Interview by Sunny Shadows of the Substance Broadcasting Station
Hello to all our Substance Broadcasting Station listeners. I am Sunny Shadows with you here in studio today, where we have a very special evening planned for your listening pleasure. Tonight, for the first time ever, we have with us - you know them by many names - first up: Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Mohammed, and as George Harrison sang, My Sweet Lord. Let's give it up for God! And, up second: we refer to our next guest as Beelzebub, the Devil, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, Mephistopheles, but, when - like Cher and Madonna - only one name is necessary, we say, Satan. Can I get a big woot, woot for Satan!?
SS: So, God and Satan, welcome to my studio. I will direct my first question to you, God. I can't imagine how busy you must be. Would you please walk our listeners through a typical day...I mean, what is that like?
GOD: Actually, I haven't been as busy as you might expect of late. Satan is the one who has had to go for stress management counselling for the last year.
SS: Really, stress management counselling. Oh, wait! The school shootings? The pedestrians on London bridge who were stabbed and killed, the devastating hurricanes that wiped out half the Caribbean?
SS: Oh, of course! Okay, but let's try and stay away from politics, shall we?
GOD and SATAN: Fair enough!
GOD: Typically my busy seasons are Christmas, Easter, Passover, Sunday confessionals, Lent, and the Super Bowl of atonement...Yom Kippur. Besides that, it is pretty much business as usual.
SS: Got it! Good...last month I had Life and Death sit down for an interview, and they professed to being very symbiotic when it came to their relationship and job descriptions. Do you God, and you Satan, see your relationship and/or your jobs similarly?
GOD: I'll take this. Yes, in many ways one cannot exist without the other. That whole Yin and Yang dichotomy. Humans need reference points, or baselines, if you will, and that is where Satan and I step in. We act as sound reference points from which place humans may begin when considering options.
SATAN: Yeah, so that's where we come in.
SS: Are you saying that there is no 'good' without 'bad'? Why not just good 24-7-365?
GOD: I hear you, but at the same time I must remind you that the design 'flaw', so to speak, in the creation of humans does not allow for perfection. I put that back-door mal-ware in on purpose. In fact, you might say that humans, in their imperfection, are indeed perfect, if you go by the design specs of human beings. That specific design feature is what allows humans the ability of free choice, and that is what makes the human animal interesting. I mean sure, other animals are able to make rudimentary, even arguably complex decisions, usually based on instinct or repetition. But humankind is the only animal that not only makes decisions based on logic and emotion, but also chooses to go against better judgment and fact, and will throw logic and instinct out the window as the means to an end.
SATAN: Isn't that just fan-fucking-tastic? And again, that's where I come in
SS: Well, that's the second time you have said that, but what exactly is your mission, Satan?
SATAN: I like to think of myself as more of an entrepreneur, a renaissance entity, if you will. I don't really have a set plan, but am always open to searching for, and finding, opportunities. I enjoy being challenged, especially by humans; they really crack me up.
SS: Would you mind elaborating for the sake of clarity and discourse?
SATAN: Well, sure. Put it this way, no matter how much humans have, they always want more, and again, that's where I come in. I mean it's not just about Mariah Carry only wanting red M&Ms in her dressing room or everyone gets fired. Or that the temperature in Jay Zee's limo must not exceed 70 degrees or else...
SS: Are you talking about wealthy people and celebrities exclusively?
SATAN: Oh no. I am talking about all those who consider themselves hard done by; feel inferior to, or are envious of, others; and/or feel deserving of more. And believe it or not, we're talking the vast majority of humans here. I listened to your interview last month with Life and Death, and you know how the word DESERVE just irks Life's last nerve - well I freaking LOVE that word. It's like, the reason I get up in the morning. Humans who believe that they DESERVE to be rewarded for unearned deeds...God love 'em.
SS: God, any thoughts?
GOD: Well Sunny, Satan's comment, while perhaps not entirely accurate, is the reason I get no days off anymore. I used to take Saturdays off... hang out with my angel-peeps, catch a buzz cloud hopping, go cuddle with all the doggies, but that was in the old days, you know...in the beginning. Now, it seems to be one thing after another, with no respite to speak of. Satan makes a distressing, but excellent point. Today, fewer humans than ever before are content, and hence grateful for what they have.
SATAN: Right! So, I want to personally thank Paris Hilton, the Kardashians, all the Housewives of New York, Beverly Hills, and Atlanta, and all the reality show producers for their continual support concerning my cause.
SS: Are you claiming that reality shows are directly to blame for the decline of humankind? God, you are shaking your head. Would you like to comment?
GOD: I think what Satan is referring to, is the message from the media, that anyone can be famous and filthy rich, but even more, that everyone should want to be famous and filthy rich, because anything short of fame and extreme wealth constitutes failure. I too listened to your interview with Life and Death, and I really appreciated what Life said about letting the good deed be its own reward. The consensus these days seems to be the opposite, where if there is no fame or monetary compensation attributed to the deed, then the interest and motivation lacks enthusiasm, to put it mildly.
SATAN: Yeah, I frigging LOVE the media! All that propaganda about how humans need more of more, for the sake of more. Brilliant! It's boosted my business tenfold since the 80's, you know... the "Greed is good" mantra from the movie Wall Street.
SS: Okay, let's switch it up a bit. So let's say a human has got himself/herself into trouble and gets down on her knees and brings her hands together, looking up at the sky and pleading for help... Are you, God, going to answer her entreaties, or is she facing in the wrong direction?
SATAN: Hah, that's a good one Sunny.
SS: I'm not trying to be facetious - I'm seriously asking which one of you will be listening to, and answering that human?
GOD: Well, first of all, please understand that we both listen on the same celestial frequency. After hearing what the issue is, we each take it under advisement, we confer with our board of directors, and then Satan and I get together at the end of each month to confer and to begin the vetting process.
SS: Only once a month? What if there are more time-sensitive, or urgent matters that demand an immediate decision? What if someone is teetering between life and death, and they need an answer pronto?
GOD: Well, first of all, that would be on Life and Death's turf.
SATAN: Yeah, we don't mess around in other territories and domains; we operate with full respect for each other's positions and boundaries.
GOD: Right. So, our jobs - Satan's and mine - begin after the decision by Life and Death has been established as to whether or not the human stays physical or becomes essence, or, as you humans call it...soul or spirit.
SS: Okay, let's assume that the human has left their physical abode and their essence is now up for grabs. What then?
SATAN: First, let me assure you that God and I do not play cards or chess, or any other board games or sport, in order to determine who gets whose essence, as Chris DeBurgh would have you believe. I wish it were that simple. No, the paperwork involved in going through a human's life with a fine-toothed comb in order to determine where that essence will spend eternity, is mind-boggling and jaw-dropping.
SS: But where is the human's essence in the meantime?
SATAN: You've heard of purgatory and limbo?
SATAN: Okay, those are just fancy words for waiting room.
SS: But I thought that purgatory is a place of suffering inhabited by the souls - or, as you say, essences - of sinners who are expiating their sins in hopes of going to heaven. And limbo is for the souls of unbaptized infants, and the good who died before Christ's coming.
SATAN: Who told you that? You see, this is the kind of crap we have to contend with. A shitload of misinformation from down here, so that when you get to us, you are all about... "Oh, I didn't know...I'm so confused...that's not what the brochure said...how come it looks so different than the online picture?".
SS: Okay, so what then is the process?
GOD: Sunny, what Satan just said is true, but there is more to it. Both Satan and I are governed by strict judgment standards.
SS: Don't you mean, non-judgment?
GOD: Oh no, I mean extremely judgmental standards. Listen, the decisions we must ultimately come to are binding and permanent, so error is not an option for us. This is why the essence must wait as long as need be for our consensual verdict. It's in the best interest of the essence not to try and rush the process. After all, we are the ones working 24-7, while they get to just chill out and enjoy the complimentary refreshments and amenities.
SS: Is there any leniency for human error? For instance, if a mother steals a loaf of bread because her child is hungry and she has no money - does that carry the same weight as the actions of an embezzler?
GOD: While wrong is wrong, the short answer is "no", but again, we examine the life as a whole, and not only the transgressions.
SATAN: Hey, it's all human error, that's why we have to go through all the human individual's files - like an audit. We make notes, we highlight things such as achievements, good intent, compassion, acts of bravery, and such, in yellow, and then greed, murder, raping, pillaging, and so on, in pink. The sheer amount of office supplies we go through is just staggering.
SS: On average, do more people go to heaven or hell?
GOD: It varies year to year, and don't forget that Satan and I have been doing this for a long time.
SATAN: Yeah, since last year the real estate prices in my 'hood have gone through the roof. Space is at a premium. Newly-located souls are scrambling to get even a tiny place as far away as possible from the acid-soaked, infernal tar pits of pus, and every month this gets harder to achieve, with all the new expatriated souls. I mean, sure, you have your basic and hardened criminals, psychopaths, murderers - both accidental and premeditated, pathological narcissists, scam-artists, and people who refuse to give up their seats to seniors on the bus, but the worst of them all are the apathetic. Those souls get the red highlighter. They get to spend the rest of eternity in a place that makes the acid and pus neighborhood seem like the Bahamas.
SS: Okay! So, I am going to do a complete U-turn now and ask a few questions that I know my listeners are waiting to hear answered. God, when humans pray to you, do you listen? Do you hear them? Do you care? How many can you listen to at once?
GOD: All good questions Sunny. Okay, yes, I do listen. I listen continually. No matter what else I am doing at any given time, I am always listening. So yes, I hear everyone. However, it may be difficult for you to understand that I do not hear in the same manner humans hear. I can hear every human simultaneously, and still define and connect each one with what they are saying.
SS: Do you answer them?
GOD: Yes, I answer each and every one.
SS: Some might argue that you do not.
GOD: I can understand that. It is difficult to hear the answer when it is not the answer you would like to hear and/or in the words you are comfortable hearing. Also, the thing I have noticed throughout the millennia has been the persistence of expectations by the human animal. They are the only animal on Earth that not only has the delusion of expectation, but has honed that delusion into an art-form of intricate indulgence.
SS: That sounds very much akin to what Life commented on in last month's interview. The whole "I deserve" mantra.
SATAN: Hey, hey now, let's not completely dismiss that mantra - it is responsible for most of my business.
SS: Okay, but then how are we supposed to think about, or relate to, prayers? Are we humans not allowed to hope for a favorable outcome?
GOD: Hope! Now that's a horse of a different color. Hope does not imply expectation. Hope is not arrogant. Hope is humble and pragmatic. Hope I can work with. Hope allows for modification. A person with a terminal illness no longer expects to be cured, but rather hopes, to be remembered with love, to tie up loose ends, to connect with loved ones, to impart wisdom, to die peacefully. Yes, hope I can work with. When people hope instead of expect, they are more focused and attentive, and are rarely disappointed with my answer.
SATAN: Hope, shmope!
SS: How do you explain pain and suffering?
SATAN: With delicious, ravenous, savory delight!
SS: Excuse me Satan, I am directing that question to God.
GOD: I do not have to explain pain and suffering - shit happens, that's all. Why don't you ask me to explain happiness and wellbeing? Is pain and suffering more interesting to humans than happiness and wellbeing, and if so, why?
SS: I'm not sure I understand.
GOD: Well, how come humans never tune in to Entertainment Tonight to find out how well celebrities are doing...how healthy they are, and how sound their relationships are? Why is it that humans seem to be most interested in someone when they have been afflicted with some terrible disease, or arrested, or caught cheating on their spouse, etc?
SATAN: Oh, I know, I know...'cause it's more fun and interesting.
GOD: Exactly. And that is how humans chose to view their own lives. They only practice inner reflection or awareness when it starts to get interesting for them, meaning some sort of anguish or dissension, or infirmity. That's usually where lies the attention-grabbing headline.
SS: Some humans believe that pain and suffering are signs from you in the form of a test or challenge.
GOD: Right, Like I have nothing better to do than hand out tests which I have to grade...please! No way, humans! That's all on you. I do not interfere in that way and never have. Don't go imposing that crap on me. You want to fight a war, grow a pair and admit that it's all your idea alone. Don't go sullying my good name as an excuse. You get sick? Understand that illness and death are all part of health and life. Whether or not you like it is irrelevant. There are no magic wands. I don't do tricks. No divine experiments. Your home gets burned down or a tsunami washes away your village - that's nature, not me. It is about what you do with the pain and suffering afterwards that makes all the difference, and that's all on you humans. And, hey, rap-singer humans, stop looking up in my direction and thanking me for your fahkacteh Grammy, or Emmy, or any freaking award of any kind. I don't even listen to rap music. I prefer Gregorian chant and chamber orchestras.
SS: What about you, Satan? How would you explain pain and suffering?
SATAN: Well first, just for the record...I prefer Country and Western. They are always singing about some form of tragedy or hardship; now that is such sweet music to my ears. Okay, so, pain and suffering...I totally agree with God. And much as I would loooove to take credit, I as well have nothing to do with pain and suffering, or transgression. That really is all on you humans. Contrary to popular lore, I do not entice humans into injudiciousness, they get there all by themselves. In fact many of them go out of their way to think up new forms of downright baaahhd. I merely stand on the side to support their ideas and encourage their efforts. That's my bad!
GOD: So, after a perceived tragedy has occurred, do you open yourself to change, to learning, to compassion and to love, or do you close yourself off, and practice hate and bitterness and maliciousness? Do you chose to disconnect or to connect? Do you ask yourself some hard internal questions, and then answer yourself honestly, no matter how uncomfortable it might be to admit certain truths, or do you say "Fuck it, I suffered, so I will make everyone else suffer."? You understand Sunny, that's all on you humans. When everything else has been stripped away from you, the ability to choose still prevails. Read Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl: he is spot on. FYI, he holds a place on our board of trustees.
SS: Fair enough. Wow! Heavy stuff. So now, I would like to open the phone lines and allow our listeners to call in with questions. Oh, my producer is telling me that the lines are full. Okay, let's begin with our first caller. Hello caller, could you please tell us your name and where you are calling from.
CALLER #1: Yes, hello, this is Harold from Boise, USA. My question is for Mr. Satan. Is there a place on Earth that compares with hell? I would like to get a point of reference, just in case.
SATAN: Well first of all, it's not Mr. Satan, it's just, Satan. I want to be clear that both God and I are 100% gender neutral.
SATAN: To answer your question Harold... The place on Earth that most resembles hell is South Beach, Miami in July. Just replace the ocean with molten lava, and the Latin music with pain-filled screeching, pleading and bargaining, and the buff, well-tanned bodies with green and yellow pus-oozing skeletons. I hope that answered your question Harold... Harold?
SS: It seems we have lost Harold. Okay, next caller.
CALLER #2: Hi, I'm Lucinda from Montreal, Canada. My husband Ben died 3 months ago. How do I know where he is? I mean, like, is he in heaven or, you know, the other place.
SATAN: Hell is not a dirty word, Lucinda.
GOD: Lucinda, if your husband Ben died 3 months ago, chances are that we are still processing his paperwork. Keep hopeful, and be on the lookout for a sign from him after he gets settled in. You will know when he sends it.
CALLER #2: Hopeful, oh please! I am hopeful alright. I hope that cheating son of a yak rots in the fires of hell until his dick and balls get...
SS: Wow, okay, we had to end our call with Lucinda rather abruptly. Do we have another caller standing by? Yes, hello caller, please state your name and your question.
CALLER #3: Hello, my name is Cathy, and I would like to know if I will see my mom and dad again after I die. I miss them so much, and I am finding it so hard to be here all alone. God, I don't really even care if they are with you or with you Satan, I just want to be with them again, wherever they are.
GOD: Cathy, I know your parents, and although I am not a soothsayer, I can encourage you to keep on the path you are forging and make every moment count, in their honor and to your benefit. And Cathy, you do not have to wait to see your parents again. Close your eyes and see them, and feel their love for you. It's there when you want it.
CALLER #3: Oh, thank you God, I will.
SATAN: Blehk, I'm getting diabetes here. Let's punch this up a bit.
SS: Caller number four, are you there?
CALLER #4: Hi Sunny, I love your show. It's Valentina from Venezuela.
SS: Thank you, and hello Valentina. What is your question, and to whom is it addressed?
CALLER #4: My question is for God.
SATAN: Oh crap, I'm so freaking bored!
GOD: Go ahead Valentina, I'm listening.
CALLER #4: Yes, God, In my culture we believe very strongly in Angels, and I was wondering where you stand on Angels?
GOD: Oh no, Valentina, I never stand on Angels. That would hurt them and be very bad luck.
SS: Point taken. Next caller, hello?
CALLER #5: Yes Sunny, my question is for God.
CALLER #5: I'm sorry, Satan; my name is Craig, from South Beach. First of all, nuts to you Satan, SOUTH BEACH RULES! Okay, God, I am a God-fearing man and I want to know why my little sister had to die last year? I prayed to you every night. Was I praying wrong or what?
GOD: Craig, let me begin with some concern about your statement. I believe you may be the victim of a scam. I assure you, that you need never fear me. Inciting fear, of any kind is not my M.O. Now, to your question... Craig, your sister died because she was very, very, very sick. There is no wrong way to pray; I heard you, Craig. You asked me to cure her, and I could not, so the answer was no. But when you asked me to take away her suffering, well that I could do.
CALLER #5: Oh, yeah, okay. I get it...but it still sucks like a super industrial Hoover.
GOD: Agreed, Craig.
SS: Okay, so, one last caller. Hello caller, are you there?
CALLER #6: Yes, I am Athumani from Mozambique. My question is, have either of you ever come across an individual who is so pure and good, with not a single bad bone in their body that, there is no question as to their eternal destination? My beloved mother is such a person.
SATAN: Oh! Finally! I'll take this one. Athumani, unless a new breed of human just came off the assembly lines, last time I checked, all humans were constructed with the same amount of bones, the same abilities of thought and action, and the same scope of emotions. Therefore, perhaps your mom has merely never been pushed to any extreme. If her child, i.e., you, had ever been in any life-threatening danger, or starving, or severely ill, I bet, if ever that were the case, you might be surprised at what bones your mom would use and how effortlessly she might use them. Humans are continually given opportunities to choose how they will react to different situations, from the most mundane, to the most extreme. The most humans can hope for, is that they will never find themselves in a position to have to make those life and character-altering, extreme decisions.
SS: Okay, I see we have calls coming in from Asia, Antarctica, France and Swaziland, but my producer is giving me the 'wrap-up' sign, as we have come to the end of our time. But before we go, I wanted to ask God about Heaven. We heard what hell is like, quite definitively; so what is heaven like, God?
GOD: Well Sunny, heaven is just as you imagine it to be, whether it's reuniting with your dead loved ones, or being licked by puppies all day, or eating chocolate ice cream every day, or living in a tree house, or sailing forever on the ocean in a houseboat, or cloud-hopping, then that is exactly what will happen. Heaven is an undefined, non-judgmental, safe and accepting place, where anything is possible forever.
SS: Wow! Intense! I believe we have only scratched the surface here with God and Satan. I thank you both for taking time out from your jam-packed schedules to talk to us today. Perhaps we can do this again sometime, and devote a lot more time to the listeners who would like to call in with questions.
SATAN: Sure, I'm game.
GOD: My pleasure, Sunny.
SS: For centuries we have relied on the sun for warmth, light and life. At the same time we have looked up at the moon with such wonder, that it has inspired us to venture forth in titanium rockets. We have written stories and poems and songs in their honor. Please join us next month when I will be sitting down with Sun and Moon to discuss how they see us from their vantage point. Do we inspire them?
This is Sunny Shadows in the Substance Broadcasting studio, signing off, wishing you sunny days and moonlit nights.
* The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various guest participants on the substance radio station do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the substance radio station.
by Natalie Segall
Last week I watched a remake of a movie I've always loved - Beaches. There is a scene that has always stayed stuck with me, where Hillary, who is dying, is desperately looking for a picture of her mother’s hands.
What is so significant about hands, a mother's hands? Why are they so pertinent in our lives, in my life? I've often mentioned this to my therapist, how I have so many times dreamt of her hands, or looked at them in her pictures.
A mother's hands, I believe, carry a story of the journey of our growth. When I look back to what I can remember, I think of how my mother's hands were there to hold my sister Carrie's hands and mine, through our journey of life. Although our family included a child with special needs, compared to other families, we had riches that money couldn't buy. Our mother’s heart knew only one thing - the love for others and the love for her children. She showed us that love through her hands.
A mother's hands are our first touch when we are born, our first connection to life outside her womb. They are the first to embrace us, to kiss us, stroke our hair, touch our cheek, hold our tiny little hands in hers, and guide our first steps into the world.
As we grow, a mother's hands are there to love us, support and discipline us, strengthen and protect us. We always run to our mother’s hands when we are frightened. It is instinct, it is natural to take her hand; and we hold our mother's hand as a gesture of our love. They are our security. They are there to comfort us when we are hurt, to wipe and bandage our injured knee while her tender hands stroke our cheeks, wiping away our tears and fears. They are there to teach us, mould us, guide us, tuck us into bed, dress us, bathe us, and prepare us for our day at school, effortlessly, rushing us off and waving goodbye from afar.
Her hands are there for our first recitals, our plays, our graduation - always being the loudest clap, applauding and blowing so proudly kisses in the air.
They are there to wipe our brow when we are sick, feeling for fever, hugging our aches and pains away, her hands feeding us with love and care. And every day they work endlessly to prepare the table with meals to please, with her blessed hands and loving heart .
As we grow, they are the hands to comfort us at our first breakup, or clasp our faces in awe, so proud of our accomplishments. They are there to wave goodbye as we leave for the night, and there to hold back the curtains anxiously awaiting our safe return. And on that special day, they are there again, holding our hand, offering their blessing, gently placing a family heirloom in ours, with wishes of love, and a new life of joy and happiness.
If we are lucky, our mother's hands are there to meet our first child, as they met us, to pass along a lifetime of experience and love to our children. They are there to help us through our blues and worries, and anxiously await our calls to visit. Her arms always open and willing.
There is a special bond a mother shares with her daughter...something so sacred no one can touch.
I know this makes sense to me: that my mother's hands have played an important role in my life. They have embraced me and given me the courage I've needed every step of the way. They have taught me the rights and the wrongs of the world, and mostly how to take others in hand with kindness and genuine love.
I now wear the bracelets and ring my mother wore on her hands, treasures that carry her legacy, enriched with a history of love and strength, one she has endowed upon me.
I remember that day I lost my mother and how my heart died with hers...how my first instinct was to take her hand in mine as I sat by her side in tears never letting go. This is what I miss the most of my mother today, her touch, her soft tender hands holding mine, those that led me from child to adulthood....the hands that walked me through the years.
by Barbara Salhany
Interview by Sunny Shadows of the Substance Broadcasting Station
My name is Sunny Shadows, and I am an on-air reporter for the Substance Broadcasting Station. Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with both Life and Death, for a very in-depth interview.
SS: First, I want to welcome both of you to my studio. I know how very demanding your days are, so I, and my Substance Broadcasting Station listeners do very much appreciate your time. With that awareness, let's jump right in. The consensus by most humans seems to be that you - Life - and you - Death, are mortal enemies. How much of that is true, and how much of that is mere gossip? Would either of you like to weigh in first on the statement and question?
Death: I would like to answer that, if you don't mind!
Life: Not at all, please continue.
Death: The fact is that I could not exist without my buddy, Life.
SS: How do you feel about what Death just said?
Life: I will go one further, and admit that I would have no raison d'être without my companion, nay, partner, Death.
Death: Oh, that's so sweet of you.
Life: Not at all. But to answer your original question, Sunny, we do exist in tandem. Like Siamese twins, we are forever joined. You cannot have Life without Death or Death without Life.
Death: Agreed! A forest burns to the ground, and the soil becomes fertile again and new buds spring forth. Winter begets spring, begets summer, begets fall, and so it goes.
Life: Life, Death, Life, Death. Yin, Yang. In the immortal words of Tom Cruise, in Jerry McGuire..."You complete me."
Death: We complete each other, my friend.
SS: Wow, that's a very commanding consensus from both of you. Okay, so let me put a bit of a spin on this...what if, only for argument's sake, we entertain the notion of no Death. We do away with Death, and only you, Life, are left alone to flourish. What do you imagine that would look like?
Life: Very crowded and very messy, Sunny. You can't just keep piling life up with no consequences. Our Earth would become a giant storage locker filled with humans we don't use anymore and forgot we had. Also, on a personal note, I would be very lonely.
Death: Aw, I'm totally verklempt.
SS: So... symmetry is important for sustainability?
Life: Yes! Not just that, but what about all the humans in severe and chronic physical, emotional or psychological pain, anguish or suffering.
Death: Be careful Life, that might be perceived as a slippery slope in conjunction with Euthanasia and Suicide, and neither of them are here to plead their case objectively at the moment.
Life: True enough. But I think you know where I am going with this Sunny. How often, after Death has paid a visit, have you heard someone say, "I am so glad they are no longer suffering."
SS: Point taken. So what about if we change the convention slightly, and say, yes the very old and terminally pain-ridden must die, but no more premature Death for children and adults under 80? Can we not agree that is a reasonable request.
Death: I'll take this one... I am afraid not Sunny. If I only come for the 80-plus set, I will be known as an ageist, which clearly I am not. That mindset would also imply that it is okay for healthy, sound 80-plus humans to die, whether or not they would have before we placed those rules into effect.
Life: If I may interject: as it stands, there are no rules concerning me and my companion, and there never have been. Frankly, I do not see how any sort of regulations, at this juncture, would serve any relevance. Also, rules and regulations are put into place by specific regions and cultures. Geography might play an important part also, as well as politics, economics, etc. Do not forget that Death and I work in an atmosphere of complete non-partiality.
SS: Okay, but don't you think that some checks and balances should be put into place?
Life: Absolutely not. Look, don't get me wrong; it would be great, in theory, if we could abolish all pediatric oncology wards, or terminal and chronic illnesses forever. Again, I say, in theory, in a flawed and poorly thought-out theory.
SS: I can't believe what I am hearing. So you, Life, then, endorse the killing of young, innocent children along with the physically vulnerable?
Life: Unequivocally not!
Death: Hold on a minute. I think we are getting caught up in semantics. I believe that what Life means to impart is the reality of what those rules might imply. Again, my buddy and I would be seen as some kind of omnipotent authorities on who dies and who does not...where, when, how and why. We don't do that shit! It's never personal on our side. The personal is injected by you and your fellow humans.
SS: What about the meaning? People have a need for understanding, especially when someone they love is permanently taken away. What is the meaning of your existence? What is the meaning of little children dying, and what about people like my father, who worked hard his whole life in hopes of enjoying a well-earned retirement with my mom, only to die of a sudden heart attack, leaving my mom alone for however many years she has left. Death, I can never forgive you for that.
Death: Well there we have it. Again, notions like forgiveness, acceptance, purpose and meaning, are all human impositions. Life and I have absolutely nothing to do with any of that.
SS: I apologize for my outburst. As a reporter, it is my job to be objective. As a human however, I find the struggle difficult at times. This is clearly one of those times.
Life and Death: No apology necessary.
Death: Perhaps now you have caught a glimpse into how difficult our jobs are, and how extremely important it is for us to never, under any circumstances, lose our composure or determination.
Life: I would like to add something in reference to the whole need to know 'why' meaning of things, which humans struggle so deeply with when they are challenged by the permanent loss of a loved one. And again, allow me to make it perfectly clear that only God and Satan challenge humans, while Death and I remain impartial.
Death: Don't go there Life, you know how you get.
Life: Oh, I will indeed go there. How is it that people only feel challenged, and have epiphanies, and character-altering breakthroughs, when they feel challenged by my pal Death. How come I never witness any of you humans shaking your fists up to the heavens and asking, "why me, why her/him", when something amazing happens to them?
SS: I've lost you... are you jealous?
Life: No! That is not what I am saying.
SS: We seem to be off topic.
Life: We are spot on topic. How come humans do not get that they can glean just as much meaning from me, as from Death? How about not waiting until Death shows up to tell the people close to you that you love them? How about being grateful for having working legs instead of bitching about how far away from the shopping mall entrance you have to park? How about considering yourself lucky to have food and shelter before a fire burns down your home, or you lose your job and can't buy bread? How about getting into some serious soul-searching about how fortunate you and your loved ones are to be alive, while you are all healthy, instead of waiting to celebrate me, only after my buddy has come to call?
Death: Cool it Life, I think they get it now.
Life: I think the problem is that they do not get it. Humans tend to be so arrogant, with delusions of expectation, when it comes to me and Happiness, and so humble and vigilant when it comes to Death and Sadness.
Death: And people think I'm the tempest.
SS: Okay, so, Happiness and Sadness are scheduled for an upcoming interview, at which point I will refer to your statement and ask their opinion. For now, however, I think it is more productive to speak only for yourselves.
Life: Fair enough.
SS: Okay, so let's get into that for a moment. Do we humans not deserve to expect a certain amount of happiness, safety, good health, success, good fortune?
Death: Oh holy shit, she said the 'D' word...here we go!
Life: No, no, it's okay. I am not going to freak out. I find it interesting that you humans feel, nay, believe, that you DESERVE happiness, safety, good health, success and good fortune, but you never believe that you DESERVE any misery or misfortune. Why exactly is that Sunny? You know what I think, when I hear someone screaming, "Why me?"... I think, why not you? And if not you, then who?
SS: Huh, I never really thought about it in that way. I just figure that barring any serious felonies or premeditated malice on my end, I should be golden. I work hard. I give to my local charity, I give my seat up on the bus, most times. I practice kindness to animals. I am considered to be a nice and good person. I don't know, I guess I do believe I deserve to be happy and healthy. Why shouldn't I?
Death: I think that is what Life was taking issue with. When humans believe that they deserve good things as a cosmic, religious, spiritual or karmic reward of some kind, because they believe themselves to be good...well, that's when they get into trouble every time. Life and I do not operate under that kind of coercion. I agree with Life. How about practicing love, compassion, benevolence, thoughtfulness, just because it's the right thing to do, without expectation of reward.
Life: Better yet, what if humans considered acting well, the reward? Then you don't ever get into the territory of good and bad, and what are those boundaries, and who gets to decide. I believe that subject will be better tackled next month Sunny, when God and Satan will be your guests.
Death: Again, Sunny, I want to remind you and your listeners that Life and I operate under the very strictest of regulations for non-partiality. I believe I speak for us both, when I say that when Life gives, and when I take away, it is never about good, bad, sick, healthy, rich or poor, or anything other than the fulfillment of our duties. Again, it's never personal to us. It's only personal to humans because of their constant need for answers. The truth is that sometimes there is no absolute answer to Life or me, unless you yourself come up with it.
Life: Right! So build your monuments, start your charities, practice compassion, be present, live to the fullest, right now, and stop asking why. Just understand that there is no mystery, there never was. The sun has been rising forever. It's not like tomorrow at 6:00am you're going to say, "Holy shit! What the heck is that giant, glowing, yellow orb doing in the sky?", and later at 6:00pm, you will wonder where the hell it went. Death and I have been around forever, so what's the mind-blowing confusion about for you humans? Think of it like shampoo, Life-Death-repeat!
SS: Well, okay, Death... but you must admit that you bring us pain, and that Life, you do not.
DEATH: You want to tell that to all the women who had to push an eight-pounder plus out of their vah-jay-jay? There can be pain with Life, and there can be relief with me. Again, the interpretation is subjective.
SS: Okay, so now we would like to open up the telephone lines to anyone who would like to ask Life and Death a question. Hello, who is this? Please state your name and where you are calling from.
CALLER #1: Hi, this is Xavier from France. My question is for Death. What's your take on the whole 'it was his time' thing? You know, like when someone dies and everybody says, "Oh, I guess it was his time to die."? Is that true, that we each have a 'time'?
DEATH: I don't know how to break it to you Xavier, but whenever someone dies, that was their time to die. There is no ambiguity or meaning behind it. Whenever you die, you are dead, so that was your time. It's not like you are yogurt, with an expiration date clearly marked on your butt. When you die, you die...ergo, you are dead.
SS: Okay. Yes, hello next caller. please state your name and where you are calling from.
CALLER #2: Oh my word, I can't believe I got through, aaahh!
SS: Caller, do you have a question for either Life or Death?
CALLER #2: Okay, I'm so nervous. Okay, so I'm Veronica, from Manhattan, New York. This is to both Life and Death...can you both honestly say that you practice absolute non-judgment every single time? 'Cause, like, I tried it when my friend Mindy cut her bangs, and it was like, crazy impossible for me not to, like, finally scream out, that her bangs were, like, crooked.
Life: I assure you Veronica, that neither Death or I consider crooked bangs a bone of contention in any way. Yes! We have been highly trained from the beginning, in intense non-partiality classes, lectures and workshops. We have been, and continue to be tested in the most extreme of situations, both on paper and experientially. I hope that answers your question, Veronica.
SS: Moving on. Our next caller is?
CALLER #3: Hello, this is Wahid, from Rwanda. I want, no, I need to know, how either of you can claim impartiality, while almost one million of my Tutsi brothers and sisters were slaughtered by our fellow Hutu countrymen? I lost most of my friends and my entire family. How can you, Life, stand aside and merely watch atrocities such as this happen?
LIFE: The fact is, that I, Life, don't kill people... people kill people. Neither Death nor I inspire racial, political or religious unrest. Humans are the ones who set up all the rules and regulations. Humans are the ones who draw lines in the sand and say, "This country starts and ends here, and whoever crosses this line without permission will be killed." Humans are the ones who decree that Jews, or people of color, or fat people, or physically challenged people, and so on and so on, are second class or somehow inferior. Humans are the ones who make the rules and set the boundaries. Death and I remain impartial and at the ready to clean up your mess.
CALLER #3: Aren't you just blaming the victims?
DEATH: We understand that it may sound that way, Wahid. Furthermore, both Life and I have struggled, and continue to struggle, with that question. Unfortunately, in many cases, the perpetrators and the victims are, at times, one and the same. When you have 'good' people giving up their neighbors, friends and families in order to buy their own freedom or safety, the lines get blurred.
LIFE: We saw it with the Huns, the Spanish Inquisition; we saw it in Germany, Russia, Salem, the US with the Civil War; in China, and in Ireland, and on and on, over and over again...whether we consider race, culture, politics or religion, or whatever other way humans can invent to hate each other. I am talking about the human animal, the human condition. Wahid, both Death and I are so very sorry for your devastating losses. I assure you, we had nothing to do with the losses. I assure you that both our hearts ache each time we have had to clean it all up, and reset the human clock to zero again, and hope beyond hope, that maybe this time, you will have learned something, so there will never be a next time.
SS: Wow! Okay. Heavy, thought-provoking stuff. I am so sorry, but, we are completely out of time. Again, on behalf of all our Substance Broadcasting Station listeners, I want to thank both Life and Death for their very precious time and candor. I hope you will join me next month when I will be in conversation with God and Satan. Do they indeed engage in card and board games to determine which soul goes with whom, according to the Chris DeBurgh song, Spanish Train?
In the meantime, this is Sunny Shadows signing off, in the Substance Broadcasting studio, wishing you sunny days and moonlit nights.
* The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various guest participants on the Substance Radio Station do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the Substance Radio Station.
by Natalie Segall