poor house, or memory care.

An own goal choice of partners in your Life or After-life Karma Sweepstakes could blow your best shot in your Cosmic Championship match for Deliverance (1974). None of the marbles!

It’s a no pressure situation. You memorize the images of faces, costumes, masks etc in the scrolls or your dog eared book, chose your next buddy, and transcend desire with supreme insight and the realization of the four noble truths i.e. suffering, its cause, its end, and the path leading suffering’s end, or not! Who’s to say dung beetles aren’t happy? 

In the Irish street ballad Finnegan Wake your dead man is laid out in clean sheets in a Dublin slum until a brawl breaks out and slurry from a broken bottle of whisky brings him back to life, the same one he’d left. Your dead Himalayan Buddhist monk has to choose between ethereal good guys and bad guys in scary masks and costumes. That is why our columnist J. Rafael Ramos prefers Irish to Aztec mythology.

We’re all after Arahant, full awakening and getting to Nirvāṇa or Tir na nÓg, the Land of Youth for those of you who didn’t survive St. Patrick’s Day.

There are alternative choices. Predestination, A Perfect Act of Contrition. Aztec Flowery Death. Plenary Indulgences. A page in a Lives of Saints. Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Limbo, Fentanyl, Happy Hours, Camino Santiago etc.

Breathe, fellow couch-potato-soul-seekers! You don’t have choose between being an angel or a demon, unless you’re in the cast of Good Omens (Prime). You can just be a Stanton Island vampire in  What We Do in the Shadows (Hulu). Chefs, you can vicariously convert a sandwich shop in Chicago into a self-realizing five star restaurant in The Bear (Hulu). Alternately, you can go to school board meetings and fight to ban books that make you or yours uneasy.

Even now, you can choose what you read where. For example, metaphysical cartoonist Keith Larson’s The Grove Zone in Foolish Times in available on Amazon, in a laundromat on Soledad Drive, a Bagel shop on Alvarado St., and Downtown Book & Sound on South Main. 

As the Chucklehead says, “Reading this rag is freedom, not having to laugh unless you feel like it, and/or turning a page to the interview with Mindy Harris’ Life Behind Bars at Alfredo’s Cantina, the Sportsman Club, etc. 

Choice is everything, be it from communist elites or Christian Nationalists in your bedroom. As Chris Kristopherson says, “Freedom’s just another name for nothing else to lose.”

I lighten up my endless cycle of getting born, growing up, noticing angst, watching bad things happen to yourself and others, noticing that it wasn’t getting better even when you laughed it off and then having Creation abort you to do it all again ad nauseum.

The pursuit of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is why my wife and I practice the old family tradition of indentured servitude, grandparenting in this case. Snuggled up on the sofa in Richmond, VA with a pit bull and two and four year-old granddaughters watching Peppa Pig and Powerpuff Girls is a great way to atone for one’s inability to get my Woke or American Exceptionalism right. In some future decade partners will wonder who trained them in sarcasm and non sequiturs. I delight in the thought of being gone, but not forgotten.   

Misery loves company, so we are blessed to transcend it with  joy among our pals in Native Daughters of the Golden West, Knights of Columbus, Elks, Moose, Elkhorn Slough Yacht Club, Kiwanis, and American Legionnaires

Art Heals, as demonstrated in this life and the next by the fun to be had with Nonprofit Alliance of Monterey County (NAMC), Hijos del Sol, Palenke, Youth Art Collective, Arts Alley, Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Alisal Center for the Arts, Sol Treasures, Guitars Not Guns, First Night Monterey, Open Ground Studios, Open Wing Theater, Sunset Center, Forest Theater, Art Walks, Cuz’s Sportsman’s Club, Oldemeyer Center, Avery Gallery, Arts Council for Monterey County (Arts4MC), Alliance on Aging, Carmel Foundation, and every sport, dance, pier, fishing hole, gym, game arcade, and sports centers of your choice.

So, transcend suffering. Give money to street beggars and musicians, and for the love of all that’s good and holy, tip hospitality worker bees! Who else watches out for your mental health and sense of well-being than your favorite bartended?

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