AFTERLIFE news, and international researchers at several universities have set out a standard definition for Near-Death Experiences and guidelines for studying them.

The move – by experts at Harvard, New York, California, King’s College London, and Southampton – comes in the wake, so to say, of advances in health care bringing more people back from the dead. Or wherever.

Many books chronicle these cases, where common reported experiences include hovering above one’s cadaver, floating – aye, floating! – along a tunnel of light, watching without popcorn a review of your life (let’s hope there’s at least one ad break), and a feeling of being “home” and enveloped in love. Aye, right.

The accounts are often spoiled by respondents also claiming to meet, or at least behold, their various gods, feeding suspicion that this “experience” is merely fiction from deep within the brain. Trust the religious to spoil the afterlife.

The researchers itemise key components of their definition as loss of consciousness, sense of transcendence, and positive transformation, with no link to dreams or delirium.

I’ve read many books on Near-Death Experiences as, for the last few decades, I’ve had a Near-Life Experience. I’m also keen to see the idea of reincarnation dispelled. If it’s not, I’ll lead the first strike in Heaven.

I want to believe. But aspects of these accounts trouble me. Firstly, you still apparently have a sense of “self”. And I don’t want my eternal soul still linked to the sad loser who writes these columns.

Secondly, we’re all supposed to be on a learning curve, which is why you’re shoved back to this dump for more sadistic challenges. It’s worse than a reality show. Further to this learning idea, folk often describe libraries in Heaven and, as the most famous accounts in the classic texts are now around 50 years old, it’s interesting that they don’t have the internet or Kindles. Instead, readers take down weighty tomes from the shelves. So 1970s.

Also, there’s only section: self-help. These libraries are notably quiet, again placing them in the past. In today’s libraries, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d entered a discotheque. It’s the same with the beautiful gardens: no hint of The Droning, that daily, peace-shattering horticultural racket that erupts daily in Britain from spring to late autumn. Who cuts the grass in Heaven?

By definition, nobody who’s suffered an NDE has stuck around long enough to experience the biggest problem: boredom. From accounts I’ve read, while ethereal simulations of sensual earthly joys such as fish suppers can be enjoyed in Heaven, they’re not the same. More like ready meals.

Furthermore, you don’t feel the wind in your face. You don’t breathe. That’s why, despite this planet being an appalling hellhole, dead sensualists yearn to return. Not this soldier. I like a fish supper and breathing as much as the next ratepayer, but I’m not coming back to this feculent madhouse for anything.

I’m not sure either what the point is, if you communicate through telepathy and don’t breathe, of still having a gub and a beak. Will my beak still be huge and red? Or do we all get nose jobs? Mind you, if you’re ethereal, you’ll save a fortune on moisturiser. So many questions. So many doubts. But, as I say, I want to believe. And I’ll believe it when I see it. Eyes or no eyes.

Carry On Watching

I’VE been watching Carry On films again. They’re not all brilliant but the best ones really cheer you up. Their secret lies in bringing widely disparate characters – most of the men completely hopeless – together in community. If that sounds like po-faced cod-psychology, the main thing is they’re a lot of innocent fun.

As such, the woke doubtless hate them. But a new book about the films says they are empowering because they’re full of strong women. In Carry On Regardless: Getting to the Bottom of Britain’s Favourite Comedy Films – ooh, matron, saucy title! – Caroline Frost says films like Carry On Cabby were “defiantly feminist”, while Barbara Windsor’s supposedly objectified characters turned out to be smart and had the last laugh.

The author quotes other female actors recalling that, unlike many other film sets of the time, female actors were treated with respect as equals. Some of the scripts’ racial stereotyping was literally “ignorant”, in not knowing any better at the time, but there was never any malice intended. No possibility of a double-entendre – however weak – was neglected, and it’s true the last couple of films in the series of 31 were “embarrassing”.

But who can forget the earlier classic lines? Julius Caesar: “Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it infamy!” Cab driver to Kenneth Williams (accompanied by a chimp): “I’ll take you but not your brother.” Mrs. Fussey: “I’ve got sore misgivings.” Sid Boggle: “You ought to put some talcum powder on them.” Daft and corny but all the better for that.

Says Caroline Frost of the Carry Ons: “They got me through lockdown in a way I was not expecting. I have a sophisticated cultural palette, but I think they celebrate something special about the consolation of company and comradeship in times of chaos.” Spot on, madam.

A space of waste

Former Nasa chief scientist Jim Green predicts we’ll discover alien life in “the next handful of years”. Other planets in the galaxy must have sunlight and water. But so what? As so often reported, it just means there’ll be bacteria. Space: it’s a colossal bore. And it’s not called space for nothing: there’s nothing there.

What a hoot

Bats are buzzing. Italian scientists have discovered that, when attacked by owls, the greater mouse-eared bat emits the buzz of a hornet, which owls dislike. There’s a lot there to digest, so to say. Owls eat bats. Bats can do impressions. Owls don’t like hornets. Isn’t nature wonderful? Naw. Nature is nuts.

Shrink rap

The capitalists are shrinking your stuff again. Philadelphia green cheese, McCain oven chips and Magnum ice creams are the latest to be fingered for providing less pabulum for the same price. It’s been dubbed shrinkflation. Which of us would notice this? The profiteers must think we were born yesterday. But it was the day before that.

Cabin fever

Not everyone is suffering in the cost of living crisis. A beach hut in Southwold, Suffolk, has been put up for sale at £250,000. The estate agent said: “I’m sure it will go very quickly.” To recap: it’s a hut; no water; no electricity; and you can’t sleep in it. If this doesn’t provoke a popular uprising, nothing will.

High on crisps

It’s what we suspected. Never mind meditation or spirituality, bliss is to be found in crisps. The combination of salt, sugar and fat triggers a “bliss point” that makes folk keep eating. Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped show said it worked “the same way as some addictive drugs”. And addictive drugs don’t even do smoky bacon.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.