Graveyard Gossip

San Francisco News Letter/February 6, 1869

Did it ever strike you, dear reader, that it must be a particularly pleasant thing to be dead? To say nothing hackneyed about the blessed freedom from the cares and vexations of life—which we cling to with such tenacity while we can, and which, when we have no longer the power to hold, we let go all at once, with probably a feeling of exquisite relief –and to take no account of this latter probable but totally undemonstrable felicity, it must be what boys call awful jolly to be dead. Not to die, but have died.

In the first place, you are located, fixed. Your position is forever defined. One of the most vexatious things about life is that one never knows positively what his place in the economy of nature is. If he is low, he is tortured with a conviction, which amounts to pretty much the same as an indisputable certainty, that he ought to be high. If he is high he can never divest himself of a sneaking belief that he is an impostor, and has stolen a march upon his fellow creatures. Then you don’t need to get up in the morning, unless at the morning of the Resurrection—a probability which it suits the spirit of our remarks to entirely ignore. Here you are, lying comfortably upon your back—what is left of it—in the cool dark, and with the smell of the fresh dirt all about you. Your soul goes knocking about amongst an infinity of shadowy things Lord knows where, making all sorts of silent discoveries in the gloom of what was yesterday an unknown and mysterious failure, and which, after centuries of exploration, must still be strangely unfamiliar. The nomadic thing doubtless comes back occasionally to the gold grave—if the body is so fortunate as to possess one—and looks down upon it with big round eyes and a lingering tenderness.

It is hard to conceive a soul entirely cut loose from the old bones, and roving rudderless about eternity. It was probably this inability to mentally divorce soul from muscle that gave us that absurdly satisfactory belief in the resurrection of the flesh. There is said to be a race of people somewhere in Africa—exact locality not essential—who believe in the immortality of the body, but deny the resurrection of the soul. The dead will rise refreshed after their long sleep, and in their anxiety to test their rejuvenated powers, will skip—bodily—away and forget their souls. Upon returning to look for them, they will find nothing but little blue flames, which can never be extinguished but may be carried about and used for cooking purposes. This belief probably originates in some dim perception of the law of compensation. In this life the body is the drudge of the spirit; in the next the situation is reversed.

The heaven of the Mussulman is not incompatible with this kind of immortality. Its delights, being merely carnal ones, could be as well or better enjoyed without a soul, and the latter might be booked for the Christian heaven, with only just enough of the body to attach a pair of wings to. Mr. Solyman Muley Abdul Ben Gazel could thus enjoy a dual immortality and secure a double portion of eternal felicity at no expense to anybody In fact there can be no doubt whatever that this theory of a double heaven is the true one, and needs but to be fairly stated to be universally believed, inasmuch as it supposes the maximum of felicity for terrestrial good behavior.

It is therefore a sensible theory, resting upon quite as solid a foundation of fact as any other theory, and must comment itself at once to the proverbial good sense of Christians everywhere. The trouble is that some architectural scoundrel of a priest is likely to build a religion upon it. This would, of course, bring it into disrepute at once. We have had enough of Religion; what the world requires now is Theory—good, solid, nourishing Theory. We have at considerable expense engaged a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences to draft a modified plan of this new scientific discovery which shall be adapted to the needs of California.. After some days of study he reports in favor of three separate heavens for each individual; but this is drawing it a trifle strong.


(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)