Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Cartoon courtesy of Nature)

Over on Ruth's blog, she got a ton of hits and comments for asking a very simple question...what do you think Heaven will be like? She admitted that she doesn't think of it much, and I have to confess I don't either. I have a tendency myself to think, "Why try to imagine what I can't possibly understand?" But it's clear from the comments there are people who do, and I found their comments interesting. Some are very unique and intriguing. Some seem more or less bound to traditional imagery. Some seem connected to Biblical imagery...or at least some people's interpretations of it based on their religion. One even wondered if it's simply "nothing."

In my own comments, I realized my perception is more of a "presence" than a "thing."

I don't think much about it as a "place". I think the problem is what I call the "Jethro Bodine revelation." There was an episode, decades ago, of the Beverly Hillbillies where Jethro decided he was going to throw himself in the cement pond and drown because these beautiful women didn't pay any attention to him. He then described in vivid detail how these women would suddenly feel sorry for him and hold him and kiss him, etc. Jed just looked at him and basically goes, "But'll be dead!" Since my brain processes "dead" as the cessation of life, movement, thought, etc., I cannot imagine what heaven is like, because I'm being asked to imagine it with an organ that will no longer work following my death!

I just have a sense that it is probably right here, co-existing in a different plane of existence and my senses are too feeble to even comprehend it--just as Boomer and little Eddie smell very real smells in the yard I have no way of knowing what they smell like.

I find myself often wishing we could "smell what they smell." Even the smells you and I don't find attractive. Maybe to dogs, they ARE attractive, and if I could smell them with a dog's nose and brain, my attitude about those smells would be much different? How do I know that what I perceive as the smell of a dead possum is the same smell to a dog? Maybe to a dog, a dead possum smells like Chanel No. 5. Maybe to a dog, the wonderful smell of what I smell when I smell my lilacs, smells as unpleasant as dead possum to a dog.

Same way with heaven. It is possible if I could "smell" it right now, I would not find the "smell" attractive in my human mind. Or that the smell means nothing to me. It does not trigger anything. Smells are powerful triggers in our existence. Perhaps the "smell of Heaven" generally does not trigger anything to us, and maybe only rarely when we are in the right frame of mind, the right state.

I think maybe we get little whiffs of it now and then.

But meanwhile, I have to trust that at the moment of my death, all will be revealed. I have a notion (and from what I understand, this is also a very Jesuit notion) that at the moment we die, it's more or less like a curtain falls and what we felt was so far away was right there all along, and we now have understanding of it.

I have never bought all the "near-death experience" stuff with the lights and the tunnels and whatnot. There is a part of me that says all that "near-death experience" stuff is just our own endorphins kicking in with our own collected memories. A dream, more or less. I realize a lot of people really cling to these experiences as "proof." Honestly, I think they prove nothing except that our endorphins are powerful things. But I do not simply pooh-pooh them. I wonder sometimes if they are actually icons, archetypes, of something much bigger and incomprehensible, and that the only way our brain can deal with them is to create a common archetype or icon to match the commonalities of all human thought. Sort of like how so many people who saw "space aliens" see little hairless gray-green beings with no hair and big dark eyes.

I am not sure it is a "happy place", either. I think people who have experienced tremendous sadness have a desire for it to be happy, and project an expectation upon it. I have a feeling Heaven is neither sad nor happy. As we say in these parts when we go on vacation and people ask how it was, we say, "It was different." I just think "it's different."

I think the reality of Heaven is much more than visions of lights and tunnels, Biblical descriptions, and a desire for it to be a happy place. That's where faith kicks in. Part of faith is learning to trust I am on a "need to know" basis for it. Part of faith is to concern myself with the things I know are "heaven on earth." Part of faith is to try to BECOME a piece of what we cannot understand. That's a tall enough order as it is, and if I devote my time to it, I don't have to worry what Heaven "is" because I will already be connected to it.


For me heaven will be leaving an isolated existence as a single "human" and rejoining the font of energy of which we are a mere small portion. This being created around this body of cells will no longer be and instead will be like a bucket of water poured back into the ocean. Hell would be an eternity as an isolated spirit - kept apart from the God energy that is love.

It's interesting that you and I also see Hell as a similar "isolation"...a being "cut from the herd" phenomenon. Also interesting that what you are describing as heaven, that is how I would describe the font of energy that I imagine as "how prayer works." Yet until you desribed it as such, I would have never equated that font as "heaven", per se!

It was a very interesting discussion, wasn't it?

I loved your analogy about the smell's we can't smell but our dogs can . . . and your point that it might not even be pleasant to us in our current existence. It opened up my thinking a bit to read that.

It's interesting. I also think of hell as distance from God . . . and I interpret the whole "lake of burning fire" thing as a metaphor to describe the pain of distance from God.

I wonder why I think of heaven in the same metaphoric way? Probably a carry-over from that durn Baptist brainwashing.

I've just discovered your blog through the "virtual Eucharist" discussion - I expect I'll stay up too late tonight, catching up on it!

I think Heaven will be different for each person. I believe one of the reasons God starts us out on earth is to develop our own unique selves without the overwhelming, constant knowledge of God's immediate presence. (As I see it, it's part of free will.) We are supposed to develop our own unique relationship with God, by our own choice, at the same time. But since each of us has been growing more distinct from everyone else through life, we'll continue that development in Heaven. Different people will need different things, so that it may be happy for some, restful for others (as in all those old hymns), but difficult or frightening for people who haven't developed their own individual self and unique relationship with God. I don't think anyone is "made" to stay in Heaven if they don't want to, and if someone is so alien to God that God's naked presence is painful, the separation of hell might be what they need.

I liked where you said, "Part of faith is learning to trust I am on a "need to know" basis for it." If you haven't read CS Lewis' _The Great Divorce_, you'd probably like it.

Welcome CarynW. Have fun perusing the blog. I tend to get on runs of posting every three days or so, just so you know the temporal "feel" of the place.

I read a ton of CS Lewis years ago as a 20-something year old; it is probably time for me to re-read it as I head into the half-century mark!

CarynW - as I read your comment I was already getting ready to bring up The Great Divorce which I just read and posted about on my blog. Perhaps you'll also consider checking it out. Then you can REALLY stay up late!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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