05 November 2007

Heaven on My Mind

There is so much suffering in the world.

There is joy too. And people who will say they have never known joy.

But everyone seems to know suffering.

Belief in Heaven begins to make sense. For some it becomes the only way to endure Life.

I used to say I didn't believe in Heaven. Gradually, of course--since I really meant the concept of a celestial city full of light and music, where a paternal divinity waits to meet me after I die IF I have earned entry, has no resonant meaning for me--I stopped saying I didn't believe in Heaven.

decided I liked the word. I reclaimed it. I understood it as a state of being, experienced Now rather than Later--albeit not a state I experience with sustained regularity.

Thinking about it tonight, I wondered why.

It could be simply the constant flux inherent to being human. Nothing lasts forever. A lot of things don't last long. The fiery burst of autumn trees. The breathless enthrall of first love. The first bite of a new loaf right out of the oven.

Mark Twain said, "Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company. " That Twain....such a playful curmudgeon.

But what's the difference between believing there will be surcease of suffering at the end of life and perceiving intermittent surcease in life? What difference does it make in the lives we live now? Are we better or worse people? More or less generous, industrious or kind?

The last week has been rough for me and, apparently, also for a lot of friends and acquaintances. Driving home tonight I thought about our suffering. About particular moments so densely saturated with suffering that it is actually difficult to draw a breath. The death of a loved one. The end of a relationship. The loss of a home.

A belief in a heavenly afterlife can inspire the next breath for those who believe. The belief compels them forward, even into yet another encounter with suffering. They keep going because God is waiting for them.

My next breath comes upon remembering that Heaven is here Now for me. That God is here. This Now Is God. Again, Simone Weil''s words on affliction come to mind:

it is no punishment; it is God holding [my] hand and pressing rather hard. ... buried deep under the sound of [my] own lamentations is the pearl of the silence of God.
I have perhaps shared with you in person, or here, the cherished notion that I touch for inspiration: that I sit always in the lap of God and can at any time lean back and feel the divine heartbeat against my shoulder blades, the breath of God bathing my head and neck. I am granted clear vision and an open heart...though I sometimes forget my endowment.

Heaven is when and where I remember my endowment. Sometimes remembering is triggered by beauty. Sometimes by suffering.

Death might be a final, ultimate remembering.

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