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On going to Heaven
The attraction of perfection
God has placed in each of His human creatures a natural reluctance to go to Heaven. That is, going to Heaven right now hardly ever seems like a timely idea to most of us. And this is odd, because Heaven is, after all, our goal, our reward for the tribulations that God sends our way here on Earth. And it's odd because Heaven is everything we wish for or could wish for.Abstract:
I confess that I share this reluctance, but also that I long for the perfection of that place. I would like it to be just like in the hymns: Magnificent gates made of pearl. St.Peter greets me with a slightly quizzical smile and a wink, as if to say it wasn't a sure thing. He gets out his keys to the Kingdom, opens the pearly gate, and I enter on streets paved with purest gold. All around I hear Hosannahs sung by innumerable hordes of white-robed beings. I've just stopped to admire the gold and the Hosannahs, when a gentle but firm hand on my back guides me ahead. It's a smiling angel. I smile back.
He says, "Come with me."Seems I've heard this term before, but I can't place it. But I'm excited. I look forward to being made ready for Heaven. I'm led to a sort of clinic with pastel walls and Neil Diamond music. A kind of transition to Heaven, as I understand it. A nurse in a white cap leads me to an auditorium already crowded with new arrivals. I find a seat and wait, expectantly.
An elderly gent with a gold robe and a halo materializes on the stage. At first I think it's Jesus himself, but he identifies himself as an Archangel. (Of course, after millions of years of operation, Archangels in Heaven have multiplied like cardinals in the Vatican. He's not one of the famous ones. He's the Archangel in Charge of Heavenly Orientation Operations – "ACHOO".) He runs this Adaptation Center. He begins to instruct us, to transform us into beings a little closer to the angels.
The ACHOO tells us that big changes are in store for us. We have left behind the world of woes and cares, of conflict and war, of hunger, poverty and disease, of sin and evil, of unhappiness and sorrow, of pain and suffering. But now we'll get our reward. I'm motivated to ask a question: "Why was God's World a world of woes and cares, of conflict and war, of hunger, poverty and disease, of sin and evil, of unhappiness and sorrow, of pain and suffering?" But there's no Question Period. The ACHOO continues with a bouncy description of what we can expect. It's basically the negation of all the evils we suffered in God's World. Again my hand is half up to get clarification: "Isn't the designer of this world the same as of the one we just left? The one with the sin and evil, the unhappiness and sorrow ...?" But again, there's no Question Period.
The ACHOO is warming to his task. He explains the joys of non-conflict. In Heaven, everyone agrees. Not that it matters, because we are freed from the obligation to think for ourselves. This, full faith in our leader's – God's – ability to think for us, liberates us from the tyranny of thought. "The tyranny of thought," I think. Well, perhaps the ACHOO is right; thought is difficult and often bothersome.
He goes on to explain that as there is no disagreement in Heaven, there is no need for discussion or debate. And naturally no need for new ideas, since all has been thought of, and all has been decided. No need for solutions, as there are no problems, or for inventions, as there are no lacks. My hand is nearly on its way up again, to ask what we shall be using our brains for, when I sense that the ACHOO is about to answer that very question: On Earth, he tells us, God placed in man's head certain lobes and nodes that were useful for the harsh reality of fending for oneself in the world, but that have some side effects that would just be in the way here in Heaven. Such as, for example, the tendency to be dissatisfied with one's lot, to look for improvements, to come up with ideas that question established doctrine, and above all, to tend to dispute with others who have differing opinions. But, says the ACHOO, since there is no need for those features here – useful though they were on Earth – they will now be painlessly removed as part of the Heavenly adaptation process. We won't miss our worldly psychology a bit, says the ACHOO; won't even remember we had it.
Most importantly, our happiness nodes will be left intact. The capacity to feel happiness is guaranteed for eternity. "Oh, one more thing," remarks the ACHOO, "to show we're not just taking things out: For those of you who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket – from now on your Hosannahs will be right on pitch. And the implant includes skill on the harp! Now, if you'll just line up by the blue door in the hall, the nurse will process you through the adaptation."
Standing in line in the hallway I can see, through the windows, new arrivals guided from the pearly gate to the Adaptation Center. They look relieved but a little uncertain, perhaps uncertain about their happiness. And from the back of the Center I see issuing forth a stream of processed adaptees, walking slowly, each wearing a white robe and a wan smile. No uncertainty here, no worries, no unruly and bothersome thoughts. They're not human, but they're happy. They – that is, we – shall feel total happiness and peace, and nothing but, for century upon century upon century ...
"Well," think I: "We've wished for it. I guess we asked for it."
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