273. The marrying maiden (V)
I recovered a mouse corpse from my dining room light fitting the other day. He chewed through an electrical cable and killed himself; for a few days there was a hot musty smell in the room as the lightbulbs cooked the body. Finally, the smell became so bad that an impulse made me investigate; at first, I thought a bird had died on the roof—then I thought a mouse had died behind a bookcase. At last, my mind moved to the medium and I unscrewed the glass bowl that covered the lamp.
There I saw, jutted through a small hole between the bulbs, two sabre-like white teeth and a snout. I forced the body free with a garden fork; his small and flexible body—not yet liquified—fell through onto the dismantled metal support beneath the bowl. Apollo goes with mice, and this fellow had come too close to the artificial sun; they say the ancients associated the mouse’s teeth with lightning—he found artificial lightning with his own teeth, and so met his death.
It was not how the mouse looked that made me think there is no afterlife, it was the smell. Death always smells hot and sweet; it has a thickness to it. I imagine myself by a German extermination camp, and I imagine the constant sweetness from the chimney. Candida and death, AIDS as spectre: bodies that decay while still alive, turn sweet with each breath. Sweetness is death, warmth is death; only coldness is life—the colder, harsher, and harder the object the more life. When I looked at the mouse, especially when I could smell him, I thought: “There is nothing more after life. There is just this body and the decay. There is death. One day, I will be like this, on a larger scale, and perhaps my death will be as ridiculous as this case—perhaps I will chew through a wire that any fool knows contains a fatal shock.” Life one day, decay the next—and no indication that there is a ghost in the machine.
I live in a provisional way: I live without beliefs, for beliefs are prisons. So I know that on one day I look at the world and see chemicals and atoms and indifferent molecules, while on the next day I am convinced that owls—Athena personified, or perhaps just disguises for grey aliens—send me messages through synchronistic coincidences; they hoot and make mournful calls when I read about them. On those days, the world is enchanted, psychic communication is real, and of course there is an afterlife. When you do not live in belief’s prison, there is no need to fear contradictory affirmations: today, there is God; tomorrow, there is nothing.
People who have beliefs always live in a miserable and hypocritical prison. They affirm Christianity, but, one day, they find it impossible to believe; so they keep up the front—perhaps for months, perhaps for years—in the vague hope that it will get better; and all the while they affirm to other people what they no longer believe, to keep up morale or to save face or because it is the “right thing” to do. It is just the same for the atheist who has visions or experiences outrageous coincidences; he must dismiss, he must believe in science—at night he is haunted by God.
These people think they are consistent because they are intellectually consistent. “I have always made a rational defence of Christianity.” “My atheism is grounded in evidence from Darwin and physics.” Intellectual consistency is hypocrisy. Real consistency is loyalty to the inner observer—to the experiencer—and not to an idea. Reality will always escape your frameworks—your God, your gods, your science—and leave you, by brute experience, punched in the stomach and without breath. I say it is better to live with the experiencer; to be loyal and consistent to your self, rather than to subscribe to the delusion called belief.