Thursday, February 11, 2010


I just finished the book Sum, by David Eagleman and found it amusing and thought-provoking in an unexpectedly playful way. Eagleman cobbled together "Forty Tales From the Afterlives." 40 vignettes about what may happen after we die. I admit I'm a sucker for this type of hypothesizing. I loved Mary Roache's Stiff too. I find these explorations into the fantasy of heaven and the science of death oddly reassuring. Lots of people think this is weird. What can I say? I'm dark like that. Here's my favorite tale from Sum (the first chapter, also called "Sum"). It really has me thinking about how I spend my time. I think I'd have to add time spent chimping my camera and deleting digital pictures, as well as at least 5 hours spent smelling my kids hair to my own sum. And surly my time spent doing laundry should be upped.

What would you add to yours?

Sum | David Eagleman

In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this times with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.

You spend two months driving the street in from of your house, seven months having sex. You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes. For five months straight you flip through magazine while sitting on the toilet.

You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it. Bones break, cars crash, skin in cut, babies are born. Once you make it through, it's agony-free for the rest of your afterlife.

But that doesn't mean it's always pleasant. You spend six days clipping your nails. Fifteen months looking for lost items. Eighteen months waiting in line. Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window. Sitting in an airport terminal. One year reading books. Your eyes hurt, and you itch, because you can't take a shower until it's your time to take a marathon two-hundred day shower. Two weeks wondering what happens when you die. One minute realizing your body is falling. Seventy-seven hours of confusion. One hour realizing you've forgotten someone's name. Three weeks realizing you are wrong. Two days lying. Six weeks waiting for a green light. Seven hours vomiting. Fourteen minutes experiencing pure joy. Three months doing laundry. Fifteen hours writing your signature. Two days tying shoelaces. Sixty-seven days of heart-break. Five weeks of driving lost. Three days calculating restaurant tips. Fifty-one days deciding what to wear. Nine days pretending you know that is being talked about. Two weeks counting money. Eighteen days staring at the refrigerator. Thirty-four days longing. Six months watching commercials. Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time. Three years swallowing food. Five days working buttons and zippers. Four minutes wondering what your life would be like if you reshuffled the order of events. In this part of the afterlife, you imagine something analogous to your Earthly life, and the thought is blissful: a life where episodes are split into tiny swallowable pieces, where moments do not endure, where one experiences the joy of jumping from one event to the next like a child hopping from spot to spot on the burning sand.


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