In fifty years or less, everyone reading this will be gone. Where you will be gone to is, of course, a controverted question, but the settled possibilities are nowhere at all, in or on the road to paradise, or clad in woolen underwear in a crowded and smoky room without air conditioning. What all of these places have in common is that, once you are in one of them, you will be beyond caring about the place in which you are presently sitting, sipping your coffee and peering at your computer screen. I have yet to encounter a theory of the afterlife in which the souls of the dead are hungry for news of the living.
I have never seen it suggested that there is newspaper delivery in Heaven, or Hell, and this is not, in the later case, simply owing to the problem of combustion. If there is any basis to the Victorian image of the dearly departed looking down from the clouds, we must suppose that they do so with a mild and disinterested eye. Wherever they may be, the dearly departed are beyond despondency and alarm. They are not agitated when they hear that oceans have risen, empires have fallen, peoples have perished, sciences have been corrupted, arts have decayed.
They are beyond all that. And in a very short while, you will be also.
I know there are many Christians who believe that saints sometimes petition the Father on behalf of the living, and if they do we may hope that they make their cases well. But I, for one, do not suppose that their serenity is disturbed when the Father declines to act in the manner they propose.
Serenity is not the same as apathy, although both words denote a state that is beyond caring. One difference is that serenity is cheerful and apathy is gloomy. The serene man has overcome the world, whereas the apathetic man has been overcome by it. Both men have lost their ambitions, but the serene man left them behind, like a newspaper on a park bench, whereas the apathetic man had them torn from his fingers in a desperate but losing fight with a band of wild banditti.
In fifty years or less, you and I will be beyond caring about the great questions of our times. We may or may not remember this time, not so very long before, when we did care, and that with passionate intensity. But if we do remember, let us hope that the memory is serene. Let us hope that we lost our ambitions without regret, and that we did not lose them in anger to a band of wild banditti.