Let’s assume, for a minute, there’s an afterlife. Most people already do this. However, one step past the assumption the road diverges. One person imagines this particular heaven, while another pictures that one. A third might envision being reborn as a wholly different life form, a fourth a return to some ultimate state of being, while a fifth conjures only a void. Some of us have our convictions, and some of us have our suspicions. Nevertheless, each of us confronts and comes to terms with this at some time in our lives.
In Sum David Eagleman imagines 40 different scenarios for life after death. They range from seemingly familiar to rather odd; some remind us of fables while others verge on science fiction. Somewhat in the tradition of The Divine Comedy or C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce but not restrained by purely Christian parameters, Eagleman’s vignettes, each runs 2 to 3 pages long, touch on both our longing and our reality. What if God let everyone (e.g. your enemies) into heaven? What if the afterlife were based on free market capitalism? What if you chose to be reborn as a horse? What if heaven were populated with different, often better, versions of yourself? What if God doesn’t know we exist?
To his credit, Eagleman has taken what might have been little more than a clever premise and imaginatively shaped it into tales that are insightful, intriguing, and most importantly, human. The Cedar Rapids and Marion public libraries own copies of this book.