Imagine there’s no heaven.
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In last Sunday’s post (The Eternal Now) I imagined my former dogs in heaven, bounding toward me over streets of gold, wagging their tails, jumping on my chest, and slobbering my face with licks. That image brought comfort to many readers. A few, however, were perplexed.
I thought you didn’t believe in heaven.
Well, I do and I don’t. I dither a bit on the subject.
But when a child asks me if her deceased dog or mother is in heaven, that’s no time to dither. Yes, of course, is the only right answer. (In a pub over a pint, I’d dither.)
Nearly all cultures and peoples have some notion of an afterlife full of peace, joy, perfect health, and happy reunions. That in itself tells us something about human aspirations. Real or not, the idea of heaven brings comfort to many people.
I know I’ll see momma in heaven someday.
I like the idea of heaven or Nirvana or the Elysian fields. I also like the image of a band of angels swinging low to carry me over Jordan to the other side where milk and honey await me (although I’d prefer chips, dip, and beer). But I’m not counting on it.
I don’t like what Christianity did with the notion of heaven. Christianity turned heaven into a literal locale. Fine. But it also turned hell into a literal locale, scaring the bejesus out of people in order to control and manipulate them.
Do what we say and you’ll go to heaven. Don’t do what we say and you’ll go to hell.
(Other than that how was the church service?)
I can imagine there’s no heaven. (It’s easy if you try.) But I can’t imagine there’s nothing above us, only sky. I don’t know whether there’s more to life than what we can see and touch. But I believe there is.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. (Shakespeare’s Hamlet)
I see nothing wrong in imagining perfect conditions to live in forever. That’s heaven. But why wait for heaven? Live it today.
Wage peace. Do justice. Walk humbly. Be kind. Take joy. Love everyone. Romp with your dog like there’s no tomorrow. (It’s easy if you try.)
I’m pretty sure heaven is ready to help us all.
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Click to hear Stevie Wonder’s Heaven Help Us All
WE NEED SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR AND HEAVEN, AS IMAGINED, LOOKS BETTER THAN ANY OTHER VENUE.
Thank you for your thoughts and insight.
When then Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin was interviewed during the Vietnam war which he opposed and protested, he was asked, “Bill, why are you protesting the war? Aren’t you supposed to talk about the next world?” His response was succinct: “One world at a time”. There is no time like the present. “Heaven” can be here now.
Meanwhile … ‘almost heaven, West Virginia.’ Vintage stuff. Thanks.
These lines from the song spoke to me and I love the quote from William Sloane Coffin noted above.
Keep hatred from the mighty
And the mighty from the small
Saving time to romp with the dogs and submit my entries to the 2022 Great Backyard Bird Count – it ends tomorrow!
Pretty much gets it. I’ve learned that these are fighting words for some people.
I was immediately reminded of Joseph Campbell’s telling us that, in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus was asked if there was a “heaven.” Jesus replied (somethink like–memory fades!), “I tell you this. If you cannot experience heaven within, here and now, you will never know “heaven”.” I cannot tell you how many Christians I know who lead passive lives because Jesus is going to “save” them; they cannot wait to die and go to “heaven.” If more people insisted on creating “heaven on earth,” starting within, wouldn’t we be living in a very different world?
In my experience, I’ve had glimpses of heaven on earth – real & clearly moments of love; transports thru arts ( visual, musical, written & theatrical)…
And I have spoken to others who have “crossed the veil” & returned…stories of lite & peace & connection beyond words to all that is & ever was; making sense of life, and what is truly important.
If I found a perfectly working watch, and someone told me “no one made it – it simply exists”… I’d believe my own senses – creation is proof of the Creator.
I am Grateful for this earthly life & for your thot provoking words…”heaven only knows how it’ll all turn out”.🙏🏼💓
Awesome piece, Brother. Love the love in it. Love the easy blending of love, reason, faith in a coherent, wise, very expressed way.
You brought heaven to our living room today. I bissed out with Stevie Wonder too.
Thanks. On this sunny morning, I needed a little nudge and a smile.
A thoughtful way to start the afternoon. Think I heard heavenly voices today at church in the voices of a Shepherd student and a person who is working with students. And just being around friends and worshipping together.Then came home and worked on the Big Backyard Bird Count; seeing the birds that like our back yard.
When I was twelve my parents bought me a $25 telescope with a 100x eyepiece. I spent night after night dazzled by planets, galaxies, starclusters, etc. Actually seeing Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s rings, Andromeda’s nebula , and on and on, gave me an early appreciation for God’s infinite universe. Heaven is a concept of finite, human invention. But the span of our entire human existence is a fraction of a nanosecond in God’s universe. Does life exist elsewhere? Surely it must or must have or will, but at the end of our “day,” there’s only one abiding, shout-it-from-the-rooftops spark in our finite, sentient souls, and that is Love – the thing we spend our whole lives writing about, singing about and striving to understand. It’s the thing that can’t be described, but “You’ll know it when you see it. ” And then you’ll be in Heaven.
I’m with Jim Stovall! Ed
Heaven sits on the branch of a tree outside my bedroom window…..A bluebird singing his love to his mate.
Right on and beautifully put. The heaven/hell church control concept reminds me of the saying, “Jesus, protect me from your followers”. Thank you and thanks for the audio of Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven, Help Us All”. I’d not heard that before.
Thanks for always making me think! I can’t imagine not trying to be my best daily. Yeah, I often slack, but living day to day is my heaven on earth.
I wrote a little poem:
I am the ocean.
A wave rises. Hello! I’m a wave!
I see the world and it’s so exciting.
I tell the ocean what I see.
I am the ocean.
For a minute I thought I was a wave.
“In Heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here.
And when we’re gone from here, our friends will be drinking all that beer!”