Keeping Busy

by Joseph Farley

Socrates was addicted to bowling. Plato, his disciple, did not share his enthusiasm. He was splitting his time between learning flower arrangement and the intricacies of the Japanese tea ceremony. They had met for a planned lunch at the Food Court in the Celestial Mall. They were seated in small white chairs at little white table.

“Why bowling?” Plato asked his mentor. “Can’t you find something more intellectual or spiritual to pass the time?”

Socrates looked up from his Stegosaur kabob. “Nah,” he said. “I’m done with that. There’s no thrill anymore.”

“How can you say that? What is more pleasurable than mental stimulation?”

“League night with beer and pizza.”

Socrates and Plato were suffering in the afterlife from a similar dilemma. They had lived their lives in pursuit of wisdom, developing thought construct that they felt justified and capable of explaining the world and its transcendental nature. Within a few minutes of crossing over, they realized that most of what they had postulated was pure bull. A soul in heaven is a sponge for wisdom. It gets soaked up easily. Socrates and Plato had absorbed all they could until all there was to know was crammed in their beings. Each had spent centuries digesting this knowledge.

Now it was old hat. Dull. They needed new interests, new stimulation, to keep them from slipping into an eternity of boredom. That was why Socrates was now into bowling and Plato was pursuing his new hobbies. They had worked their way through other interests: sculpture, pottery, fishing, even baseball.

“It doesn’t matter what you do,” said St Benedict who was working for his own amusement sweeping the floor in the Food Court. “As long as you keep busy. You may want to try floor sweeping or dish washing. It is great for meditation.”

“Only as long as no one is looking over your shoulder telling you to move faster or pointing out that you missed a spot,” Socrates said. “Believe me, I was a worker. I used to cut stone for a living. I know what I am talking about.”

St. Benedict pulled out the chairs at a nearby table and started cleaning under it. “There can be joy in correction. It makes us aware of our imperfections so we can strive harder.”

“Okay.” Plato said. “You cleaned that up. I thought you had been hanging in the leather goods store with the Marquis de Sade.’

“No,” said St. Benedict. “I came up with this on my own. I enjoy sweeping floors. It is a mindless task. That’s what sets you free. The Marquis likes being a clerk in the leather goods store because, well, just because.”

“Mindless tasks,” Plato said. “That’s a laugh. You work so hard to be with the Great Mind and then you just want to get away.”

“Say what you will, I just like sweeping floors.”

“Fine,” Plato said. “Whatever. By the way. You missed a spot.”

The Great Mind that ruled and coordinated all was not above practical jokes. The Great Mind would appear to the residents of the eternal realm in the guise of an old man with a white bear, jackal headed Anubis, a whirlwind, a pillar of fire, a computer, a clock or any of myriad other creatures or objects stemming from the belief systems, myths or legends of any of the human or alien cultures known to souls that found their way into the hereafter.

Plato more than Socrates had been taken in by the Great Mind upon his arrival. The Great Mind appeared as words in imitation of the theory of Forms. While the Great Mind might appear as different things on different days, he always transformed when Plato was around to a phrase in enormous Greek letters. This phrase roughly translated as “Whatchaya talking about Willis?” This joke went over Plato’s head for two thousand years until he caught an episode of a 1970s sitcom. Plato was still sore about it.

“Talk about rubbing it in,” Plato said remembering his awakening. “The show even had an actress named Plato.”

“The Great Mind got you good,” Socrates laughed.

“How come he didn’t burn you the same way?”

“I think I got more sympathy because of the way I went, state execution, hemlock and all that.”

“Yeah,” Plato said. “The Great Mind loves a good tear jerker.”

“That’s why there are so many Romance writers and soap opera stars here.”

The presence of alien being in spiritual form was disturbing to many human arriving in the heaven. It could also be awkward. On his first day in heaven, Albert Einstein stepped in a puddle only to be cursed out by the liquid. Socrates had witnessed it all. He was chalking a cue at the time. He saw the whole exchange through the window of the pool parlor. That was before he got into bowling. Socrates told the noob to watch his step, and helped him wipe off his shoes.

Eternity is a long time. It can be hard to think of things to do, something that isn’t old and worn out. Plato and Socrates were not alone. Most residents had the same problem, though it was easier for some than other to overcome. Aristophanes was studying improv along with Shakespeare. Entertainment was in their blood, but they had a hard time finding audiences for their skits. The Viking poet Egil Skalagrimson had taken up electric guitar and formed a death metal band.  Dana Plato was a member. Albert Einstein spent his time at the casinos trying the beat the house. Everyone was looking for an escape.

A support group for ascetics was having a meeting in another section of the Food Court. Plato and Socrates generally ignored them, but they could hear parts of their conversation.

“Life,” said St. Anthony of the Desert to another former flagellant. He was eating a banana split with hot fudge and nuts. “You spend years resenting it, striving against it, longing for the eternal, and then you get it. All those whippings, starving yourself, going without, I hope you liked it. Cause looking around here there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to how you get in.  The good news is there are folks around here that can learn from you. You’d be surprised what people can get into when they have too much time on their hands.”

That’s true, Socrates thought before taking another bite of his kebob.

The End