Curiously, but perhaps others experience identical excursions
into the unknown, I dream more often of the dead than the living,
yet nothing of nightmare proportions is involved; it is always
as though members of my immediate family, now deceased, or close
friends who have passed away are both fully alive and exactly
as they were in body and speech prior to a dark day when Manitou
dictated fini to earthly adventure. So, this far from morbid
phenomenon is a pleasant recollection stored away in a teeming
mind. A combat soldier in youth and therefore disillusioned about
any hereafter, I have been a long-time agnostic.
Dreams of the lost ones, always benign, raise a question that
I hope is correct. Perhaps there is something to be said for
the soul's immortality. Surely I desire this to be so, for the
definition of an agnostic is not an atheist - but one who doubts
that humankind can be anything other than blatantly presumptuous
in expecting resurrection after death. I see nothing horrendous
in counting myself one of this planet's higher forms of animals
destined, at the last gasp, to feed the flowers and other forms
of terrestrial life with the juices and ashes of a natural transition.
Therefore, an admitted cynic and questioner, I have discussed
the matter with learned ecclesiastical types. They usually admit
that I have a point, but gently insist that I am wrong. I hope
I am wrong.
In WW-II, when those of us who were fatalistic combat soldiers
expecting to die the ticket to a shroud, I would not attend religious
services prior to a known big attack. Reason: I figured that
if I had not prayed to an Almighty God before danger threatened,
then the diety was unlikely to listen. I would only be one of
many legions of the lost ones.
Better to copper one's bets by honoring the ten commandments
which are morally just and logical than to cry for help only
when afraid or hurt. Almighty God, if there is such, must have
a dossier on each of us. In the event that there is a nebulous
hereafter, He will make a decision.
We old soldiers are particularly involved. Now, in peace,
we are the gentlest of human beings - but we had to be murderers
in war. How does that measure up? Is a national order to kill,
too often predicated on power politics, any excuse? Now, a little
beyond the biblical three score and ten, I wonder.
Right, after another span of years I will embark upon the
last great adventure and may, or may not, know the truth. It
doesn't at all matter that I will repose in a flag-draped coffin
or that close relatives weep a few tears at parting. I will depart,
as President Harry Truman said, convinced that I have "done
my damndest" to be a decent citizen and a man of no more
than the minor faults of humankind. All who profess no error
at all are liars.