I first saw Hi while I was jogging beneath the tall trees of the canyon. A small child was clasping each of his hands, an older one running ahead.

As I passed him, I just yelled, “Hi.”

He shouted back, “How do you know my name?”

“I don’t know your name, old man,” I muttered. I kept moving.

“My name is Hi!” he said, the “H” with a guttural sound.

I needed time alone. I needed to think. I wasn’t interested in getting into a conversation with some old man babysitting his grandchildren.

“Where are you running?” he yelled. “You don’t have the strength yet.”

That stopped me. “How do you know I don’t have the strength?”

“You look so pale, like someone who just got out of the hospital,” he answered. And then, “Tell me what happened? You had an accident?”

“I was scuba diving. Hey, I was out for four months! They thought I was dead. That would make anyone weak!”

Hi looked me straight in the eye. A caring look, like I was one of his grandkids. He said, “Tell me what you saw in your coma.”

This was totallyThis was totally bizarre. I don’t know how this old man knew anything. bizarre. Look, I don’t know how this old man knew anything. All I know is that he was the first one who really cared. I needed to open up to someone. Well, here he was.

We walked and talked for a while—about the accident, the hospital, my current state of health.

His warmth, his genuine concern—he really pulled me in.

Then I took the risk. I told him what I hadn’t told anyone else. I just felt, finally there’s a person who’s not going to think I’m going nuts.

Here’s the story, the one he was waiting for:

It’s the other side of a long tunnel. It’s beautiful there. Beauty I can’t describe. Just pure goodness and love. You just want to just stay there and forget everything.

But I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready yet. A scuba dive with friends at age 24 is just not a good exit.

So this guide, a kind of luminous being, takes me into a theater and plays for me an entire life review. There’s some good stuff, but also a lot of stuff I really don’t want to see.

Next, the guide asks me, “Do you remember all of it?”

“Sort of,” I answer. “Look, I’m sorry, but I didn’t know those things were as ugly as they look up here. No one told me.”

“Do you“Do you remember what you promised before you were born?” remember what you promised before you were born?”

I’m lost. How can I remember before I was born?

So now I’m watching this scene where I’m a gooey embryo held in the hands of another luminous being. A tribunal of three brilliant but gentle lights shines upon my translucent frame. The lights somehow say some words, and that little embryonic me somehow agrees.

I didn’t hear the words. All I knew was that this was something that totally reframed life. I was being sent on a mission, and they were briefing me.

“Look,” I protested. “I don’t recall any of that. I’m not denying it happened, but in my entire short life, I had no recollection. Nobody taught me, nobody guided me. My parents had no values. School taught me zilch. All I knew was that fun is fun, pleasure is pleasure and pain is the pits. So you’re going to hold me responsible for something completely wiped out of memory?”

“Fine,” says the guide. “We’ll do it again.”

No transition, no time spent. In that world, you move without motion. Instantly, I’m standing before those same three lights.

A deep voice sounds: “Josh, we’re sending you back into your body. But you have to make some promises.”

“I’m good with that.”

“Promise us you will be a superhero.”

“Me? A superhero?”

“Just promise.”

“Sure! Lemme be a superhero! Look, I can fly, I can walk through walls! I can …”

“Josh, we mean a different type of superhero. It’s about love. Caring. Empathy. Wisdom. DoingJosh, we mean a different type of superhero. things to connect that world with this one, your body with your soul, bonding your entire being with the Infinite Light that made you. It’s about making the world sing the song it was made to sing. We’re giving you that job.”

“Wow. Cool. I’m in.”

“Good. Now promise you won’t be a villain.”

“Hey, I just said I’m gonna be a superhero!”

“And you won’t be a villain.”

“If I’m a superhero, it follows that …”

Another, softer voice pitches in. “Josh, this is the heavenly tribunal. Just answer as we say. Promise you won’t be a villain.”

“I won’t be a villain. Of course.”

The deep voice is back now: “There’s one more promise. Let’s say the whole world is talking about you. They’re all saying that you are so good. They say you’re a superhero. What do you say?”

“I say, “Hey, thanks guys! That’s just what I want to be!”

“No, Josh.”


“No. You look at yourself and you say you’re no different than the villain.”

“Say wha?”

“You heard.”

“But that’s real depressing. I can’t always be down on myself. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Hey, I took a credit in positive psychology you know.”

None of them seemed impressed.

“And if I just accept that I’m a loser—well, what kind of superhero is that?”

The gentle voice again: “We know, Josh, we know. You can’t understand now. But you have to promise.”

“This sounds like a bum deal.”

A third voice spoke now. “Josh, do you want to go back? Or stay here? I mean, there are a few things of that life review that need to be straightened out.”

Jolt. Reality.

“I promise. I’m always going to think I’m just like the villain. But I don’t get …”

Too late. My eyes open. A nurse screams and rushes for a doctor. Within a few minutes, I’m talking words. Life starts again.

I told this whole story to Hi. He listened, intensely, not saying a word. Okay, once in awhile he had to run after one of the kids. But he was listening.

Then he asked, “So are you a superhero?”


He said, “Josh, look up from the gravel. Has anything changed in your life?”

“Nothing. I mean, I have no clue how to be a superhero. I’m still just my old self. No super-powers. No x-ray vision. Can’t even jog properly anymore.”

“And everything you felt in that other world?”

“It was beautiful. But I don’t feel that here.”

Hi asked, “So what’s this story about?”

I said, “That’s what I want to know. I’m totally confused. How do you become a superhero in an ordinary life like this?”

The kids were tired. We sat down on some rocks. A few moments of silence, and then Hi asked, “Josh, what’s so ordinary about this life?”

I didn’t know what to answer. So he went on.

“Do you know where you are?”

“Sure.” I pointed. “You can get back to the parking lot that way.”

A pause of silence again. Just for a moment.

“You’re the lead character of a role-playing game. So am I. So are all of us.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

The kids were all running off. Hi ran after them. I got up slowly and looked down all the paths, but none of them were anywhere to be found.

I knew I would see Hi again. I had to.

Click Here For Part II