Happy New Year, First Drafters: Return of the Question Thread

I have a friend who has a version of heaven that I like.

Those of you who’ve been reading here for a while know that I’ve changed my status with Jesus so many times Facebook added a “oh, just get it together already” option just for us. This year’s expected spiritual booty call kind of never arrived, or I missed it, or it got subsumed with how we’re all going to be mean to refugees because there’s nothing dissonant THERE. I’ll probably sneak back into the party come Easter. It’s complicated, okay?

And thus discussion of the afterlife bore me witless.

Look, if you need to be talked into acting right with a threat or a bribe, you are either an infant or deserve to be talked to like one. If I am storing up riches in heaven I am not thinking about right here and now, and we could all stand to talk a little less about our promised rewards in terms of being able to give a cosmic middle finger to the unrighteous and neener-neener that we inherited the earth after all. The conversation always sounds so mean and revenge-minded and pointless, focused on the faraway.

Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Not later, not when Jesus comes back (His time management sucks balls, which is one of the reasons we broke up in the first place), not when God talks to you through shrubbery and arson. Now. I love the language of faith but have the impatience of atheism: Punch it, assholes, this is all we’ve got. Move like you have a purpose.

I do have a friend who has a version of heaven I like a lot, though.

Goes like this: You go back to wherever you were the happiest. Whatever time/place/moment/people/situation made you the most unambiguously, purely happy. If you lived a good and decent life that is where you go. No singing angels, no harps, no St. Peter passing judgment, no hordes of virgins, no ascendance or descendance or reincarnation. Just you, where you were happiest.

Where is that, for you?

For me, it’s one of two places, I think. It’s a room in a windowless basement, with a couple of smelly couches and piles of paper flung everywhere. Everything is broken and I’m poor and I’m sick and I’m fighting a fight I don’t know if I can win, and I’m more scared than I’ve ever been.

I’m sitting on the couch and Doc and Mr. A are in chairs facing me with their feet up on the couch cushions beside me. It’s cold and the air smells like wet notebooks, like dust and linoleum polish. I make some joke and they laugh, loud and long. I don’t remember the day or the joke or what we were wearing or why it was funny. I just remember how it felt to hear them laugh.

The other place I think of, when I think of feeling like that, is my grandmother’s back porch. She lived a few blocks from my elementary school and I would walk there on Wednesday afternoons, slam open the back gate, run up the path past the apple trees and into what we all called the patio, a screened-in room, where there was a tiny black and white TV and a large metal swing. She’d be sitting on it, waiting for me. I can still see her smile.

That would be a heaven I’d work for, that if I was lucky enough to get there, would feel like a divine reward.


6 thoughts on “Happy New Year, First Drafters: Return of the Question Thread

  1. I remember someone telling me that the lower your lows are, the higher your highs can be. Like you, A, my best moments are probably those little sparks of relief in the times when things were Absolutely Completely Shit.

    The first year and a half of my undergraduate career were on a full scholarship at the University of Minnesota, during which I took 18, 16, and 19 credits per semester, mostly upper-level courses. The few excellent people I did meet I didn’t have any time to form friendships with because I did nothing but work. I was miserable. My “we’re totally just on hiatus” high school boyfriend – we’d begun making wedding plans – told his friends he’d dumped me and bothered to let me in on that a few days after. I was completely and totally alone and everything was awful. I decided enough was enough and applied to transfer to UW, figuring I could at least get a fresh start.

    To get to UMN from my parents’, we drove to the end of our street and turned right. To get to UW, we drove to the end of our street and turned left.

    My happiest moment, I would say, was that very first time I turned left.

    1. I’ve got two:
      1) When I was in high school I would spend the summers working on my grandparent’s farm out on the prairie of Minnesota. I moved a lot when I was a kid, but the farm was always there and I got to drive tractors and bail hay and hang out with my grandfather who was one of the coolest people I’ve ever known.

      2) When I was in college I worked as a whitewater guide during the summers. Getting paid to go camping and row whitewater was about as pure fun as I can imagine.

  2. Well, I’m totally irreligious, but if there were one place I could envision as heaven, it’d have to be South Fork of Cave Creek Cañon in the Chiricahua Mountains.

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