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

The War against Clickbait



“When you see what happens next, your jaw will drop!”

“You won’t believe what she’s wearing! Or what happens next!”

“Refi your mortgage and get a FREE Miley Cyrus blowup sex doll!”

You’ve seen these before. You know what I’m talking about. You’re surfing to Amazon to buy my latest book, but there are just too many distractions. Ten thousand mousetraps filled with Kim Kardashian-shaped cheese lie between you and your objective. Fall into any of these click-holes (Not Clickhole, the awesome parody site) and you’ve pretty much fucked over the internet for the day.

You just had to see Miley’s boobs, didn’t you?

You needed to find out how to lose thirty pounds in twelve seconds.

The list of top ten ways to kill your husband was irresistible.

Truth is; every time you follow one of these links, you give an asshole money. Spend 30 clicks in an ad-riddled article, and a dickwad spammer gets richer. Follow some stupid link on Upworthy you only sorta kinda cared about in the first place, and the douches win. And when you’re feeling particularly sadistic and you share clickbait on Facebook or Twitter…congratulations…you just spread feces all over your friends.

A few hints:

If you see a picture of someone famous with a quote attributed to them, that person probably didn’t say that thing. It’s made up, and the site the pic links to is usually bullshit. It’s clickbait.

When you see a link claiming your jaw will drop, your panties will fall off, or you won’t believe what happens next, it’s crap. Click the link, and the only thing that’ll drop will be your IQ. Clickbait.

See all those little links at the bottom of the boring article you just read on CNN? All of them, clickbait.

Buzzfeed…Upworthy…90% of all internet articles related to celebrity worship…you guessed it…clickbait.

Every time you share a meme about being a drunken housewife or take a quiz that tells the world how much you know about Star Wars, you’re being a clickbait slave. The assholes just got richer.

And if the grammar is shitty, it’s clickbait. The article was probably written in a spam-farm in Kazakhstan. (Though if it’s only slightly crappily-spelled, there’s also a chance you’re just on CNN, Fox, or Huffpost…) 

* * *

The thing is; the people who create this crap content are getting better at it. They’ve figured out what headers you’ll ignore. They’re stepping up their game. If you’re gonna avoid clickbait, you need to get better. And you need to do it quickly.

So let’s take a test. In the list below, three of the headers are from clickbait sites, and three are either legitimate articles or parodies. Answers are all the way at the bottom. If you get even one wrong, you’re obviously a terrible person and you probably flood your social media feeds with misspelled memes about being a likeable but mentally-deranged alcoholic. But seriously. Take the test.

Which three are clickbait? And which three are either legit or parodies?

1. Going The Extra Mile: This Heroic Ambulance Driver Drove For An Extra 2 Hours To Find A Hospital With 4.5 Stars On Yelp

2. When these Nigerians are asked what their country is like, their answers come easily.

3. Fifteen Little Things that are Oddly Addictive

4. Baby Sheep walks on the back of Adult

5.  This Teen Died After A 911 Dispatcher Hung Up On A Caller Who Swore At Him      

6. Man Races Against Time To Take Out Trash Bag With Widening Puncture 

* * *

– Scroll to the end to get the answers – 

Look, we all probably realize that by clicking and sharing a few bullshit articles with weak content, we’re not exactly committing mass murder. If a few shady people rack up a few pennies for our foolishness, it’s not the end of the world. But life is short, and if we’re gonna make genuine use of our leisure time, maybe we’d all get more out of it by avoiding the internet altogether not falling down the rabbit-holes the web has laid for us. Maybe we should visit sites populated with real content, shit that’ll make us laugh, or at least elicit something other than a profound roll of our eyes.

I mean, there’s tons of cool stuff out there. Like here and here. And if you love really dark stuff, here.

Fight the good fight. Don’t follow garbage. Stop trailing celebrities. Don’t click on lists unless they’re like this one:  FlamingF2 Join us in the war against clickbait.

* * *

Ok. Your test answers:

First off…I lied.

Only 2 of the 6 headers are non-clickbait. I checked out the other 4 and found them to have pathetic, meek, and/or bullshit content.

The other 2 are parodies.

None of the headers are for legitimate articles.

 If you figured out my trick and guessed the 4 clickbait articles, congrats; your training is complete.

But otherwise you’re fucked.

Headers 1 and 6 are parody articles. Both are pretty funny, and both are designed to mock clickbait content.

Headers 2, 3, 4, and 5 are complete clickbait. Complete with shallow content, specious factoids, and tons of links to more trash.

* * * 

Catch you later.

J Edward Neill

Author of tons of @#($%&