Where do we go when we die? Do we get to go to a good place if we’re good, or a bad place if we’re bad? Whose standards measure our behavior to get us there? Furthermore, who’s to say that we even go anywhere when we die? That question has spawned enough paper to read and write about to last several lifetimes.

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Mesmeric Revelations” tells a story of a researcher that puts a terminally ill man in a hypnotic state. While the man is half-conscious, the narrator asks him questions about what he’s experiencing while his body expires. When he speaks, the subject (Mr. Vankirk) reports his discoveries of the differences between the world of the living and that of the deceased.

 

To me, Vankirk’s best discussion states how pleasure cannot be experienced unless there is an equal amount of pain, and that what many people see as “heaven” can only be experienced with suffering beforehand:

 

“All things are either good or bad by comparison. A sufficient analysis will show that pleasure, in all cases, is but the contrast of pain. Positive pleasure is a mere idea. To be happy at any point we must have suffered the same. Never to suffer would have been never to have been blessed. But it has been shown that, in the inorganic life, pain cannot be; thus the necessity for the organic. The pain of the primitive life of Earth, is the sole basis of the bliss of the ultimate life in Heaven.”

 

And that’s true, isn’t it? We all have bad times, but that gives us a way to know when the good times are here. When Vankirk is allowed to let go, he leaves the world with a smile on his face. His hard times are over, and he can finally enjoy the fruits of his labor on this primitive planet. I hope that I can die smiling some day.

 

Get some Poe in your life.

 

 

I researched more behind this story after I read it on PoeDecoder!

 

Your buddy Ando is working on an EP based on Edgar Allan Poe stories, it comes out in October! Thanks for reading and sharing the inspiration with me!

 

Have a listen!

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Ando Ehlers | 
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