Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

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Sjef Frenken

“Do you think dead people can hear us? Or see us?” asked Jack.

I said, “What are you taking about?”

Jack said, “I mean, what if the souls of dead people stick around and see and hear everything we do?”

I said, “I never thought about it, but perhaps they can.”

“Not a very comforting thought, is it? For us and for them,” said, Jack. “Worse yet, can they read our minds, while they’re at it?”

“That’s a sobering thought,” I said, “I hope my parents didn’t hang around and saw and heard everything I’ve done since their death. Or read my mind, for that matter. My goodness, that idea will put a severe cramp on my thoughts and deeds from now on. It’s bad enough to have God looking over your shoulders, but if your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles get into the act, we’re really in trouble. You wouldn’t dare show your face in heaven or wherever.”

“Yes,” said, Jack, “but then our parents would have been observed by their parents, and so on all the way back to Adam, so that there should be nothing to surprise them all that much.”

I said, “I suppose we’d be no better and no worse than most dead people. Still, I’d feel happier if the souls of dead people would find somewhere else in the universe to have their just reward and a good time, and not checkup on their progeny.”

“There’s room enough for all of them out there,” said, Jack.

“Speaking of the universe,” I said, “I read a brief bio in the Carleton alumni magazine about a graduate who’s made a name for himself in physics. The article summarizes the man’s most recent book, which concludes that the universe could actually have come out of nothing, and that it most likely did come out of nothing.”

“You’re kidding,” said, Jack.

“No, I’m not,” I said, “You’re obviously not up to date about modern cosmology and particle physics.”

Jack said, “And you are?”

“By no means, Jack; that was sarcasm. I last looked at a physics textbook in 1969, and I haven’t kept up even with a Readers’ Digest level of developments in those areas. Still, it seems to me that if something can come out of nothing, we’ve somehow come to the end of rational inquiry; that we can juggle formulas so creatively that they do things we want them to do. I doubt that one can duplicate that process even in the best-equipped laboratory. Anyway, I presume that if nothing can produce something, something can evolve into nothingness just as easily. I can understand something like pure energy slowing down into matter, but how nothing can produce something is beyond the capacity of all my brain cells working synergetically at top speed.”

“Maybe you should pick up that physics book again, and take it from there,” advised Jack.

“I’m too old, and I have more important things to worry about,” I said.

“Like what?” asked Jack.

“Like my mind wandering off in directions that I don’t want my dead relatives to follow. Even at my age that may be a bit of a chore.”

“In my case,” said, Jack, “they’ll just have to learn to live with it. In a manner of speaking.”

“Mind you, when it’s our turn, maybe it’ll turn out to be fun in a fly-on-the-wall kind of way. We’ll just have to wait and see”

“I’d just as soon wait and not see,” said, Jack.


Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.

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