Saturday, February 11, 2006
Maybe it is because I am getting older but I find myself wondering more and more about heaven, and if there is in fact any such thing.

My rational self says it is fantasy, designed to help people deal with their fear of death, but I wonder.

When my mother died I could have sworn my father was in the room. My brother felt the same thing. There we were looking at his picture by her bedside and I swear his eyes were shining. Was it grief or desire or a trick of light? Maybe.

When my grandmother Florence died her last words were Thank you Jesus I am catching the Train to Happiness. She, unlike me, never doubted.

A friend of mine suggested I read Mitch Albom's book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I usually don't read that kind of thing, but it was a short book so I decided I would check it out. I loved the book and it made me ask the question: what would my idea of heaven be?

Oklahoma circa 1958. I am a kid looking for crawdads with my Daddy. We are going to go fishing with my grandparents and in his nasal Okie accent he is singing You get a line and I'll get a pole honey...You get a line and I'll get a pole babe...You get a line and I'll get a pole and we'll go fishin in a crawdad hole...honey baby mine.

Silly but true.

Albom's book begins with the death of an old man named Eddie who dies trying to save a little girl's life and who believes his own life has been a waste. Then he meets the five people...his five people in heaven...who help him see the purpose to his life and make him understand that all of us are connected to one another and each of us have our own special place in heaven.

So, if there is a heaven, what would yours be?


who, me? said...

I've been thinking about all that, myself, things like, Do we just make up a loving God, or heaven, or Christmas, to make ourselves feel better?

Well, just how wondrous and miraculous is it that we even have that capacity!

And frankly, a serious doctrine of resurrection and final judgment is not the first-line comfort I would go for, if I were making it up.

A friend's mother, never much for saying anything positive, dying the other day at 97 reported in a voice of great confidence, "It's all right. I'm in God's hands, now."

This is an interesting one.

terrye said...

who me:

It is interesting that most people do believe in an after life, from ancient times to present day.

Buddy Larsen said...

What a conflict.

On the one hand, the idea is very convenient and pat, and clearly human ingenuity and need would 'invent' such an idea.

On the other hand, as Terrye says, a very great number of people --far finer, deeper, smarter, and more adept than I -- have throughout history been convinced of its existence.

Buddy Larsen said...

Remember "Cool Hand Luke"? Luke had maybe one person in his whole life who loved him rather than just used him, just used his iconoclasm for their own reflected light: His mom. When she died, Luke was occupying himself with something or other, softly singing

"I don't care if it rains or freezes,
long as I got my plastic Jesus,
sittin' on the dashboard of my car...."

and on like that. Still pretty touching to remember, even if it was just Hollywood.

chuck said...

There are many books and articles out there that make the point that religion is some sort of barbaric superstition not based on any facts. I would posit that religion is actually based on experience: people have mystical experiences, they do sometimes see spirits.

Now, one can argue as to the nature of these experiences and offer alternative explanations, but at its core, I think religion *is* fact based in that it is based on real experience.

Seneca the Younger said...

Whatever you imagine, the Deity will have imagined it better.

truepeers said...

Heaven i have trouble imagining, but i intuitively think, like Terrye, that it must be a place where all are connections become apparent and are allowed to grow in that light.

terrye said...


Does the spirit precede us?

truepeers said...

Terrye, the spirit was certainly in the world before we got here but what it's doing when we're reunited with the father, i'm not sure. What do you think?

Syl said...

Well, I don't know and don't want to think about it too much. If there isn't a heaven it won't matter when you're dead--you won't know it.

It's the dying part. And it seems that people who have been clinically dead and come back report various things in 'their death'. Perhaps what you wish for is what you see as you are dying.

Then, when you're actually dead, it either really exists and you're there or you made it up and there is nothing, but of course you don't know that because in that case you'd be nothing too.

I feel guilty for lots of things and hope I can meet those to whom I want to apologize so I can. I was thinking about this the other night and it hit me if there is no afterlife, I will never be able to apologize. I almost cried. Then it hit me that that also means that those to whom I wish to make an apology don't exist in an afterlife at all
and that made me feel even worse.

My assumption being, of course, that they'd accept my apology. :)

But the universe is sooooo big and we seem sooooo insignificant that it seems soooooo strange that we're even here at all that it seems even stranger if we were all to simply poof when we die.

So I believe, cause I choose to, that we came from somewhere and we will go back.

Buddy Larsen said...

even if it's only stardust, it's still pretty magnificent that stardust can regard itself at all, and whether it's for eternity or just for a brief wink of time we cannot know--but to me, the brief wink of time will concentrate one's mind more wonderfully than will an eternity offering endless time in which to continue procrastinating.

Kurt Vonnegut, in his better days, wrote in one of his wonderful early sci-fi's, a prayer in which he thanked the Great Spirit for letting him be "sitting-up mud, for awhile". Nice optic, nice thought.

Seneca the Younger said...

When Earth's last picture is painted and the tubes are twisted and dried,
When the oldest colours have faded, and the youngest critic has died,
We shall rest, and, faith, we shall need it -- lie down for an aeon or two,
Till the Master of All Good Workmen shall put us to work anew.
And those that were good shall be happy; they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comets' hair.
They shall find real saints to draw from -- Magdalene, Peter, and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

And only The Master shall praise us, and only The Master shall blame;
Andd no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame,
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They are!

(Kipling's "When Earth's Last Picture Is Painted" 1892 - L'Envoi To "The Seven Seas")

Buddy Larsen said...

Lord a mercy, Kipling can stand up the hairs aback a neck.

In the late 60s, no English prof could be found a-campus who'd not snort and guffaw at the mere mention of Kipling, the white-supremacist colonial exploiter and war-glorifier.

What fools, he's the precise opposite, on all counts. No irony in a lefty, sad that so many presume to teach subjects in which it is the very essence.

not only that, but the pure pleasure of those cadences, and the imagery, and the love of common doing.

gumshoe1 said...

not really "Heaven" related,
but not OT:

"Now, one can argue as to the nature of these experiences and offer alternative explanations, but at its core, I think religion *is* fact based in that it is based on real experience."

Chuck -

while i can't think of anything
sadder than the nihilism of PoMo
and the denial of shared meaning
(their attack on objectivity and facts of any kind)...

i have myself discovered this truth:

there *is* an outer,objective world.
there *is* an inner world of
experience each of us posseses.

denying either is a recipe
for madness.

gumshoe1 said...

"I feel guilty for lots of things and hope I can meet those to whom I want to apologize so I can. I was thinking about this the other nightand it hit me if there is no afterlife, I will never be able to apologize. I almost cried. Then it hit me that that also means that those to whom I wish to make an apology don't exist in an afterlife at all and that made me feel even worse."

Syl -

your post made me think of this:

see if you can find an full mp3
of the Richard Thompson song,
"How I Wanted To"

there's a short clip at this link:


it has the air of regrets
your post brought up,and
it's about telling someone we care about,
that we love them,
yet can't say the words.

it's very moving.

the full lyrics are here...


Doug said...

peers, 12:29 PM
Is just trying to make the rest of us feel better, since he already has all that stuff WIRED right here on earth!

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

I think y'all would be interested in the excellent Japanese movie AFTER LIFE (1998). It takes place in a halfway house between this world and heaven. The newly deceased stay there while choosing the one memory of their lives that they want to preserve forever. That one memory will be their heaven.

Buddy Larsen said...

Tagline: What is the one memory you would take with you?

Plot Summary: After people die, they spend a week with counselors, also dead, who help them pick one memory, the only memory they can take to eternity.

Cast overview, first billed only:
Arata .... Takashi Mochizuki, counsellor
Erika Oda .... Shiori Satonaka, trainee counsellor
Susumu Terajima .... Satoru Kawashima, counsellor
Takashi Naitô .... Takuro Sugie, counsellor
Kyôko Kagawa .... Kyoko Watanabe, Ichiro's Wife
Kei Tani .... Kennosuke Nakamura, boss
Taketoshi Naitô .... Ichiro Watanabe, who cannot choose his favourite experience
Toru Yuri .... Gisuke Shoda, who talks about sex
Yusuke Iseya .... Yusuke Iseya, who refuses to choose his experience
Sayaka Yoshino .... Kana Yoshino, talks about Disneyland
Kazuko Shirakawa .... Nobuko Amano, who talks about her affair with a married man
Kotaro Shiga .... Kenji Yamamoto, who wants to forget his past
Hisako Hara .... Kiyo Nishimura, old lady who loves cherry blossoms
Sadao Abe .... Ichiro (as young man)
Natsuo Ishido .... Kyoko Watanabe as a young woman

(*bolding mine*) I like to see myself as Iseya, but I'm probably more like Nishimura, babbling on about some motif in the minor key, ha!

truepeers said...

Doug, i'm not sure what stuff you mean, but the stuff i think you mean is not hard wired. Nothing about religion or language is hard wired. Whether God creates man or man creates God, it is not a case of biological wiring or gradual evolution. REligion only exists among us; it is not encoded in us, biologically. Individual prayer is not a primary religious situation; it's a residue of a collective religious situation. If all humanity is destroyed but for one babe who somehow survives, that babe will have no language or religion growing up.

Religion and language can only be created in a group situation. Now that you have language, you can create your own private language, but it will be just gibberish to me. Arbitrarily chosen linguistic signs are only not gibberish to me if we share together in the culture that links us to the meaningful moment of those signs' birth. That's what religion remembers. In the beginning was the word...

Buddy Larsen said...

"The Word" is more than the graphic or the spoken sound, it requires a sender and a receiver--or the 'more than me' that the ancient writings continually drive at.

Doug said...

11:43 AM
I rest my case.

Doug said...

Preacher Man
Jack Welch's Memories to the present.
...or a present from Jack Welch.

truepeers said...

Doug, you can rest, but i don't know where... What i said can be, and is, affirmed equally by the religious and the secular. In that sense, it is i hope an honest combination of reason and faith.

Doug said...

Where I rest, it's harder to understand and know as much in those realms as you.
...I suppose there's some field of arcana where the reverse is true.
Sure easy to be moved by terrye's memories.

Buddy Larsen said...

Yeh--she be warm, warm.