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  • Reverend James Squire

Rain Dog

There is the old reminder for dog lovers that God spelled backwards is dog. Therefore, let me begin with my Wonder Dog Sadie to unpack some reflections on the afterlife. Sadie loves to eat. At precisely 5:00 PM if I am home, she comes and finds me and sits in front of me and gives me that “haven’t you forgotten something look” with her big brown eyes fixed in a stare. She doesn’t arrive at 4:59 or 5:01. She arrives at 5:00. How does she know it is 5:00? I don’t know any humans that can do that. I must admit that she has been slipping lately coming in earlier. One of my sons refers to her as the Rain Dog after the movie of some years ago, Rain Man. You may recall that was a movie starring Tom Cruise as Charlie and Dustin Hoffman as Raymond, his brother who is a savant, someone who has a special brilliance. The savant’s special ability was, among other things, immediately knowing the number of toothpicks that fall on the floor or computing square roots in a flash. This ability is beyond a reasonable explanation. The movie is about limitations. After many adventures on a road trip to California, Charlie finally accepts Raymond unconditionally which results in his all-abiding love for Raymond. Theories of brain research cannot completely understand the phenomenon of the special things that a savant can do.

It is beyond understanding to explain how savants do what they do because it may involve a dimension that we can’t access with reason. I pointed out in earlier post the importance of a consideration of a reality of another dimension in Abbot’s book, Flatland, published in 1884. The book describes the transformation of a square to a cube and a circle to a sphere. We are the square and the circle before we can experience life or the afterlife as a cube or a sphere and see the world in an enhanced dimension. According to the modern theory of dimensionality called String Theory, there are at least 10 dimensions. We only experience height, width, depth, and time. Six are beyond us.

This brings us to a consideration of another world, the world of heaven. What if Sartre was right in his play, No Exit, which was a description of hell not as a fiery place but as a room where three people created hell for one another by not meeting each other’s needs. Sartre’s classic line was “Hell is the others.” He meant that we can make another person’s life hellish here on earth.

Last evening Vicki and I watched a documentary on the life of Audrey Hepburn. I didn’t know much about her. I had never seen her break out movies of Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Roman Holiday. She achieved much in her life by the world’s standards of fame and fortune. She lived a life that most would envy, but she was missing one thing. She desired to love and be loved after an unhappy childhood and abandonment by her father.

What gave her the closest thing to “love” was to stop making movies and eventually move to a place in Switzerland where she could rid herself of fame and concentrate on her children. Through a chance occurrence she was asked to be an Ambassador for UNICEF, the organization that is devoted to feeding the starving children around the world. She used her fame to raise funds to feed hungry children and held them close during her many trips to the places where children were most in need. Her quiet life with no travel was transformed by helping the hungry. Recall Jesus’ words regarding those in need, “When you help those in need, you have helped me.” The documentary makes real what I believe to be the goal of each of us, sometimes known and sometimes not, to be able “to love and be loved.” That is what Hepburn wanted all of her life as well.

If Sartre has a point, and I think he does, that “Hell is the others.” so it must be true that “Heaven must be the others.” as well. Heaven or hell is right now on earth, but what about the Rain Dog. What about that dimension beyond this life and this world that we haven’t yet experienced, curiously referred to as the afterlife or life after what we can know now.

The documentary ends in a way that caused me to think about the Rain Dog. Audrey Hepburn is on her death bed as she has stomach cancer. Her beloved son has kept a vigil. He is in a chair next to her bed. Before she dies, he said she spoke something that astounded him. She said, “There are people in the room that are waiting for me.” Her son looked around. There was no one that he could see.

What is the key to open that door to leave our room of this life? I believe for me and other Christians it would be Jesus. For Jews, it would be Yahweh. For Muslims, it would be Mohammed. For the Buddhists, the Buddha. For the Hindu, the soul reincarnated in another form. Like so many things important in life, reason can only take us so far. We have our limitations. Where reason cannot go, faith leads the way.

I don’t think that God would be offended by the analogy that connects the afterlife to Hepburn or Sadie the Rain Dog. How could one not love her as Sadie is a living example of loving unconditionally as God does. It is called grace. Unlike Sadie, it took Hepburn a lifetime to find it, to love and be loved. Unlike us humans, Sadie has known it all along.


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