Choose Your Own Afterlife

In pretty much all my non-fiction work, I like to touch on the subject of the afterlife. Not in a morbid way. More of a ‘let’s think outside the box’ way.

It’s a topic I prefer to engage with questions rather than statements. After all, no one really knows what happens after death. Some people will tell you they do, but they don’t. Not even a little. Heaven, hell, reincarnation, utter destruction…all perhaps possible, but none even a little bit objectively provable. The realm of the afterlife is just another part of the human experience in which beliefs, no matter how closely held to the heart, can’t hold up the truth. And the truth is: we don’t know a damn thing about it.

About to be independance dayed

“Shit. I’m either about to be sucked up into heaven…or the aliens from Independence Day have just targeted my ass.”

Especially in this little book right here, I love to ask people to talk about their belief systems. ‘Is there an afterlife?’ I ask. ‘If so, what’s it probably like?’ ‘If there isn’t, is everything we do pointless?‘ The conversation usually goes one of two ways. People either cite religion, which I confess gets pretty boring, or they admit they don’t know, and that’s when things get interesting. In asking these questions and getting people’s answers, one can learn a ton about what makes humanity tick. Because the afterlife discussion is all hopes and fears. It’s unknowable. It’s raw. ‘What if it’s awesome?’ we wonder. ‘What if it doesn’t exist?‘ we worry. ‘Or what if it’s absolutely horrific?‘ we tremble.

But after all the ‘I know’ or ‘I don’t knows,’ I like to take the conversation somewhere fun. I mean…since no one has a clue about the afterlife, why not enjoy the discussion?

And so the question becomes:

If the afterlife were whatever you want it to be, what would it be?”

Now, perhaps through some crazy quantum mechanics, it’s possible in the afterlife (if there is one) we actually do get to decide what it’s like. Probably not, but you never know. I guess what I’m saying is…let’s run with that. Let’s embrace ‘I don’t know.’ Let’s forget about our preconceived notions. Let’s talk less about what we believe the afterlife is like, and let’s talk about what we want it to be like.

And I’m serious.

I want to know your answers.

Here’s the exercise:

You’re sitting before a blank sheet of paper. You’ve got a pen, and you’ve got all the time in the world. Your belief system, your religion (or lack thereof,) and your scientific knowledge have all fallen out the window.

What do you want to happen after you die?

Nothing? Just wanna nap forever?

Do you want to be alone? Or can other people join your afterlife beach party?

Want a heaven? Sitting on a cloud, eating chocolate, soaking up starlight for all eternity?

A more specific heaven? As in, you’re some kind of spirit worshipping a deity in the ether? Cool. Tell us about this deity. How do you battle the boredom?

If you want heaven, do you punish ‘bad’ people with some kind of hell? If so, what’s the hell like? Who exactly goes there? Go ahead. Set the rules.

No heaven or hell? Ok. You’d prefer to join the world-building spirit army who runs the universe behind the curtain? You want to be part of the machine beneath it all? Cool. What’s your plan for the next 500,000,000 years or so?

Or maybe reincarnation? You want another shot or ten at earthbound life? As an animal? A human again? Does this process repeat itself indefinitely?

Or maybe you’d like to be a ghost? A spirit wandering the ethereal plane, watching over humanity, helping people out when you can?

Or maybe you have a darker vision. You want to F with things. You wouldn’t mind being a naughty ghost, a boogey man under the bed, or even some kind of demon.


Happy cloud paradise? Or inbound ethereal storm from the nether world?


You see where I’m going?

French scholar and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once posited that since we don’t really know much about the why and how of our reality, we’re free to create our own. It’s a bit idealistic, but perhaps he’s got a point. Just make stuff up and roll with it. Since we might never know the truth, it might be fine just to imagine everything.

Sounds fun, right?

Try it, and share your answers with the world.

J Edward Neill

Asker of too many questions

Author of Matrix-like sci-fi

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  1. I love this question… I have strong held beliefs, but you’re dead right, pun intended, lol, we have no idea if our beliefs are true. They are beliefs, hopes, wishes – not provable beyond your own feelings.
    I know what I ‘think’ the afterlife will be, and it’s not necessarily what I ‘want’ it to be.
    If I throw away any beliefs – I want it to be nature. I want to live forever in the perfected form of what I am now, in the location of my dreams… Mountains, lakes, ocean, and woodland. I want to wander these hills and valleys, dip my toes into crystal clear water, and ponder. I want to write, create (perhaps with enhanced brain power and abilities), love and be with those I love most.
    What I don’t want is to have to work unless it’s work connected with my passions.
    Boredom – perhaps – therefore the need to create…
    It’s really the ideal version of this life.
    One day, we’ll see!

  2. Throwing everything I actually believe out the window and being creative with this – great exercise by the way.

    I don’t sleep much in life, don’t really want to sleep when I die. Being a cherub does not appeal. And reincarnation – having to do all this over again – hell no. Because realistically, we all would make the same dumb choices in whatever form we come back as.

    One of my literature profs used to describe an idea of hell as a place where you receive in excess whatever you were obsessed with in life. Always thought that was an interesting idea, and would question what that would be for me. Haven’t ever came up with a definitive answer.

    In video games, I always play the villain. So the idea of coming back as some form of spirit that messes with people is very appealing. I would come back as a dream demon. I would haunt those that were not publicly evil. Not the Hitlers of the world. But those that were more guilty of the seven deadly sins type of evils. I would come into their minds while they slept and taunt them by using what sin they are guilty of. With someone guilty of wrath, I would haunt them with torture nightmares. And I would haunt them every night of their life until they repent of said sin. Maybe I should write a novel…..

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