Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives is a collection of 40 short stories, describing what could happen in our afterlives. Here are my key takeaways from the book.

Sum: Forty tales from the afterlives
Sum: Forty tales from the afterlives


  1. You look at the simplicity of a horse. You want to become one in your next life. Your desire is being fulfilled. However, as your body transmogrifies, so, does your brain, which loses its intellectual capacity. And that’s when you realize that if you won’t remember your human life, how would you enjoy the life of being a horse? You cannot enjoy simplicity unless you have the ability to remember the alternatives. Also, in your final moments as a human being, you wonder what intellectual capacity you had before choosing to become a human.
  2. It is not the brave who can handle the presence of a powerful authority. It is the brave who can handle its absence.
  3. Our fantasies curse our ability to enjoy realities.
  4. Parents seed a child’s life but eventually have limited control over it. Politicians steer the ship of a state with limited control as well. Enthusiastic lovers marry without knowing where the commitment will lead. All creation ends with creators, powerless, over their own creations.
  5. Humans are weird. We don’t just want familiarity. We want familiarity interleaved with unfamiliarity.
  6. Knowing the inescapability of heartache does not reduce its sting. Glimpsing the mechanics of love does not alter its intoxicating appeal, either.
  7. Free choice has its costs – temptation, anger, anguish, distrust, dread, and vice.
  8. Your memories are not infallible. Your memories manufacture small myths throughout your lifetime to keep your life story consistent with who you thought you were.


  1. The meaning varies with spatial scale. A Shakespeare play is meaningless to a bacterium.
  2. Everything created on the backs of smaller scales is consumed by those same scales.
  3. We build machines of increasing sophistication to address our own mysteries. Our machines are too sophisticated for us to fully understand. Maybe we, ourselves, are machines built by less powerful creatures to solve their mysteries. And our creators can’t fully fathom us, either.


  1. After we die, we live in the head of those who remember us, we lose control of our lives and become who they want us to be. You may be gone, but your marks remain.
  2. Army Platoons, Congresses, and plays do not end. They simply move and continue to exist in a different realm.
  3. A limited time on Earth, marked by death, is a motivator. The end of death is the end of motivation.
  4. Egalitarian heaven would be weird. It makes no one happy. The communists would be unhappy because God created it. The meritocratic are unhappy because they believe they deserved better than undeserving communists.
  5. Reminiscing about the glory days of existence is perhaps all that afterlife might consist of!