Friday, February 24, 2012

Paradisus Bestiarum: A Note From The Registrar

Many people are understandably concerned  about the status of their beloved companion animals in the afterlife. We receive queries on the subject all the time. Before I address that issue, however, I'd like to clear up a few semantic misunderstandings regarding Paradise.

We're decidedly old school up here, as you might imagine, and so far as we're officially concerned you're all animals --find a Latin dictionary and  look up animus or anima sometime; while you're at it you might find  it curious, if not instructive, to note that animus, a word that originally connoted mind and spirit, is now commonly defined by humans as a feeling of hostility. Something to think about, I suppose.

At any rate, what you tend to think of as animals are here regarded as beasts, and the admission criteria for beasts is a complicated business. The rules and regulations have evolved slowly over many centuries. I can, however, tell you that no beast, not even  the most ill tempered, poorly behaved, and ferocious, goes to hell. We don't hold these creatures responsible for their behavior, and when they die or are killed, they are simply dead.

There is, though, a place for beasts in Paradise; there are, in fact, a number of places. Some of them are what you  might think of as sanctuaries or refuges, where the majority of the beasts are segregated from the population of human animals.

Most of the bestial sanctuaries are actually, in fact, offshore, a couple islands just off the coast that have been set aside for cats, primates, and  horses. As with humans, however, not all cats, primates, and  horses are admitted to Paradise, although virtue is not the determining criteria for these beasts. To enter Paradise --or rather, to be granted eternal refuge on these Paradisiacal adjuncts-- a cat, horse, or monkey has to have had  the sort of relationship with a human whereby it was perceived by its human companion to have been in possession of a soul. Such relationships constitute what is officially called "Empathic Baptism."

This is admittedly a rule that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's been in place since the last major amendments and revisions to the admissions criteria were signed into the Book of Law at the end of the 19th century.

Some of the more intelligent beasts have traditionally been granted  special exemptions in Paradise. An ocean was created to accommodate certain aquatic creatures, a decision that was not without controversy, particularly after dolphins rather quickly found eternity boring and petitioned for removal, a request that was, following much deliberation, reluctantly granted. There are no watercraft in Paradise, and very few of the human animals partake in swimming, even though the activity is permitted under certain circumstances.

Dolphins, we were led to understand, are naturally curious and social beings, and they compared the ocean in Paradise to an aquarium with few visitors and even fewer diversions. They also complained that God seemed to show insufficient interest in them.

Dogs are the only beasts given a blanket pass to Paradise proper --good dogs, I should say, but there have been very few remembered examples of dogs having been denied admission. I have to admit that, being a dog person, I find this arrangement more than satisfactory. There are, though, plenty of people --activists, mainly-- who carp about the issue all the time, but it's the way things are in Paradise. This is essentially a very conservative place, where proposals for even minor changes are frowned  upon and  met with stiff resistance from the governing council. There are also, I should say, a lot of people here who have no apparent love for beasts of any kind, and this is a constituency that  is constantly complaining about the absence of meat from our diets. If we had a democratic system in place here and the matter of admitting beasts was put to a vote I have no doubt that the creature lovers among us would be soundly defeated.

Certainly people recognize that if you open the gates to cattle and chickens and  rats and the like you're going to have a big problem on your hands in a hurry. The mortality rate and  life expectancy of most beasts makes any sort of concessions or compromises on this point problematic, to say the least. We're already packed in so tight that social interaction  is all but impossible. The streets are always so crowded that, with the exception of my daily trips to the office (my job, like all jobs here, is a volunteer position) I virtually never leave my dormitory, and I'm forced to share my bed with the six dogs who spent most of their earthly lives with me. It's admittedly not the most comfortable of arrangements, but I guess that's the price you pay for attaching yourself to other living creatures, and I wouldn't think of making a fuss.

I had a neighbor for a time --a woman from Portland-- who bitched so loudly and for so long over the refusal to grant an exception for her ferret that she was eventually shipped back to Purgatory until she learned to keep her yap shut.

I can't say I was sorry to see her go.

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