Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A cold beer in heaven.

Below is a poem written and read by Jerry Andrus – the clip is from my documentary, Andrus; the Man, the Mind & the Magic. Of the segments in the film of Jerry reading his poetry, this has to be one of my favorites. I will admit, my wife and I found the concept strikingly thought-provoking.

I think most people believe they will go to heaven when they die. I am sure they believe it to be a wonderfully beautiful and desirable place; but in most cases I don’t believe they put much thought into it beyond that.

For example, many assume they will be reunited with their deceased loved ones. I wonder though; will my mother-in-law still be old and in her wheel chair? No, she will probably be up and walking – but will she still be elderly and overweight with graying hair or will she instead appear like the beautiful girl she was as a bride at age seventeen? Would I even recognize her? Will I recognize my grandparents who died before I was born… my great grandparents… my great great great grandparents?

Will there be reformed bad people in heaven? I am told that sinners who renounce their sin and take Jesus into their hearts will be forgiven and taken into heaven. Does that mean that horrible (former) criminals will be there; child rapists or murderers? Will a father encounter his child’s murderer in heaven? Or would they possibly sit down and have a beer together? (Is there even the joy of a cold beer in heaven, and can it give you a “buzz”?) A place with no cool refreshing beer – it doesn’t sound like my idea of paradise.

Heaven sounds kind of boring! I asked a Mormon missionary who came to my door one time what they thought you did in heaven every day. She said you “learn about god”. Ok, learn about god… month after year after decade after century… forever? Do we get a recess for a billion or two years?

Suppose you were a gifted surgeon whose skill saved lives; your work giving you satisfaction and purpose. But no one in heaven needs your skill. Think of how much of your consciousness is built upon the challenges, risks, disappointments, failures and successes in your life. Take all those experiences from you to where existence is now perfect; where you cannot make anything better or help anyone because no one needs help. How could you stand that for a billion-billion years?

What about things that give us joy on earth now? Do I need a parachute to skydive? I won't die if I don't; there is no risk therefore no "thrill". Do I even need to eat? I certainly won't starve to death or presumably, even get hungry - but I do enjoy eating some foods. Disappointing. Will I need to sleep; will there even be night and day? How can there if there is no sun to revolve around heaven? I think one thing I would truly miss in heaven – sunsets!

One could argue that heaven is beyond our ability to comprehend, an experience far beyond the limits our brains could understand. But what of our consciousness, the genetics and experiences that have constructed the personality that makes each of uniquely individual? Is it not sometimes the little imperfections, quirks, personality of a loved one that endears them to us? How is this consciousness to remain engaged and intact; occupied and challenged, even “sane” for eternity?

The finality of life gives impetus to our existence on earth. I find the idea of heaven very uncomforting, disturbing to me, in fact. Rather, I find comfort instead knowing my body is made up of countless trillions of sub-atomic particles cooked up in the furnaces of stars. They have been assembled in the universe by well understood processes to assemble Me! Entropy will over time return these particles again to be redistributed back into the same universe. Therein lies my immortality.


Gorilla Bananas said...

But the particles that make you are just the hardware. What gives you your identity is the software. What you need is a way of copying your software to another hard drive, like Spock at the end of the first Star Trek movie.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas Indeed, but the software cannot exist outside the hardware (aka: another hard drive)... just as consciousness cannot exist outside the brain. That is what the proponents of a heaven are asking us to believe, that our consciousness can continue on without having a brain/mind. There is no evidence that it can and solid logic that it cannot.

Still, damn I love Star Trek, there were certainly a collection of brilliant minds creating that body of work.

TechnoBabe said...

Do you think the particles that get redistributed go a little bit here and a little bit there so the next places that have bits of what is currently you will be various persons?

Robert the Skeptic said...

TechnoBabe Short answer: sure. Elements comprising the Earth and everything in it get recycled. Cells of our body are replaced, the elements comprising those parts enter and leave our bodies. Gravity keeps most of them on tightly on the earth, but 6 billion years from now our sun will cook this rock and spew much of it out into space.

There Einstein showed us that matter (some of which was us) can be converted into energy... and/or back again. The same processes which coalesced the matter in the vicinity or our sun into our planet and eventually us!

Our distributed elements could become part of another person, another star, another planet. The possibilities are quite elegant.

Anonymous said...

Whew! This makes mybrain hurt, it is hard to conceptualize. I nearly died a few years ago-I had an allergic reaction to morphine and stopped breathing. There was no "white light" or "tunnel" that you hear about. There was just.....nothing until I reagained consciousness through the resuscitation. I think that has affected my belief system as to an afterlife. If anything, I think that the movie "What the *Q(#*) do we know?" showed as good an option as anything-a parallel universe in the time/space continuum. If you haven't seen the movie, I'd recommend it. A bit odd, but very thought-provoking.

Thanks for the post!

Robert the Skeptic said...

BackRow Not to discount in any way your brush with death which clearly would leave a profound impact on anyone... I am familiar with the "What the *Q(#*) do we know" film. This was produced by Tacoma resident J Z Knight who claims to "channel" 35,000 year-old spirit warrior "Ramtha". See:

It's been a pretty good gig for Knight who has made millions by having Ramtha enter her body and give an eager public a lot of New Age feel good babble. Actress Shirley MacLaine has been a lucrative benefactor of Ramtha's blond host, believing she herself was once Cleopatra and reincarnated several times until her recent show biz persona.

Anyway, the "bleep" film has been thoroughly discredited, one review of which you can read here:

It was my understanding that some of the scientists who participated in the film, believing they were contributing to a genuinely scientific discourse, were rather pissed to find their interviews taken out of context.

That aside, Near Death Experiences (NDE's) often leave a profound impact on those who experience them, though much of their effects can be explained through more prosaic explanations. Sounds like a good blog topic in itself!! Sincere thanks for your comments.

secret agent woman said...

The part that always gets me is when people talk about those who have died watching you from heaven. "I know grandma is looking down from heaven right now (sniff)." Really? At any moment she chooses? Or are there times where you are allowed a little privacy like when the camera moved to the curtain fluttering in the window when they had sex on the Truman Show. Because I find that whole being watched idea horrifying.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Secret Agent Maybe YOUR grandma would do such a naughty thing - mine, NEVER!

kara said...

in MY heaven, a shirtless johnny depp fans me with a giant palm as i recline on a beach where it is impossible to get sunburned.

don't take it away from me!

Robert the Skeptic said...

kara OK, you can have your heaven... but I give you two weeks, tops, before you get totally bored.

Murr Brewster said...

I find my own life that much more beautiful with a frame around it.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Murr What could be more appropriate for when the time comes to "hang it all up"!

Murr Brewster said...