21 Grams


My son just asked if I thought there was an actual heaven after you die, or if it was just a state of mind. He was earnest and serious. This was not a child-question. He wanted to talk about it.

He asked his Father, he asked Me, what we thought happened when we die.  We both spoke of reincarnation as a possibility, being “part of the all,” everyone’s uncertainty of it, and that it is a part of life, a change, rather than an end. We were certain that his Grandmother was on his mind.

Asked what he thought, he said that “It’s not just being part of the all, but its like a state of mind, like a dream. Dreams you are in charge of.” I have discussed with him before lucid dreaming to let him take charge of nightmares, to great success. But he said dying wasn’t like those, just a dream-state but different.


It got harder.

We have already confessed our agnostism to him previously.

Then he asked about hell. He said, “Do you think, then that people like the Zodiak murderer, really bad people get to become part of the all, or is there a hell for them?”

I suggested maybe their energy was so unsuited to fit the “all” that perhaps it would never find a way to mesh… and that alone-ness would be a hell of sorts. I said that it would be like having all the answers to everything, being everyone who ever lived and would live, every molecule of everything that ever existed. The “all” is my idea of heaven, but no one really knows.

His Dad postulated that he thinks souls return until they get it right. That really bad people don’t have a chance to mess up the all, because they have to do it over.

Then, my 10 yr old ponders this, and asks, “So, we had a ghost once, how does that work? Do you think there are really individual souls? If dying makes you the all?”

I shit you not. He has many times heard the story of the Napier ghost we saw long before I met the woman he shot himself in front of.

Now what?

I started to talk about people being electric beings, and that perhaps if we are too tied to something we could stay on. He immediately cut my bullshit short.

He asked if there was a chance we retained the “us of us” and after actually used the word individuality.

I told him, as many times as my dead parents visited my dreams, and with everything else, I thought we probably still managed to keep some sense of “self” and even if reincarnation was real, we would remember all our selves, even in the midst of the all. I told him I wasn’t sure at all, but evidence pointed to it.

“So our soul is real?” he asked.

Michael told him the story of 21 grams. That every being, from the smallest preemie, to the largest adult loses 21 grams of unaccounted weight upon death.

I told him I thought we are all Gods, in a way, if we remember how to be so. He didn’t quite buy that, but looked at me in a way I haven’t seen since he was a baby. Old, wise, babyish, he smiled.

He was pleased, overall. I guess that feeling that we will still be us, combined with the relief of a heaven/hell judging God not being true (his words) made him feel better.

But Jesusfuckingchrist, I really didn’t expect this conversation until he was 15 (I hope 16 or older) when he came home high for the first time. I remember all too well, the first smoke questioning of the Universe. He’s 10.

Yeah, I guess I was doing the unthinkable and arguing with priests by his age….

But still.

How would you answer these questions?

My kid is a wonder to me.

I so dig that he is a questioner.

His soul is 22 grams.


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    • Diane G on May 17, 2009 at 05:34

    it felt like I was talking to an 18 yr old.

    Blew me away.

    The best part is that it seemed to comfort him that we didn’t have the answers, and that no matter what any of the religions say, no dead person tells, and no one knows.

    He loved that part of the answer.



    • rb137 on May 17, 2009 at 08:17

    He thinks. Good on you.

    I’ve answered these questions before: we don’t know. But that’s what’s beautiful about human life. What matters is now, not then. If you pay attention to now — then will manifest itself.

    That said, when my five year old came up to me and said, “If half the DNA is yours, and half is Daddy’s — how does it all get into your belly?”

    I told her to ask her father.

  1. When you die, you come back as a Facebook Fan Page.

  2. I told him I thought we are all Gods, in a way, if we remember how to be so.

    Kids are new arrivals here so all they have to do is reject the evil programming man has created.

    • kj on May 17, 2009 at 15:25


  3. Highly commendable discussion I would add, in that there was no answer given. Instead several different avenues of philosophy were opened for him to ponder, and it would seem to me that the pondering, in and of itself,  is more important than any answer could ever be.

    I am reminded of the very first “Whole Earth Catalog” and the statement it had on the inside of the front cover; “We are as gods, and we had better start acting like it.” At least that is how I remember it, if any one can correct me if I am wrong, please do, I would love to have my recollection affirmed or corrected.

    Another quote I particularly ilke is the sig line for 73rd virgin…

    “You don’t have a soul.

    You are a soul.

    You have a body.” ~C.S. Lewis

    That quote neatly wraps up my own philosophy, that my soul (whatever it is) is the primary aspect of who I am and Jim , crystaline or stuporous, is the secondary aspect, or secondary ego involved in this wonderous experience called “my life”.

    Buhdy’s war of programmers fits right in here also. The possibility that this grand experience on the planet Earth is but a programmed set of open ended opportunities in what could be described as akin to Star Trek’s holo deck is a fascinating possibility to ponder.

    It is great that your 10 year old son is pondering these types of questions. I’ve seen it in other kids: showing a much larger sense of awareness than my friends and I did at the same age. Sign of the times I guess. It could make me feel old and useless if it didn’t fascinate me so much.

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