Most people, as you know, have physical examinations, often annually, to learn how they are physical health is doing. Far fewer, by my reckoning, have their metaphysical well-being––they are spirits, souls, qi, ka, whatever––checked out to see how they are doing, for lack of a better word, spiritually. So for those of you who have never had the experience, but perhaps should consider it, I am posting this recollection of my own metaphysical exam, in dialogue with my primary care metaphysician, Father Fred (Doctor of Metaphysiology, Gregorian University; Diploma in Eschatology, Phoenix University). I realize that I am “baring my soul” here (as it were, ha-ha-ha), that is, if you can see it.
Father Fred: Well Jim, we’ve got your lab work back, and considering a guy your age with the kind of wear and tear that you’ve put on your soul over the years, the results are not that bad.
Jim: I think were talking about mind here, not that thing you call “soul”…
FF: Well, I expected we still have issues with that distinction… I can see that that hasn’t changed.
J: Forgive me father, it’s been like four decades since my last confession…
FF: I’ll just ignore that. Let’s get to some of these test results. First of all, it seems that that chronic agnosticism that you suffered from for so many years has finally expressed itself in all out atheism. You’re “good” HDL (Highly Dramatic Liturgicalism) levels are their lowest ever, and your “bad” LDL (Little Devilish Liars) are nearly off the charts.
J: I love it when you speak in tongues, doc …
FF: I wouldn’t be such a wise-guy about that, Jim; not when we consider your credulerol levels. You a guy one sin away from a soul attack.
J: Gee, I can’t understand why. I’ve been going to God’s Gym and doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius faithfully three times a week. And I only ingest the body of our savior in the form of gluten-free eucharists; just a shmear of cream cheese, I’ll admit but, hey, we don’t live forever, right? Your god saw to that…
FF: I’ll ignore that. Have you been taking the 500mg. of Credalis I prescribed? It’s helped some of my other patients with your presentation get back with the Lord.
J: No I stopped taking it. I started experiencing some of those side effects that are in the fine print: you know “a feeling of belief in the virgin birth that lasts more than four hours; seeing the face of Jesus in the foam of my cappuccino. And they tell you to stop taking it immediately if you find yourself spontaneously chanting Dies iræ! Dies illa / Solvet sæclum in favilla.
FF: Really? The Dies Irae? That is serious; it’s good that you stop taking it.
J: Yeah. I know, I saw that piece in the Journal of Eschatology, about people who are suing the pharmaceutical company because they can have contracted Armageddon/End Times Syndrome and compulsively sit on their rooftops to await being “ascended into heaven.”
FF: When did you start noticing the Dies Irae?
J: I would wake up in the middle of the night singing: “Days of wrath and doom impending”/ Heaven and earth in ashes ending.” I couldn’t make myself stop. Over and over again with the “doom impending,” and “ashes ending.” Over and over; it’s a catchy tune.
FF: How did you stop it?
J: Just before I was about to climb out on the roof and wait to be ascended I decided to try what I always try when I get a song stuck in my head – I substitute The Oompa-Loompa songfrom Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. But it took three days of singing that Oompa-Loompa song, and now I not only hate that song, I have an urge to hit little people.
FF: I am sure that God will forgive you for that.
J: Bullshit. Count it as just another one of his meddlesome screw-ups. When you see him you can tell him for me that if he had never bothered to inspire some depressed medieval monk write to Dies Irae, then he wouldn’t have had to make a whole troop of dwarf chocolatiers to chant the Oompa-Loompa song to counteract the side-affects of a drug designed to get people to believe in him.
FF: I think we should give you and metaphysical EKG because sounds to me, Jim, that underneath that atheist exterior of yours beats the heart of a believer.
J: Like underneath that pious carapace of yours lurks the hard-on of a pederast?
FF: That’s hitting below the b… never mind…
J: Sorry, but you’re always reflexively making me out to be the sinner for no longer believing in your fairytale. Have you ever considered that God really doesn’t look like that guy floating on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but he really looks like a lobster, speaks in unintelligible clicks and squeaks, and is just as likely to eat his own son as to send him to earth to be crucified by Romans. You’d have a hard time believing that –– probably an easier time believing that space aliens abducted Elvis Presley and Jimmy Hoffa– but you believe the fairytale that was handed to you. We could call him “Lob” instead of God. Oh, my Lob! Lob-dammit!
FF: Well I can see that you’re getting a little bit agitated. Not good for your blood pressure. And the blasphemy is not doing your immortal soul any good. So let’s get back to your metaphysical. You should be giving some thought to what you are going be doing after this life.
J: Ah, now he plays his trump card, then one with the Reaper on it. Been waiting for that. I’ll tell you what I think about that. Death is the certain equalizer between the believers and the doubters and deniers. But it seems to me that you believers have an obsession with death. Each day is an account of the status of your soul––“now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…” –– hoping enough grace or merit or whatever has been stored up with a positive account balance, forever salvation miles. Not that the nonbeliever is oblivious to his or her mortality. But their accounting of life is likely to have a different valuation. With no eternity (at least in the conventional imagination) or reincarnation (at least not necessarily into the same species) to afford an “extension” for completion, being “saved,” or yet another “post life,” the nonbeliever is more likely to be concerned with what is “left behind.” If “this is it” and the rest is “game over” the non-believer values the reality of Time more than the dream of Eternity.
FF: Maybe you should have some dreams like that.
J: I have dreams aplenty; that just don’t include deer hunting with Mother Theresa and Jesus.
FF: So have you any other concerns that we should try to address?
J: You just don’t get it, do you? Or maybe you do, but are just too afraid to let that little whiff of Wittgensteinian doubt in. Coinsider just for a moment that astrophysicists have determined that our galaxy is really on the outer edges of the known universe, but we have put ourselves not only at the center of the universe, but as being the very reason for its creation––we are the reason God made this whole thing. We refuse to accept that our planet orbits a minor star in a minor galaxy, and your Church was ready to execute one of history’s greatest scientists because he said, and could prove, otherwise. There are probably thousands, millions, of other possibilities and explanations than the creation narrative Man has “created” and accepted as the “truth.” Do we live in an existence of divinely-sculpted fatality, or one of incomprehensible randomness, where one gene might make us a genius or a musician, or gay or straight, where one radioactive particle from a sunspot might strike us by sheer accident and give us a fatal disease. What astounds me is how the abysmally unfathomable is coupled with the astonishing arrogance of our species. And what more culminating proof of it is there than a creepy little ex-Nazi in a silly suit believing and acting that what he says about what cannot possibly be known is infallibly true? . . . Wow, I’m feeling better already, doc.
FF: Days of wrath and doom impending/ Heaven and earth in ashes ending. / Days of . . . .
J: Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-doo / I’ve got a perfect puzzle for you. / Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-dee, / If you are wise… you’ll listen to me.
© 2012, James A., Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 10.25.2012)