Imagine if you will a rather different take on ‘standing at the gates of Heaven’. In this scenario - which is more of an interview - you are deciding whether to live on Earth as a Human.
Let’s build on the idea. The interviewer – let’s call him/her ‘The Manager’ is a cross between a travel agent, an overworked corporate boss and a psychiatrist. You both run through a basic description of the planet, its geography and features, the locations you might choose – and then more serious matters are discussed. You have decided to be born in the United Kingdom.
The Manager: You have chosen quite a tough planet. You may not find it easy to settle down. You’ll be vulnerable right from the word go if your physical appearance doesn’t meet certain standards.
You: What standards?
The Manager: They make them up as they go along. Then there’s intelligence. You need to be bright, but at times you’d be wise to hide it if you are.
You: So far so good, I’ll play along. Any other difficulties?
The Manager: I would say one of the problems is the frailty of their bodies. They are very poorly designed. Humans haven’t evolved very well, and they are not good at looking after themselves. Even when they do, they can be struck down by physical and mental illnesses which they tackle in all manner of ways, none of which are particularly effective. It won’t be possible to choose a design, I’m afraid.
You: I’m well aware of that.
The Manager: Explain to me why you think you would be suited to this planet?
You: I’m passionate about some of its beautiful features and the way in which Humans interpret them through art, music and other forms of communication.
The Manager: Huh! If you think your lifetime there will enable you to devote yourself entirely to philosophical matters, you really haven’t investigated it properly at all! The odds of you being born into – or, for that matter, working to achieve such a life are far too long.
A pause ensues.
The Manager: You may find yourself emotionally ill-equipped to cope. You understand that you may form attachments to people; that those people may let you down or die. You may produce children: burdens of responsibility and emotional ties. Could you handle this?
You: I’m prepared to try, willing to learn, keen to contribute. Will these qualities be sufficient?
The Manager (with a sigh): I think you may be in for a rather rough time. Go ahead, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Oh, and try to remember not to take sides.
You: Which side shouldn’t I take?
The Manager: Heaven only knows…