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.