Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Afterlife According to Buffy

This morning I was watching a rerun of an early Season 6 Episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ("Buffy" or "BTVS"). At the end of Season 5, Buffy dies due to supernatural forces. At the beginning of Season 6, Willow, die Uber-Witch, brings Buffy back to life, pulling her back to "this" existence from the afterlife. The big revelation that comes about a few episodes later in Season 6 is that Buffy was in Heaven, not some horrible Hell dimension as Willow et al. supposed her to be. This causes some personal and psychological problems for Buffy since she was perfectly content in the afterlife. She'd saved her friends, done her job as the Slayer and a good person. "It was [her] time."

I provide this story by way of introduction. Let us suppose there is an afterlife. (That is, let us *not* discuss whether or not there is an afterlife or whether or not you personally believe in an afterlife.) What do you suppose the afterlife is like?

Jean-Paul Sartre said "Hell is other people." Do you suppose there is a dichotomy, a Heaven and a Hell?

I rather like Buffy's description of where she was before Willow pulled her back to the tv-show dimension. She was content. At ease. Peaceful. Serene. What if Heaven isn't so much a place as a state of mind? What if the reward for leading a "good" or "just" life, "admission" to Heaven, is really admission to a sense of peace? That would be pretty cool, no?

As for Hell, well, I'd like to think I've read a little on suggested interpretations. Not Dante's Inferno but other things like Neil Gaiman's Sandman and others. IMO, Hell could take one of two forms: physical and lesser mental punishment OR harsh mental punishment. The former is the usual, customary vision of Hell is torturing its inhabitants. The latter would be more serious, fraternity-hazing-like activities. If Heaven is a sense of peace, then Hell could be the opposite of that - an unending sense of discomfort or terror. Find something the person cares about and exploit that fear to forever punsih the person. True torture, less emphasis on physical pain. A bit dark but terribly effective.

Personally and outside of the framing of the issue, I'm not sure whether I believe there is an afterlife or not. It's one of those big questions to which I never formed a succinct opinion or viewpoint. The question also doesn't bother me really. One of those things over which I have absolutely no control and, barring actual evidence, over which I cannot informedly opine.

In any case, some random musings from Buffy-watching.