Asking Directions

Posted on April 28, 2011 by


“Arriving at 1655 River Road,” said Samantha, my GPS.

I had asked her to alert me when we were getting close the Missouri River Bridge I had selected for my suicide, not wanting to miss it this time. I pulled over to examine the bridge. Flimsy guardrail through which to crash; a deep, treacherous river below; it had everything I was looking for. I thought of the history that had occurred on these waters, the flatboats carrying settlers into the west, preceded by Lewis and Clark, scouting out the trails. If I died here, I would be part of that history, even though I was no pioneer in the usual sense of the word.

Imagine it, a pioneer with a GPS.

But of course, I had to remind myself that Samantha could not help me now. She had no directions to Heaven, or Hell, or even, Nothingness. I had to go it alone. So, I guess I was a pioneer, after all.

Here’s a business idea for all you computer geeks out there: design a GPS to help us make decisions about how to get where we want to go in life, and after death. Show us how way leads on to way.

If I could have foreseen how my decisions, both minor and major, would lead to this hopeless place that I am now, I would have chosen otherwise.

My father, when he was a preacher, if they had GPSs then, would have said from the pulpit: “The Bible is our GPS.” That’s what he would have said, and would have been proud to have thought of it.

If that is true, then it is a GPS sorely in need of an update, for all the place names have changed. Where Idolatry once stood, there is Materialism, Nationalism, and Intolerance. Sin is a ghost town, but Self Centeredness is booming. Israel has become a secular, militaristic state. The Kingdom of Heaven is now a theme park where you go for family reunions and are greeted by someone wearing a St Peter costume. They built a highway to Hell and the road to Righteousness is pock marked by potholes. It’s time we downloaded a new version that makes the directions clear.

Psychologists say, as I have said to clients many times, you should listen to your gut to help you make decisions. Indeed, there is scientific evidence that conscious thought is not as smart as we think and, for complex decisions; the gut feeling is a better guide.

Having a belt size that has increased by one inch for every year I have aged, I have more guts than anybody. My guts constantly make noise, both tympani and trumpet, but I have a hard time distinguishing the score they are playing from the chatter of the talk radio that is constantly going on in my head. No, guts are no help at all.

Then there is the Easy Road as a guide. The Easy Road is the choice most people make most of the time and the choice that I have made almost exclusively. It’s the way that looks the easiest when you are at the intersection. Oh, they all get harder when you go down them, I know, but you can be assured that at least part of your journey is effortless, the beginning.

At this point, parked by the bridge where I planned to kill myself, I cannot for the life of me distinguish what theEasy Roadis. Is it easier to kill myself and have it be done with, or to drive on without thinking?

What is on the other side of that bridge anyway? Oh, I know when I cross the Missouri River Bridge I get on the other side of the Missouri, but that’s not what I mean. I mean, what is on the other side of death?

On this question, my guts are no help at all. Samantha just looks at me blankly, and the Bible brings up more questions than it has answers.

The best idea I have of the other side of that bridge is the little death that I experience every night when I turn off the light and go to sleep. I rehearse dying every night. Every night I read or watch TV until I can’t go on anymore. Then I lie down and give up the ghost. I flip the switch and everything disappears. I close my eyes and drift off into Nothingness. There is nothing to fear in Nothingness and, because I am Nothing, nothing to fear with. There was a whole lot of Nothingness before I was born and I don’t remember objecting then.

Idly, without even thinking about what I was doing, I touched Samantha’s minus sign to zoom out her map. On the other side of the bridge, the actual other side of the actual bridge, the roads tangled into a confusing knot called Kansas City. I knew that I could find, within that knot, two things that I loved: barbeque and the blues. My guts made a drum roll drowning out everything in my head. I asked Samantha to take me to 18th and Vine where I knew I would find the pleasing aroma of burnt offerings.

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