In the afterlife you have to sit in a waiting room until your name is spoken on Earth for the last time. The afterlife is a re-run of your life in reverse ending with you crawling back into the womb realising how little you ever understood. In the afterlife God worships Mary Shelley. When you die you are split into all your different ages, and they’re unable to relate to one another. In the afterlife God is a married couple whose relationship is on the rocks. In the afterlife you have to live amongst various versions of who you could have been in your life, and they constantly annoy you. At the end of your life you make the mistake of choosing to come back as a horse. In the afterlife God has left the building and humans are fighting wars with each other according their version of where he’s gone or whether he ever existed.
If you like your existentialism non-dogmatic and free of verbosity, David Eagleman is your guy. His compilation of forty versions of the afterlife, SUM, raises more questions about life, reality and mankind than it answers, and in the midst of the current inexplicable rise of fundamentalism, it is both an appropriate ode to open-minded intelligence and a reminder of how little we know about our existence.
For a guy with a day job as a neuroscientist (best known for his work on time perception, visual illusions, synesthesia and neurolaw), Eagleman’s fiction possesses a surprising child-like wonder of the world and the possibilities of our place in it. This week a selection of the stories in SUM will be brought to life on stage with a diverse cast including the author himself and an original score written and performed live by Brian Eno, as part of the Luminous festival.
6 June, 1pm. Sydney Opera House. $25-45, luminous.sydneyoperahouse.com