I was once told by a religious advisor that the first test of the afterlife was being asked to watch your life, had you lived it to the fullest. Seeing the joy and fulfillment had you worked as hard, been as kind, honest and spiritually rich as you could have been. This experience, depending on how righteously (or not) you had lived your life, could be the equivalent of a sanctified pat on the back, or tantamount to hell.
Understand-everyone makes mistakes, few people "live up to their potential" or whatever that means. We let things go. We let ourselves go. We let those we love, go. And the view, sometimes, of what exactly we have let slip away, is punishment enough. There need be no pitchforks, no brimstone, no pushing a rock up a hill, over and over again. The distance between fulfilment between happiness and sadness, the chasm from peace to the frustrations, anger, loneliness, poverty or depression of daily life could be the most agonizing torture ever devised.
Many of us, every day, live in this hell. You know the drill, you catch glimpse of yourself: sad, bloated, lazy, petty and then catch another vision of yourself: fit and glowing and laughing and open to the world and all it's expanse, and it's like you are drowning. Under the weight of our own aggressions we falter, miss a step, stick to the mud at the bottom of that lake, graceless, exhausted, hopeful and floundering all the same.
But here is the thing: this same spiritual advisor explained something else, something very significant about this theory of the after life. That for most, this little movie, this cinematic view of your life's work, is just a pit stop. It's purgatory, not heaven or hell. It's a resting point before we move on and up. Before we come back to correct these faults, before we move on to learn from our mistakes. And you can sit as long as you wish until you are ready to make that journey. You can bask in your successes for as long as it will take to gain up the strength to move it along and start again. Ahead. And you can also languish in the pain of your transgressions, muck around in the mire of your frustrations for as long as it takes for you to learn your lesson.
And some? They never move on. They are in hell. Real hell. Stuck reliving the their past transgressions. Stuck imposing the image of who they were over what they could have been, comparing comparing comparing, milling about in the what they would have, should have, and really could have done. They watch their best self slip away, so transfixed by the pock marks and spare tire and ugly ugly smug grin they once wore, unable to turn away from the tears they used to cry, unable to truly understand the beauty of what they almost were, and someday could be.
But still, it's their choice. Any time. Any time they are ready, they can look up. If they wish.