Our grandson, Oliver, spoke his first intentional and intelligible words this week. He’s been vocalizing for a while, and sometimes his utterances sound like words, but we’re never quite sure. Until now.
The other day he said, several times and with clear purpose, “Oh wow!”
I didn’t see that coming. Most kids, including my own, start speaking with works like “Da-Da,” “Ma-Ma,” “No!,” and “Mine!” Apparently, the four-year-old daughter of Oliver’s babysitter says “Oh wow!” a lot, so he is probably imitating her. That takes nothing away from my delight in pondering the implications of a child’s first words being “Oh Wow!”
For children, the world, in spite of its imperfections, is an inexaustible source of wonder, beauty, joy, laughter and love. Every day is a new opportunity to say,“Oh wow!” It’s too bad that most adults have learned to replace “Oh wow!” with “Ho hum.”
In a fascinating “wow” convergence, I was telling some friends about this over breakfast on Saturday, and I learned from them that Steve Jobs’ last words were the very same: “Oh wow!” Times three.
Of course, this begs a question: To whom or to what he was responding? Jobs was a Buddhist, so he might have expected physical death to bring rebirth into a reincarnated existence. As best I can tell, and I’m no expert in Buddhism, there is no expectation of an afterlife for a Buddhist. Nirvana is achieved as a conscious freedom from suffering during one’s physical life. (Can anyone clarify a Buddhist’s understanding of afterlife?) Would reincarnation bring repeated exclamations of “Oh wow!”?
We can only guess what Steve Jobs saw or experienced, but as a Christian, I expect to see Jesus. For a Christian, life on this earth is just a tiny fraction of our eternal existence. Real life will start when this life ends. The Apostle Paul, in the context of a discussion of God’s secret wisdom, wrote, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
Oh Wow! Oh Wow! Oh Wow!
Judy, the Buddhists believe in Karma. Reincarnation is a function of working out the karma one has accumulated in the current life and the residual karma (not worked-out) in previous lives. People reincarnate so that they can work-out, or through, their past karma, plus the karma they accumulate in the current incarnation. When one has, through as many lives as necessary, worked through all the karma they have accumulated on the material plane, and there is nothing left to be worked-out (as a human), they move, forever, into an afterlife filled with the bliss of karmalessness (not a word, but, you get the idea). So, true Buddhists also believe in an after life as described by Jesus, but they believe you have to work through your human karma/issues before you can realize this eternal afterlife.
Many Buddhists also believe that it is a choice – if you have “awakened” in your current incarnation and worked through all your karma and earn eternal bliss in the afterlife, you can still choose to come back to help others along their paths toward enlightenment/awakening so that they can realize the eternal ‘bliss’ of the afterlife beyond this physical plane.
And so it goes…
Thank you for such a clear and helpful description. It’s difficult to really understand another religious system from the perspective of one’s own. Can I ask a few more questions? It sounds like the goal of life, then, is to escape from the cycle of reincarnation, or maybe to put it another way, to be released from one’s Karma? Is a person conscious of where he or she is in the process? Do Buddhists have an idea of what lies beyond the phyiscal plane? I very much appreciate your input.