Earth 101

Farther along, we’ll understand why

If there’s a heaven, and if I get to go there, I figure the first thing that’ll happen is the orientation. The orientation, the way I figure it, won’t have to do with the new place, but with some long-overdue information about the place I left—the temporal sphere back here on planet Earth. And, the way I figure it, the orientation will start with some of the smaller questions, those little conundrums that dogged all my days.

I figure to do my first chunk of eternity in a workshop explaining the lyrics to music I listened to all my life but only half understood.

Or less than half, where blues was concerned. I loved the blues, and understood its main messages, but I was often lost in the particulars. From about the time I was 16 or 17, for example, I could often be heard humming the old Elmore James line that goes “I believe I’ll dust my broom.” I really liked that song, though I will go into the afterlife without ever knowing what the hell it meant. “Dust my broom?” Why would anyone dust a broom? How does one even go about dusting a broom? Does he mean a broom, like what we sweep floors with, or is it one of those sneaky metaphors where the broom is some kind of sexual reference the singer was trying to hide from whitey. If so, as a whitey, I remain in the dark about what the hell Elmore was saying.

But it’s not just the lyrics to music I never understood. There were certain catch phrases that I used quite often without quite understanding exactly what they meant. From the time I was a teenage boy, for instance, I could be heard to use the exclamation “Fuckin’ A!” when I wanted to sound really, really emphatic. E.g., if someone said, “Is it OK if I pick up the tab?” my likely response would be “Fuckin’ A.” Everyone always got my drift, of course, and I surely knew what I meant, but the truth is that I’ll likely die without ever knowing what the “A” in “Fuckin’ A” stands for.

On the subject of the “F” word, I have never understood why the noun/verb that describes one of life’s most pleasurable activities has been chosen as our most offensive insult and expletive. It just doesn’t make sense to curse someone by telling him or her to “go get fucked,” for example. Chances are that was what he or she was intending to try to do anyway, and how, exactly, is that a bad thing?

When it comes to questions of gender, I figure we’re all due to spend lots of heavenly orientation time getting up to speed on those puzzlements that caused us such consternation back here on terra firma. I’m sure, to cite one example, many women will depart this life confused as to why so many men were entertained by the spectacle of automobiles driving around in circles very fast, as in NASCAR races. Come to think of it, I’ve never understood that one myself, so maybe I’ll get to hang out with the women for part of my orientation. That would be heavenly. Except for the part where they start talking about shoes. Even heaven is bound to be hell on some days.

But on earthly matters, I also don’t understand why it’s so predictable that there is never any water in those buckets at convenience-store gas stations where they keep the squeegee things for cleaning one’s windshields. Surely it has occurred to convenience store owners by now that washing windshields with a dry and dirty squeegee just doesn’t get the job done. I hope an explanation for this phenomenon will be forthcoming when I get to heaven.

Perhaps, too, I’ll get an explanation for why the design of the human penis features the occasional anomaly of the forked urine stream. For women, who may not know of this design flaw in the male apparatus, what happens is that the operator of the apparatus can point the urine stream in the appropriate direction only to be surprised by not one but two urine streams, neither of which is going in the direction at which the mechanism was originally aimed. What, I will want to know from the heavenly orientation leader, was that all about?

Speaking of that urine-stream problem reminds me that I will also be curious to learn more about the Deity’s sense of humor. Sometimes his (her?) sense of humor seems more than just a little bit dark, as in the perennial joke he/she plays in which religion is used as the agent of mass murder. Then there’s that recurring joke in which people are led by the most venal and stupid of their lot. It ain’t funny down here on Earth, but maybe I’ll get that joke at long last once it’s explained to me during the orientation up yonder.

There’s an old spiritual promising that “farther along we’ll know all about it; farther along we’ll understand why.” If that promise gets fulfilled, that would be heavenly.

There’s also an old song lyric that says, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” I’m down with that sentiment, too, so when it comes to signing on for those eternal heavenly orientation sessions, I’m perfectly willing to wait even if it means staying stupid for just a while longer.