July 23rd, 2021
I think that heaven can be a dangerous idea.
Before I take you there, though, let’s talk about the benefits of believing in an everlasting life.
At its base, the belief that life never truly ends helps appease what William James calls the “worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight,” which is the perpetual knowledge that we all are going to die.
That’s not a bad thing. For many, it means they can move past the objective truth that death is going to take us all; for minutes, hours, or days at a time, they can ignore the truth of the dead, allowing them to focus instead on those aforementioned delights.
“The unfolding of any given life is beyond prediction. The final fate of any given life is a foregone conclusion.” Brian Greene puts to words what is primally printed on our subconscious. You didn’t choose it, and you can’t escape it.
You are going to die.
And it’s the complex thoughts and emotions we tie to this fact that inspired the idea that maybe we don’t. (Though, don’t get me wrong, you do and you will.)
So why do I think that can be dangerous?
Because it is, at its worst, the infinite excuse.
When you think you are going to live forever, you can allow yourself to skip the hard things in life that are important to do.
You don’t worry about saying those words to that person — because you’ll see them in the hereafter, anyways.
You don’t try to fix the thing that you broke or repair the relationship that is cracked but not altogether destroyed — because what will it matter in the afterworld?
You dismiss the ideas of guilt and regret because they belong to this plane; in turn, you remove yourself from the responsibility of living on it.
Basically, you’re a spiritual billionaire, rocketing off to a unmapped place among the stars, uninterested in the world you’ve decided is below you.
And that, to me, is dangerous. An odd cocktail of intentional ignorance and bliss.
So that’s why I seek it out on earth. I try to find it in words and in music and in animals and always, always in other people.
We are going to die. That is certainly true.
But it is possible that we can find a little bit of heaven here before we go.