‘Designer handbags’ in a Sheung Wan shopfront…
One of the big problems I have when attempting to believe in ‘the afterlife’ is that ‘the afterlife’ can’t be proven. It’s a very abstract concept. If I could confirm what was in store for me after death – could choose my own eternity even – then that would be great. But it’s all currently a huge leap of faith.
This, apparently, makes me agnostic, rather than a full blown atheist. But surely to God (so to speak) anyone who doesn’t believe in the afterlife – heaven and hell and whatever – is an agnostic. If Jesus does somehow make another comeback, with a set-list crammed full of classics like ‘Water into Wine’ and ‘Loaves and Fishes’, right in front of our very eyes as well as on Twitter and Facebook Live, then who the Hell (so to speak) would still say “Nope. Not buying it”?
Thus, as someone who can’t believe in something unprovable – AKA a rational human being – I can appreciate the very literal approach that Hong Kongers (at least those who follow local religious practices) take towards remembering, nay helping, the dead. They buy new clothes, new accessories, new shoes, toiletries, food and drink, cars, iPads, houses, boats, among many other things, to ensure their deceased’s comfort in the afterlife. They bring these gifts to the graves of their loved ones and burn them as an offering. They’re made of paper, you see, those handbags in the picture, and their ashes float up into the sky and somehow find the right recipient.
I like this approach. I like the idea that you can actively alter your afterlife, rather than trust that it will be a lovely place full of great people having a brilliant time. However, I’m not sure that I believe in this form of afterlife either. Not yet. Though I might start ordering some paper bottles of gin and paper Frasier box sets, ready for when I need some relief in the great unknown. I’ll think of it as a new kind of cosmic ordering – a very literal reimagining of the term. I’ll leave a list behind. It’ll be worth a try.