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.