What Happens When We Die?

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

My friend has terrible spelling when she text-messages. It's gotten to the point where it's painful to read. How many times can you read "tomarrow" or "board" (for bored) and not cringe? I have tried texting back using the correct spelling, ("Tomorrow? Yes, I am available t-o-m-o-r-r-o-w"), but she misses all my hints. To make matters worse, her sloppiness seems to be contagious, as many of my friends seem to have given up on even trying to spell correctly. I'm afraid I'll sound snotty if I say something directly. So what should I do?Working for an A-Free Tomorrow

Dear Working,

There's no better way to be gracious than to feign incomprehension. Your premise will be that, since the words your friend spells do not exist in the English language, she must be using a foreign language. Perhaps she recently took a trip to Amsterdam? Then it must be Dutch she's lapsing into. Kid her on her jet-setting ways and innate ability to pick up another language so quickly. Type "What a continental scamp you are, you spoiled little DNA lottery winner!" then run it through that translation Web site, Babel Fish, and send her the resulting Dutch: "Welke continentaal scamp u, u is bedierven weinig de loterijwinnaar van DNA!" When she texts back that she doesn't know what you're talking about, and that she thinks that you have either picked up a mobile-phone virus or possibly lost your mind, that's when you drop the poetry bomb.

It's well known to some of my more "green" friends (if you know what I mean by green, nudge nudge) that having Babel Fish retranslate something back into English yields some of the most paradoxical and lovely imagery this side of Ezra Pound. So run your Dutch back through and send it to her again: "A continentally small scamp, you spoiled the tiny winner of the lottery DNA!" You could say more, but why? You're teaching her to fish, not serving her freshly broiled Copper River salmon on a hand-glazed earthenware tray from the Fremont Sunday Market. Just text her that you believe in her ability to grow and change, then withdraw from all communication and let your words reverberate in the cathedral of her mind. I think you'll find both that her spelling will improve and she will slowly open herself up to the accidental beauty all around us.

Dear Uptight Seattleite,

What happens when we die?Sky Gazer

Dear Sky Gazer,

I salute your bravery in giving voice to the terrifying mystery that spreads above all of humanity like a great eagle silhouetted against the sun. Will I pretend to have the answer? No, I'm a bit blue today, and wouldn't be up to it even if I tried. But will I presume to make a suggestion anyway? Yes, I will: Even if it floats with an evil persistence between us and the noonday sun of our everyday bustle, why not take courage from the noble shape of this hovering silhouette? For just as this shadow threatens to overwhelm your existence, so too does the sun looming behind it threaten to overwhelm its inky blackness with a blazing glory. The struggle of darkness against light mirrors our own struggle against darkness. And these two forces are also mirrors of each other, so there's one more level of mirror-ness for you to keep in mind. The mere mirror-ality of all reality, I guess you could call it.

Of course the struggle will only continue to produce more shadow and more light. And where does that leave us? With an inextricable mixture of both, Sky Gazer. Salt and pepper. Yin and yang. Cake and coffee. John and Paul. What is any of them without the other? The trick is to enjoy the light, even mixed as it is with darkness. Like I said, I don't have any answers, but I suppose if you pressed me I'd say I'm a bit of a we-live-on-in-hearts-and-minds man myself. At least we know from direct experience this is true, as sure as we remember our first cookie. I guess my point is this: I love you, Mom, wherever you are.

Next week: Is it OK for an Indian to kill a whale with a machine gun?

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