A Second Noah's Ark

“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange."

- William Shakespeare, The Tempest

The Grand and the Absurd in Human Evolution

In his first edition of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin rightly anticipated the disgruntlement and discomfort of his readers with the concept of natural selection. He knew that for many it would dislodge deep-seated quasi-scientific dogmas and unsettle more than a few religious beliefs. In advance of this potential opposition he defended his theories of evolution, declaring, “There is grandeur in this view of life…from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” Since his writing of that book in 1859 many have indeed found “grandeur in this view of life,” even against the superstitious opposition it still faces. Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Galápagos, locates the absurd in this view of life, and rewrites the story of evolution not as one of the “preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life,” as Darwin called it, but instead as the history of recklessness and foolishness amongst dangerous animals chief of which are the big-brained humans, who invent atomic bombs and slavery among other contemptible hobbies. Vonnegut even writes in a new chapter of human evolution in which the vast majority of the human race is wiped out by an apocalyptic bacteria and the remaining human population evolves into a human-seal hybrid who give up their attempts at technological enslavement of the world and live lives as gentle fisher folk that prefer playing and swimming to annihilating one another. 
In typical Vonnegut fashion this unconventional narrative is narrated unconventionally. It is told by an omniscient ghost following the exploits of passengers on a cruise ship called the Bahía de Darwin on a voyage ironically called “the Nature Cruise of the Century.” The ghostly narrator is none other than Leon Trout, the runaway son of Kilgore Trout, the pulp sci-fi writer and Vonnegut alter-ego that appears in many of Vonnegut’s novels. Leon, a Vietnam veteran who sought asylum in Sweden after participating in unspeakable atrocities of war, was accidentally decapitated while part of the construction crew for the Bahía de Darwin. After this untimely death Trout finds himself an immaterial and invisible ghost who can inhabit the minds of anyone he chooses. Throughout the novel his father, Kilgore, appears to Leon attempting to entice him to give up his status as a ghost and join him in the afterlife. The path to the afterlife presents itself to Leon as a blue tunnel with a magnetic power he must resist to stay as a ghost on earth. The yonic implications of the tunnel to the afterlife are not to be ignored. Vonnegut describes the tunnel’s beckoning quality, as it seeks to draw Leon on with a “restless state of peristalsis.” Tellingly, Leon peers within, searching for his mother, but is disappointed to find only his typically unkempt alcoholic father. The afterlife symbolizes a utopian paradise and an Oedipal return. The return of the mother is a return to Eden before the fall of man and carries with it the potential of redemption. Prelapsarian Eden and the Oedipal state both symbolize innocence and an ur-history for humanity and its collective psyche, both of which must thus be returned to and then worked through in order to successfully avoid the trauma of the fall from grace and the abandonment of the maternal figure. Leon, however, finds only his father at the end of this yonic temptation, and Kilgore continually insults Leon as he attempts to coerce him into abandoning the earth. Without his mother, though, Leon refuses the false promise of eternal paradise and decides to stick it out on earth with the beleaguered cruise to see what comes of humanity and find out if they can find their own heaven on earth and Oedipal reunion.”

Leon narrates these events in retrospect, as his present is actually a million years in the future, when humanity has evolved into a seal-like being and he expects the blue tunnel to the afterlife to reappear and he will finally give up the earth and find his own absolution, whatever it may be. Human evolution takes a strange twist in 20th century, Trout explains, because an incurable bacterial infection gnaws its way into the ovaries of every human female on earth – excepting the few females aboard the auspicious Bahía de Darwin – and renders human reproduction impossible. The Bahía de Darwin is fated to make a one-way trip to the Galápagos islands where it will run aground, thereby stranding its nine passengers on the fictional island of Santa Rosalia and destine them to restart the human race away from civilization as well as the nasty ovary-consuming superbug. 

Dialectic of Beethoven and Barbarism

Vonnegut writes of the near-extinction of the human race with an element of cheerfulness not found in most apocalyptic fiction. This is because his vision for a new humanity rising from the ashes – from the Galápagos islands to be precise – is one of a post-human optimism. Throughout the novel the ghostly narrator Leon Trout insists that humans from the 20th century (a million years ago from his perspective) are fatally flawed from an evolutionary perspective - the main flaw being the human brain, of course. Human brains, Trout explains, have been sending humanity on a destructive course that points to collective suicide one way or another. Whether it comes from bombs or disease or environmental collapse, the human race is doomed and the only possible escape is an escape from humanity itself.

In Breakfast of Champions Vonnegut wrote, “I tend to think of human beings as huge, rubbery test tubes, too, with chemical reactions seething inside.” Humans, as a collection of chemical reactions, have so many opportunities to malfunction because of an imbalance in their fragile chemical state. “So it is a big temptation to me,” he continues, “when I create a character for a novel, to say that he is what he is because of faulty wiring, or because of microscopic amounts of chemicals which he ate or failed to eat on that particular day.”

Brains in particular go haywire, and in Galápagos this mental short-circuiting leads to some nasty conclusions, chief among them being pointless wars and financial crises, which are both manufactured catastrophes invented in their muddled recesses of the human brain. The financial crisis Vonnegut writes about is a slight fictionalization of the Latin American debt crisis that was the result of excess borrowing by Latin American countries in the 1980s, when Vonnegut was writing this novel. The debt crisis is largely symbolic of the many human failings and manufactured crises throughout history. It was, as Vonnegut writes, “the latest in a series of murderous twentieth century catastrophe which had originated entirely in human brains.” Brains are forever thwarted any human peace and happiness in Galápagos, leading many characters to decisions that range from the suicidal to the homicidal to the plainly humiliating. “To the credit of humanity,” Vonnegut admits, “more and more people were saying that their brains were irresponsible, unreliable, hideously dangerous, wholly unrealistic – were simply no damn good.”

Vonnegut’s take on the contradictions of the human brain is thoroughly dialectical, expressed through two complementary thoughts on, of all things, Ludwig van Beethoven. When writing about the financial crisis that had ruined much of Latin American and ensured that the popular “Nature Cruise of the Century” would be derailed and serve as an inadvertent genetic life raft for humanity, Vonnegut laments the artificial manufacturing of crises, something audiences in the post-recession era can particularly appreciate. In the wake of the debt crisis, a number of countries, including Ecuador, where this novel is set, experienced hyper-inflation in their local currency making it essentially worthless. Virtually overnight great sums of wealth had become no longer useful in any practical capacity. Vonnegut takes exception to the fact that people ever place value in paper money at all. “Wake up, you idiots!” he writes, “Whatever made you think paper was so valuable?” The abstract notion of value in worthless bits of paper is a phenomenon that plagues a number of Vonnegut novels, and its absurdity comes to a head in Galápagos when an entire country can no longer afford to buy food for itself because “people had simply changed their opinions of paper wealth.” Vonnegut remarks, “the people were beginning to starve to death” because “business was business,” and that’s the way the world works.

The truth was (and still is) that the massive famines around the world due to depreciations of currency have nothing to do with material reality. The world, Vonnegut points out, is still a lush and fertile place, at least for now, and could easily support the planet’s population if resources were sensibly distributed around the globe. Nevertheless, millions and millions of people starve to death due to poor distribution and irresponsible waste. The famine “was all in people’s heads” though, and it was “as purely a product of oversize brains as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

By drawing a parallel with one of the great works of art in history, Vonnegut admits the dialectic of civilization, in which that which allows for great art also, by necessity, causes great suffering. He is in agreement with philosopher Walter Benjamin, who once commented, “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” Vonnegut’s dialectic of civilization is the very same that Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer famously wrote about in their classic work of political philosophy Dialectic of Enlightenment. In that text they wrote that their principle concern was “nothing less than to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism.” This pithy aim is that of Vonnegut’s, not only in Galápagos, but also throughout his corpus. His skepticism of enlightenment as a self-cannibalizing historical process is in accord with Horkheimer and Adorno, who in that same text wrote perhaps the most stunning indictment of that period of history and culture: "Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always been aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant."

Vonnegut’s writing is nothing but a catalog of he triumphant disaster that the earth has radiated under periods known as “enlighten” or “civilization” or “modernization” or “progress.” Nuclear apocalypse, technological dependency, biological superbugs, mass exploitation, warfare, and artificially manufacture famines are but the tip of the iceberg of atrocities committed in the name of civilization and enlightenment. At the nexus of this historical dialectic – this contradiction of progress and destruction – is the human brain, which Vonnegut blames for sending history down a careening and doomed path. It is for this reason that he formulates his second thought on Beethoven. Leon Trout has a habit of saying a particular quote he picked up whenever anybody dies. It goes: “Oh well – he wasn’t going to write Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony anyway.” This superficially heartless quip is actually emblematic of Vonnegut’s deeply sympathetic and humane outlook on life. It is, paradoxically, a way of saying that at least the deceased also won’t cause any harm anymore either, and perhaps the world is a more peaceful place now. Toward the end of the novel, after he has explained that humans have evolved into seal-like creatures with smaller brains, Trout makes this same quip about the human race, which has, since it evolved, effectively died out. This time, however, Trout’s sentiment is laced with a more explicit redemptive hope: “Nobody, surely, is going to write Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – or tell a lie, or start a Third World War.” The dialectic of enlightenment is finally at rest. There are no more documents of civilization and thus no more documents of barbarism either.

Lest he leave us entirely without hope, in a deeply absurdist move, Vonnegut delights in this hopeless situation of humanity by proclaiming, “Even in the darkest times, there really was still hope for humankind.” Vonnegut’s absurdism is dialectic to the core though. For as he paints a gloomy picture of the corner humanity is in, where every bit of progress is regression and every document of civilization is barbarism, there is always a resolution awaiting humanity. It is not that despite humanity’s failings there is still an opportunity to overcome them and restart history and fulfill the goals of enlightenment. It is that it is precisely because of humanity’s paradoxical relationship to civilization and barbarism that we have the capacity to dialectically overcome ourselves. “Man is something that shall be overcome,” Nietzsche writes in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. “What have you done to overcome him?” Vonnegut’s overcoming is found on the Galápagos islands, where a new Eden awaits and humanity finds a new opportunity to rebuild from the ashes and forge a civilization devoid of violence, enmity, exploitation, and the other crimes committed by brains the world over. Only then will there be a Beethoven without barbarism. 

'Tis a consummation / devoutly to be wished

In his endeavor to illustrate the sick and twisted realm of the human psyche, Vonnegut does not just stop at the material manifestations of the collective insanity (i.e. the myriad manufactured crises) but also seeks to uncover the underlying psychological conditions that foment them. As is common for Vonnegut, he delves into psychoanalytic theory to make accusations of the mental sickness of the modernized and technologized world. Midway through the novel, when Latin America’s financial crisis is at its peak, he writes of a fictional war that breaks out between Peru and Ecuador for little reason other than to distract the populace from noticing how hungry they truly are. Vonnegut writes of a Peruvian pilot by the name of Guillermo Reyes who finds that in firing rockets from his jet he has “at last found something which was more fun than sexual intercourse.” The “tremendous self-propelled weapon slung underneath” the airplane was “madly in love” with a radar dish atop an Ecuadorian airport. When Reyes releases the rocket his “feelings at the moment of release had to be transcendental” and felt completely “drained.” 

This orgasm/explosion connection and the symbol connection between the rocket and the phallus relates to Freud’s potent theory of the death drive, which argues that, as Freud writes in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, "the aim of life is death." Freud postulates that because the civilized world is deeply repressed, sexually and emotionally, it must seek an outlet for its pent-up libido elsewhere. The expression of the libido in alternative means than sex, a process known as sublimation, so often finds its manifestation in violence, which symbolically recreates the act of sex, as Vonnegut so deftly writes in the scene with Colonel Reyes. It is for this reason that most people “think of explosions as show business, as highly theatrical forms of self-expression, and little more.” According to Vonnegut, “the launching of the missile, in fact, was virtually identical with the role of male animals in the reproductive process,” which of course is the most alluring form of entertainment and theatrics. Reyes in fact is quite typical in feelings that “what he had done was analogous to the performance of a male during sexual intercourse.” 

In this analogy of violence and sex, Vonnegut essentially sexes civilization and the violence it sows. The technological-military complex that drives so-called civilization is unambiguously sexed male, as it recreates the male sex-act in increasingly violent measures with sexual imagery and gratification. The progressive march of history, the endless mastery over nature through technology, and the exploitation of working classes matches the typical psyche of the alpha male. Vonnegut uses the words of Shakespeare to make his case for the link between sex and violence: “‘tis a consummation / devoutly to be wished.” The statement applies to the destructive forces and the lust of humanity, which, according to Freud, are ultimately one and the same. Even in the original Shakespeare the dual connotation is not to be missed. This destructive behavior is detrimental to those who might face its consequences, which are often not the perpetrators of the violence. In an extended passage on psychological conditions in modern society, Vonnegut diagnoses history with a severe case of “pathological personality,” which he says “merely cause pain to those around them, and almost never to themselves.” This pathology is the distinctly male and masculine personality of atomic bombs and capitalist exploitation. 

If all that is ignorant and violent in humanity is sexed (and gendered) as male in Vonnegut’s writing, then the reverse is also true. All that is redeeming is characterized as female. Of the characters in the novel, the women are largely intelligent, hard working, and compassionate while the men are exploitative, deceptive, and futile. It is for this reason that the human apocalypse is manifested as a an ovary-destroying superbug – it is the destruction of the female and feminine that spells the destruction of humanity – or all that is worthwhile about humanity. Thus when the Bahía de Darwin finally sets sail, as an emergency escape for only nine passengers, all but one of them are men – and the lone man is a hopeless, ignorant, racist whose only contribution is his semen which helps restart the human race. Vonnegut jokingly calls the story of the stranded passengers of the Bahía de Darwin “A Second Noah’s Ark.” This is a deeply subversive narrative strategy though, as in Vonnegut’s retelling of the destruction and rebuilding of life as we know it, the male and female do not counterbalance each other for the future success of the human race, but the female is prioritized. Not only is there only one male aboard the cruise ship, but the other sexed elements of society – namely, technology – are portrayed as foolish. This ship itself, the Bahía de Darwin is a sheepish floating scrap heap, having been reduced to almost nothing by looters in the famine-ravaged Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil. Also along for the ride is a neat little techno-gadget called Mandarax, invented by an ill-fated would-be passenger, a Japanese inventor who is shot before even making it onto the cruise ship. Mandarax serves as a comic foil representing the futility of technology in seriously improving the human condition from a psychological or existential position. Its main function is to serve as either a translator or as a generous provider of quotes from literature. Thus throughout the novel Vonnegut includes dozens of quotes from literature to shed light on the condition of the castaways as they are stranded on the fictional Galápagos island of Santa Rosalia. When the passengers are lost at sea and hope that perhaps Mandarax has an emergency locating beacon or broadcasting device with which they can radio for help they cry mayday into its speaker. Mandarax’s unhelpful response contains the following “utterly mystifying words”:
In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering Judas
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
                            Among whispers. . .
                            - T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
Unsurprisingly, the hapless passengers throw Mandarax into the ocean in a fit of impotent rage not long after they arrive in the Galápagos wherein it is promptly eaten by a great white shark. Through the inanity of Mandarax, that supposed technological marvel that found itself in the belly of a shark, Vonnegut mocks the technological-progressivist ideology of capitalism in which all new technologies are by necessity good so long as they make money, no matter how they are used. On the island of Santa Rosalia, Mandarax isn’t helpful in the slightest, only serving to raise the anxieties of those who attempt to use it. When asked for advice it only provided pointless quotations, most of which were “clunkers,” leading to users “feeling mocked by its useless advice or inane wisdom or ponderous efforts to be humorous.” 

Through the absurdity of Mandarax, Vonnegut implodes the myth that we will soon be a superhuman, semi-robotic race of geniuses. Vonnegut supports a trans-humanism along the lines of Donna Haraway in her seminal theoretical text A Cyborg Manifesto. However, his is not a cyborg trans-humanism but instead an animalistic one. We do not need to unite with machines to overcome human flaws, for the flaws are ultimately derived from our fetishization of deadly machinery in the first place. It is, after all, a short step from Mandarax to the explosive missile. His desire is that instead of being hyper-technologized, we take a step back and reacquaint humanity with the profundity of its organic and animalist side. Instead of moral virtue, which is rife with hypocrisy, Vonnegut aims for something simpler: eradication of apocalyptic desire. Humanity has spent enough time lusting after ultimate destructive power that sooner or later we will, accidentally or not, get it and the results will be depressingly predictable. Whether through atomic warfare, ecological disaster, or diseases that resist medical intervention, humanity’s quest for mechanical superiority and monopolistic power will deliver the destruction it promises. Vonnegut’s trans-humanism is thus an attempt to find some scrap of goodness inherent in humanity, rather than seeking salvation elsewhere, such as through technology. Only in this return to the existing animal within humanity will humanity depart from its current destructive path, also known as “history.” Vonnegut animalizes the human, because even the most vicious animals and bloodthirsty creatures don’t enact such madcap adventures as conquering continents, building death camps, enslaving races, or blowing up entire cities. The flaw is thus in the human brain, something no other animal is either blessed or cursed with. As he writes in his novel Jailbird, “It was thinkers, after all, who had set up the death camps. Setting up a death camp, with its railroad sidings and its around-the-clock crematoria, was not something a moron could do. Neither could a moron explain why a death camp was ultimately humane.” In Galápagos, Vonnegut asks, “Can it be doubted that three-kilogram brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?” It cannot be doubted, so Vonnegut writes a new future, a new Noah’s Ark, in which humans dispense with big brains, becomes seal-like, and regain their innocence in the hopes of doing humanity right this time around. 

The Era of Hopeful Monsters

Vonnegut’s view is that technology is not just exacerbating the problems of society, but in many ways contributing to it. That is, technology made by and for human brains is the root of the problem. He writes derisively of scientists “using their big brains and cunning instruments” for the purpose of annihilation or triviality. Leon Trout calls the era of a million years ago (i.e. the 1980s) the “era of big brains and fancy thinking.” This is not unlike when Vonnegut wrote in The Sirens of Titan that the present can be called the “Nightmare Ages” in which everyone is still foolishly looking around for the purpose of life rather than within themselves, where it is located. Leon Trout explains that he was a Vietnam War veteran and was made to commit unspeakable atrocities. Vonnegut too was a war veteran, and his well-documented experiences in Dresden during its firebombing led him to abhor misuse of technology, particularly for military applications, but also for the machinery of capitalism. In Galápagos he writes that in the future, after humans evolve to be seal-like, even if anyone ''found a grenade or a machine gun or a knife or whatever left over from olden times, how could they ever make use of it with just their flippers and their mouths?'' Later he adds that people are by necessity kinder and gentler to each other: ''It is hard to imagine anybody's torturing anybody nowadays. How could you even capture somebody you wanted to torture with just your flippers and your mouth?” 

These sentiments echo those he made at Bennington College in 1970, when he delivered a profound speech summarizing his thoughts on technology, ideology, and aesthetics. He said: 
“The arts put man at the center of the universe, whether he belongs there or not. Military science, on the other hand, treats man as garbage—and his children, and his cities, too. Military science is probably right about the contemptibility of man in the vastness of the universe. Still—I deny that contemptibility, and I beg you to deny it, through the creation of appreciation of art.”
Vonnegut’s aesthetics are not limited to just the arts though, but to the whole range of human experience that provides beauty and joy rather than cruelty and destruction. In this sense then, the seal-human hybrids of the future are the most aesthetic creatures he has yet surmised, being totally dedicated as they are to playfulness and enjoying the grandeur of their world. They cannot write Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but their simple life is as good a start as any in the simple aesthetic appreciation of existence itself. Furthermore, this lifestyle cannot possible lead to the disastrous outcomes such as atomic bombs or foolish wars in Vietnam. They spend their life eating, sleeping, and playing. They are not far off from another animal Vonnegut writes about, which is the blue-footed booby, supposedly named as such because they were deemed unintelligent when they did not resist the violence inflicted upon them by explorers and colonists who killed them for food. Such naïve innocence, such a booby-like nature, is to be praised in Vonnegut’s view, seeing as the boobies are dedicated to lives of aesthetic bliss rather than intellectual and technological domination through instrumental-rationality and military science. Vonnegut speaks to the beauty of the booby mating ritual and even postulates that they have a belief in the divine and transcendence from the sheer sublimity of their unusual dancing. This also applies to the marine iguana, who Vonnegut describes as needing nothing and wanting nothing except a belly full of food, which it has no problem attaining. “It has no enemies,” he states admiringly, as if the marine iguana had achieved a state of near-nirvana in its apathy and dedication to peaceful existence. 

It is clear, then, that Vonnegut, drawing upon the greatest trends of romanticism, finds transcendence in nature and the aesthetic, which are often bound together, as in the Blue-footed booby or the marine iguana, or even the Galápagos islands in general. This remote archipelago thus serves as a paradise, a utopian escape from the ravages of history, and a location where humanity can regain its lost sense of beauty and peace. The Galápagos islands symbolize a place apart from the continents of despair, suffering, and ugliness. Vonnegut describes Mary Hepburn, the matriarch of the new Galápagos community as “Mother Nature Personified,” giving her the ultimate title he could bestow. To be aligned with nature is to be aligned with beauty and goodness, and even humanity, at least that element of humanity that has not been crushed by the machine of so-called civilization. Before being stranded on the Galápagos, Mary was a biology teacher who was well acquainted with the blue-footed booby. When explaining the mating ritual of this divine creature to her students, a ritual many found more beautiful than even the human institutionalized ritual or marriage, she asked her students to ponder if they would “dare call it ‘religion’? Or, if we lack that sort of courage, might we at least call it ‘art’?” 

We could call our era the “era of big brains and fancy thinking,” as Vonnegut does in Galápagos, or perhaps the “Nightmare Ages,” as he does in The Sirens of Titan. Perhaps we ought to take another title though, one stolen from a Kilgore Trout novel, which the narrator, Leon Trout, describes in Galápagos. Kilgore, Leon explains, wrote a novel titled The Era of Hopeful Monsters, about “a planet where the humanoids ignored their most serious survival problems until the last possible moment.” Leon determines that most people from a million years ago, our present day, were monsters at least in terms of personality and decides he will call this era the Era of Hopeful Monsters. Vonnegut’s aesthetic redemption has the potential to rescue us from our monstrous selves, so long as we locate the aesthetic within ourselves. To quote Emerson, “Ne te quaesiveris extra.” Humans cannot evolve by sheer will into creatures that are more peaceful and less destructive, but we can start by locating the aesthetic in the contemporary human, even if the human is monstrous. When Leon recounts his childhood, which was deeply troubled, he reminisces that he flunked every course but one: art. “Nobody flunked art “ he contends, “That was simply impossible.” This is because art is a fundamentally human endeavor which everyone has equal access too. The aesthetic and the human are one and the same, and art is the endeavor to achieve a certain harmony or unity with the aesthetic in a quest for existential authenticity. The human is beauty itself, a rough and difficult sort of beauty, but beauty nonetheless. We are hopeful monsters, so often treated as “garbage,” as Vonnegut said to that audience at Bennington College. It is the aesthetic – whether in human art or the natural world – that can “put man at the center of the universe” and redeem a monstrous, yet hopeful, humanity. 

Vonnegut, via the impotent Mandarax, quotes Thoreau near the end of the novel: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He does so to make the point that the few characters, stranded aboard the Bahía de Darwin and then the Galápagos, are not the only ones plagued by self-doubt and existential despair. It is, unfortunately, an all too common state of being. In Galápagos the humane Vonnegut seeks to reassure his desperate readers that in the open sea of human despair, an Ararat awaits this second Noah’s Ark. And in the depths of that deep despair, a sea change awaits, and a new humanity just might transform into something rich and strange. There may, as Vonnegut writes, have to be “certain modifications in the design of human beings.” The changes that the ghost of Leon Trout saw are just a start. “I’ve only been here for a million years,” he says, just before it is his time to enter the afterlife once and for all, “no time at all, really.”