Monday, August 31, 2009

heaven


The beach front is pretty much unrecognizable this morning with the fog that is blanketing the water. The Alki Statue of Liberty seems to be waving at no one in particular. Everything is a pale gray backdrop to the street side monuments and the people walking by. I suppose it could be a bit like a scene from heaven if you believe that we’ll be walking through clouds in the afterlife. I don’t. So there you are. I certainly believe in an afterlife, it’s kind of a requirement for my line of work, but the whole cloud thing is not part of my vision. To be honest, I’ve not thought too deeply about what it might be like. Every time I attempt to it seems that some Hollywood depiction seeps into my brain and waters everything into silliness. Personally, if it’s something Hollywood was able to recreate, then it wouldn’t be all that impressive.
I remember watching “What Dreams May Come”….actually I think that I own that one. The imagery that I’m left with of heaven because of that film is people floating and flying oddly about, the grass smearing away like melted crayons, and Cuba Gooding Jr. walking around naked, but blurry. I only bought the movie because I love the depiction of Hell. Not that I’m a fan of Hell, but I think it has some interesting concepts that might be closer to how I imagine it. Then, I’m almost ashamed to admit, the Warren Beatty film, “Heaven Can Wait”. That’s got the whole cloud thing going….not very much imagination.
Any vision that I have of heaven comes from the only place that I’ve ever seen anything recorded significantly on the subject, apart from those “I died for 45 minutes” books that are in the spiritual section of a Barnes and Noble. I’m referring to the Book of Books and all of the descriptions of heaven that are contained there. Specifically, I like to turn to the section at the end in the book called Revelation, chapter 20 to be exact. It’s a fascinating, very vivid picture of gold and jewels and walls and gates and all that. It’s interesting to note that there are no clouds though, no smearing, melted crayon, grass, no floating or flying, and no Cuba Gooding Jr’s blurry backside.
There is plenty of singing though. That used to be the worst part of it for me. I can’t sing to save my life, but I like doing it now a whole lot more than I used to. It’s a good thing too because what I see in earlier descriptions of heaven, there is a bunch of singing, almost non stop and church like, only without the organ. It’s like one cosmic, eternally long, church worship service, except it’s a really good one that you don’t ever want to end. Now do you understand why I have a hard time imagining it? I do find it interesting that most people that I encounter express either a desire or an expectation of being in heaven when they die, but an enormous amount of them wouldn’t hardly consider going to church now when they’re here on earth. If you couldn’t stand it for an hour here in this life, why in the world would you ever want it for eternity in the next. I guess maybe they figure it’s better than the alternative of being in hell. Obviously they haven’t been in some of the church services that I’ve been in. They also express a dislike for “church people”. Obviously they aren’t aware that many of those same people will be there when they get there. After being a pastoral artist for the past 17 years, I’m counting on a few missing that train though.
Most of us are too busy surviving this life to seriously consider the next one, that’s why we like Hollywood to fill in the gaps. It keeps us from thinking. We only think about our own mortality when we get to witness someone else’s…. or when we run into the fog.

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