Visions of Oppenheimer’s Afterlife

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

From this plane in The Afterlife it’s impossible for me to know where my essence hovers; whether it is hell or heaven…or just an in-between place I have created from my imagination.  I sense, more than see the local Universe; the tug of force from black holes almost causes a sensation at the back of my head…or what might have been my head.  The sounds that emanate from stars almost unimaginable distances away resonate inside me, providing diversion at times from the over-arching images that dwell within me like live beings.

This molten mushroom from hell, growing and expanding from the initial hoops of light energy, then folding in on itself, boiling, roiling…Prometheus unbound; in our intellectual hubris, did we create this in defiance of the gods?  What will be our punishment, and will all mankind share our resultant penalty for all eternity?

I can mind- link to that day at Trinity and the man that I was then, and remember him thinking, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one…”  Our glasses were not enough; we threw up our hands against the flash, protecting our eyes as we might thrust crosses toward vampires, sneaking peeks until the first flash resolved into the steaming organic shape it became as it grew and morphed into a vegetable gone mad.

(by permission of Anthony Freda,

When the star-songs are more melancholy and the imploding suns pull at me, images of burning people in Japan fill my awareness; their screaming mouths are silent, thank the gods…the falling debris makes no sound…light so bright that shadows of humans were left on the sidewalks as they were vaporized…well, no one ever anticipated such a thing; how could we?  We never thought of humans as mass.  O, Mr. Suzuki; you should not have uttered ‘Mokusatsu’!  Perhaps the bombs would never have been unleashed if you had been clearer…and asked for more time to consider surrender.  

At Trinity, I first felt a wave of relief…the struggle had been so long, and so hard…we had been convinced then that what we were creating was a necessity; and we hadn’t ignited the atmosphere, a blessing in itself.  We seldom spoke our doubts to each other, though some mornings we might show the signs of dark dreams and restless nights, and avoid one another’s eyes.

We knew the world would not be the same again; a few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

Oh, we tried to contain this unholy power later, to make sure no one nation owned it; but the Great Bear was naturally suspicious of us…when our efforts failed, we knew it would all spiral out of control, and the atomic race would commence.

And of course some fools would later think to harness it for electricity, never realizing that radiation never dies, it just decays, bit by bit…in diminishing half-lives that almost defy the measure of time, and still exude their potent, burning poisons silently, producing cumlative effects that often don’t show themselves for years…decades…  What fools humans are to believe they can steal fire from the gods and ever hope to contain it…

It’s of small consequence by now, but I wonder whether I will be able to overcome the karma I accrued in my life to be able to enter one of the more heavenly planes; there were so many other areas of study and discovery that were to my credit: astronomy, cosmology, particle physics: creative knowledge, not just Death-Dealing Annihilation.  Perhaps the gods will take them into consideration.  Or are there any gods?  I do not know; not even the Afterlife has shown me so far.  When the chimes of stardust tinkle, and the dark images recede a bit, sometimes I remember this from the Bagavad-Gita:

“In battle, in the forest, at the precipice in the mountains,

On the dark great sea, in the midst of javelins and arrows,

In sleep, in confusion, in the depths of shame,

The good deeds a man has done before defend him.”

Lord Vishnu; hear my prayers; there are no tears in The Afterlife.

(cross-posted at My.fdl and


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  1. and beautifully horrifying at the same time.

    Great writing.

  2. Oppenheimer’s most salient descriptors as a person would be rich, handsome, and crazy, in that order, but since money made the man even more and even much more in the Twenties than today (cf. Scott Fitzgerald), nobody really reproached Oppenheimer for poisoning his tutor at Cambridge, strangling his best friend, seriously molesting every attractive woman he ever met, and skipping merrily from subject to subject without ever producing any first-rate research about anything, at a time when (according to Dirac) even second-rate physicists could produce first-rate work.


    “He’s so rich and handsome! We’re lucky to know him!”

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