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In my Heaven. September 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was thinking the other day about the concept of Heaven as a place where people sat around on clouds wearing sparkling white robes and playing gold harps. Eeeewwww!!! Who would want to do that for all eternity? Better than burning in Hell while breathing sulfurous fumes, but lots more boring than pretty much anything else we could think of. (Unless you happen to be a harpist.) How did this idea of Heaven come to be?

Well, I got a wake-up call about that the other night when Silence Dogood and I watched a documentary about the Dark Ages. I suppose I can only say, how arrogant and oblivious we moderns are with our ready supply of hot water and soap, with our showers and shampoos, with our deodorants and toothpastes and endless supply of clean clothes.

Imagine if you had no form of climate control, no way to get rid of fleas, lice, and bedbugs, and one suit of clothes that you had to wear day in, day out, as you sweated and stunk, until finally the next year you got a new set of coarse, scratchy clothing to wear when what was left of the previous set could practically stand on its own, it was so stiff with dirt, sweat, and vermin. Imagine if you had to toil in the fields day in, day out, with inadequate food—say, moldy and/or maggoty bread and water—no light and minimal warmth at night, and no ability to read or enjoy your nonexistent leisure time if you actually had any. Not to mention plagues and other inexplicable diseases that made life even more ugly, brutish and short.

Needless to say, the only clean white clothing or gold you’d have ever seen would have been in church. The choirs and music in the churches would doubtless have struck you as angelic, a heavenly sound far removed from the grunts and bellows of the animals that shared your own hovel.

This state of affairs continued into Victorian times, at least for the lower classes. They would blow their noses into their dirty kerchiefs and then use them as napkins or neckerchiefs. They still had few changes of clothing and even fewer ways to get sweat, stains, and filth out of them.

Under the circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that wearing a clean, sparkling white robe, making beautiful music on a gold harp, and lounging on a soft, fluffy cloud all day would seem like Heaven. Our friend Ben finally gets it. But what about our Heaven? 

Mary Chapin Carpenter has a wonderful song, “In My Heaven,” on her CD “From Here to Gone.” In the song, she describes her ideal Heaven, filled with friends and childhood pets and grandparents and peace and joy. Such a lovely thought.

Our friend Ben has often thought that it is almost unbearably hard to leave the beautiful Creation we’ve been privileged to be born into. That the hope of Heaven is in part about being reunited with the people and pets we’ve loved, with all those pieces of our hearts that have gone before us, each one teaching us more about ultimately letting go ourselves. And in the meantime, we should be thankful for the beauty and love and joy we’ve found on earth, and should try every day to make things a little more like Heaven for those around us.

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1. Lzyjo - September 27, 2009

oh, interesting! You know, those medieval clergy were all, about propaganda and extortion. I would assume that the floating on clouds and playing gold lyres is just making sure they pay their tithe and all that , to go to the good place. I am not a theologists, let alone religious, but Christians don’t seems to understand that there is a long waiting period before anyone is accepted into heaven after the revelation. Religion is the opiate of the people and the medieval clergy certainly had their followers well sedated.

I think all serf- and slave-based societies have had a lot invested in keeping their involuntary work force pacified by promising that the miseries they endure in this life will be rewarded in the next, Lzyjo! Certainly that was true in mediaeval times. It was the ultimate erosion of those promises—coupled with the privations of the Little Ice Age—that resulted in the French Revolution.

2. Nell Jean - September 27, 2009

What an interesting thought for a Sunday morning! If we’re not into streets of gold in this life, the next one might be a continuation of the things I most enjoy here: gardens, making my own music and encouraginig others.

I once spoke with a dying man who said he had seen the other side. His words were, “All I can tell you, it was not unpleasant.”

Well, that’s certainly a teaser comment if there ever was one, Nell Jean! I wonder what he saw? And your idea of Heaven certainly sounds heavenly to me!

3. mr_subjunctive - September 27, 2009

It does make a lot more sense when you imagine it in those terms: everybody would rather be wealthy than not. This also maybe makes the gates of topaz/sapphire/chrysoberyl/etc., which would obviously be kind of ridiculous if real, make a lot more sense: promise wealth in forms your audience will understand.

The only part of Heaven as my parents understood it that ever had any appeal to me at all was the idea that in Heaven, you know/understand all the stuff that never made sense on Earth. I don’t think this is exactly scriptural (there may be promises of knowledge and understanding scattered around the Bible, but I’m not positive, and anyway if there ever were such promises, knowledge was never the point of going to Heaven in the way that the mansions and streets of gold were), but that was what Mom and Dad said, and that was a lot more appealing to me as a kid than living in the constant presence of God (according to them, I was doing that already anyway), never having to be sad, hurt, or afraid (as a kid, none of those were happening all that terribly often to begin with), or living in a mansion (What would I do with a mansion? I’m ten years old.) or something.

The only disappointing part was the idea that I’d just know it all, all at once: more fun, I think, to imagine Heaven as an infinite reference library to explore for all eternity. (Eternity, after all, is a lot of time to kill

Actually, come to think, my childhood idea of Heaven was a lot like being connected to the Internet, the difference being that in Heaven you could always believe what you read.

-

Also, congratulations. I see the sitemeter stats are at 100,150, which suggests you broke 100,000 recently?

Ha! I love the idea of Heaven being like an unending library, with new discoveries around every turn. Better even than a trustworthy internet, since your—or at least, my—internet searches are typically limited by my existing knowledge, while in any good library, by strolling around you’re always stumbling on something new. (Well, er, actually, I’m pretty much always stumbling on something anyway. My poor feet! But I digress.) Thinking it over, my dream job in Heaven would be helping God come up with new habitable planets and creating wonderful things to put on them. Maybe I should have been a “Star Trek” scriptwriter…

Oh, and many thanks for the congratulations. According to my WordPress stats, we’re actually now over 122,000, which is woefully confusing, but WordPress has been tracking PRA from day one, and being such a Luddite, it was a while before I could persuade a friend to get sitemeter up and running. But YOU’re the one who really deserves the congratulations on that score—last time I checked, you were nearly at 500,000, and I’m sure you’ve gone beyond it by now. So, how will you celebrate when PATSP hits a million views?!! Oops, forgot to say that I’d think 500,000 views would be plenty to get you a book deal!

4. Barbee' - September 27, 2009

I think if Karl Marx lived today, he would probably say: TV is the opiate of the people.

Ha! I couldn’t agree more.

5. Lzyjo - September 27, 2009

Barbee, I love it! LOL! That’s too funny!

It should be a bumper sticker!

6. deb - September 27, 2009

Nice post gave me something to think about.

I want y’all to try something. I went outside into the mosquito infested garden while chewing some mint gum. They seem to like me much less. Going to try a peppermint next. Let me know if you try it and see any improvement.

Oh, good idea, Deb! I’d actually forgotten about this until I read your comment just now, but back in the days when I had to go on hot, mosquito- and gnat-infested hikes with my field botany and taxonomy classes, I’d brew up a cup of pennyroyal tea, let it cool, then use a cotton ball to apply it to to all exposed parts. Trust me, it worked like a charm! And I smelled wonderful and minty too.

7. mr_subjunctive - September 27, 2009

500,000 by early or mid-November, is my guess. Not going to celebrate until it happens, and I may not celebrate then, either, aside from maybe a Gazania picture or something. Though I suppose I have time to put something special together, if I started now. Hmmm. What’s traditional for 500K hits? Maybe I can track down some netiquette sites and find out before it happens.

Ha! I only *wish* I knew what was traditional for 500,000 hits, Mr. S.! If you were in the entertainment industry (which in a way we all are), you’d doubtless be given a celebrity “roast.” Perhaps Nina could guest-write a post as master of ceremonies!

8. elephant's eye - September 27, 2009

from Heaven to 500,000 hits …

Um, er, well… One of the fascinating aspects of blogging is that you never really know where it will take you!

elephant's eye - September 28, 2009

Blackpitts to Biscuits was fun too!

9. mr_subjunctive - September 27, 2009

I’ll ask her if she’s available.

Heh! Good plan. And don’t forget about those bribes.

10. becca - September 30, 2009

Ah, Silence, so beautiful. I call it “The Enticement of the Father.” We’ve gone away and don’t remember our home. How can we possibly be persuaded to leave this place? With the enticement of our lost loves and vague memories of a wonderful place that calls to our innermost being!

What a beautiful expression, Becca. I love it!!!

11. Victoria - September 30, 2009

“Imagine if you had no form of climate control, no way to get rid of fleas, lice, and bedbugs, and one suit of clothes that you had to wear day in, day out, as you sweated and stunk, until finally the next year you got a new set of coarse, scratchy clothing to wear when what was left of the previous set could practically stand on its own, it was so stiff with dirt, sweat, and vermin. Imagine if you had to toil in the fields day in, day out, with inadequate food—say, moldy and/or maggoty bread and water—no light and minimal warmth at night, and no ability to read or enjoy your nonexistent leisure time if you actually had any. Not to mention plagues and other inexplicable diseases that made life even more ugly, brutish and short.”

Sounds exactly as my Dad described his three years as a POW in Japan during WWII. Yuck.

My idea of heaven might be…………sleeping.

Yes, I can bet your dad went through all that and more, Victoria! Yikes. Thank God he made it out alive. Right now, I’d go for sleeping, too. but I have a feeling once I’d finally caught up on it I’d want to do something else, like going to Hawk Mountain and hawk watching, or writing, or watercoloring (very badly!), or…


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