2014-02-20 — So the big sink hole I feared was opening up in front of my house turned out to be a small one. Thank God–or whomever you thank for favors like this. Thanks to Streets and Sanitation!
I first became aware of a hole in the street on Saturday. I was busy hacking away at the ice on the corner by my house to make a channel so the melt water from all the snow would have some place to go when the temperature rose later in the week. Being Saturday in my neighborhood, the Sabbath strollers were out in force watching me desecrate the Sabbath with my shovel.
When they got to my corner, however, their attention was diverted to a pothole in the middle of the crosswalk. The pothole wasn’t large, maybe two or three feet. But it was flanked by two orange traffic cones. When the Sabbath strollers got to the hole, they crouched down to look inside.
It seemed mighty peculiar, so after this crouching and peering was repeated by three groups of strollers, I drew near and heard one of them refer to the hole as a “sink hole.” So when this third group left the vicinity, I went over to the hole to crouch and peer.
It wasn’t an ordinary pothole. It was dark on the other side.
What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
I’ve never believed in heaven. I’ve never believed in hell. Jewish tradition is vague on the details—or conflicting about them. We definitely have a concept of an afterlife. Olam Ha-boh. The world to come. But the idea never captured my imagination. Or rather, accounts of heaven and hell seemed to be a little too much imagination. It never made any sense to me. And how would we know, anyhow?
It’s dark on the other side.
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?
Folks who believe in heaven and hell think we need some kind of afterlife incentives to be good people. If this is the divine plan, wouldn’t you think that the Divinity would be more clear with us about these contingencies?
And anyway, the historical record does not show believers to be any kinder or gentler than nonbelievers. So, if this was the plan, it’s not working.
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
An odd thing about the afterlife is that many traditions assume that we enter that realm with a kind of amnesia about our past life. While death is not an end, to them, it is a kind of event horizon. No knowledge passes the event horizon. Like a black hole.
. . .
So Monday the city was out. By Tuesday there were surveyor’s marks on the snow in my front yard showing where the utilities lurked underground. I was afraid that the subterranean vault might be large. I was afraid that the lofty old sycamore tree in the parkway might have caused the sink hole and might have to come down.
. . .
So even if there is a heaven or hell . . . if we forget our past life when we cross over, then, while our “life” continues, our ego does not. A lot of the logical problems of the afterlife go away if the ego does not survive. It’s a question of self.
. . .
By Wednesday the city had excavated. The asphalt was removed revealing the extent of the hole. Nothing on the other side. Okay, it could have swallowed a car. But just the tires. And just one car. A small one. The gravel is now in place waiting for new asphalt to be laid.
And the sycamore tree is safe.
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie,
I know there’s something much more,
Something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.
***Thanks to Burt Bacharach for writing the song. Thanks to Dionne Warwick for singing it in my head.