Welcome to heaven

What does heaven look like? I’m serious here, lots of us want to go to heaven and yet few (if any) of us know exactly what that means. There are some very vivid descriptions of hell, some faiths are so sure of what hell looks like that there are maps and specific departments in hells bureaucracy all written down for us mortals to read (and be afraid of) and yet no one seems to have a description of heaven! We seem to have very definite ideas about what we don’t want to be experiencing for “eternity” but none of us can give a solid description of what heaven is like. In fact none of us can really give a description of what we want it to be like! Dumb people might say ” heaven is all the money and cars and girls I want” but eternally? And really what fun is a fast car or a girl if it’s not a little dangerous and the one thing everyone agrees about heaven is that it is very, very, very safe.

The only people I know who have a really firm description of what heaven is all about is the band The Talking Heads in their 1979 song “Heaven”

Heaven

Everyone is trying to get to the bar.
The name of the bar, the bar is called heaven.
The band in heaven plays my favorite song.
They play it once again, they play it all night long.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

There is a party, everyone is there.
Everyone will leave at exactly the same time.
It’s hard to imagine that nothing at all
Could be so exciting, and so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

When this kiss is over it will start again.
It will not be any different, it will be exactly
The same.
It’s hard to imagine that nothing at all
Could be so exciting, could be so much fun.

Heaven is a place where nothing every happens.
Heaven is a place where nothing every happens.

What is heaven except the idea that we only experience pleasure over and over continuously? This is like wanting to only ever exhale and never need to inhale, or like hoping only for sunrises without any sunsets. Heaven, as we usually conceive of it is wanting half of reality without the other half. We think all sorts of things will be heaven in this life time the same way. We want that girlfriend who is only ever happy and helpful to us, we want the job that is only fulfilling and well-paying, we think that buying the bigger television will satisfy that gnawing in our minds. Does it ever work out this way? Do we ever get heaven even when we get what we want?

For years I wanted to be super busy at tattooing, I swore up and down that if I could be booked for months I would be the happiest man on earth, I just wanted to stop being afraid of having no money, no business, and no way to look forward with hope to the next piece i was (definitely) going to do. I worked very hard for years to make this dream a reality, I drove myself to brink of a heart attack chasing this dream which i was sure, absolutely sure, would fix my life.

No I am very busy at work, and I do love it, it has changed my life and I can’t believe how lucky and blessed I am, but you know what? Sometimes, if im very honest, I look at that list of people who want to get tattooed and I just want a day off. or a week off, sometimes if I’m very overworked I think, “man, i wanted this so badly so why do I sometimes dread it?!” Ask any honest parent and they will tell you that their children are the center of their world and that they wouldn’t change it for anything but that once in a while they think “It might have been nice to not have kids”. This doesn’t mean that I am ungrateful or that these parents bad people, it’s just the fact that wanting heaven is a whole lot different that getting it.

In Zen Buddhism you learn to accept this very moment not just as the present moment, but as all moments! Past, Future, now all reside only in this very speck of time! If there is a heaven then you are in it right now or you will never be! Even better, you get to decide whether its heaven or hell! Fighting with your brother over some stupid thing, welcome to the gates of hell. Swallowing your pride and letting your friend finish a story even if she got all the details wrong, bingo, the gates of heaven! it takes one moment of compassion to open the gates of Heaven to you 9and everyone in the process0 and it only takes an unkind word, a pull of a trigger, or turning away from compassion to be in hell. “To joyously participate in the sorrows of the world” as Joseph Campbell once said, is the only heaven we can guarantee.

If your heaven is not right here and now then it can only exist in a state of no change, no variety, no unpredictable events. The only things that don’t experience those facts of life are dead objects. In some Tibetan Buddhist theories the people who have attained the “god realms” are only able to remain there as long as they are ignorant. It is only their stupidity keeping them in heaven and then one day they look around and see the other god realm dwellers and the thought enters, “am I as happy as the others” and BOOM! no more heaven for them.

In the same Tibetan tradition the god realm dwellers can’t feel compassion either, nor the demon realm folk or the animals can feel compassion, only us lowly mortals living in the world, can feel compassion.Only us non-heaven dwellers can understand and feel everyone around us as our very selves.

Maybe heaven isn’t feeling good all the time, and maybe it’s not getting what we want. Maybe its stumbling downstairs after turning off the alarm, opening one bleary eye to a sink full of dirty dishes, thinking about that days tattoos and saying to yourself, “yeah, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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Categories: Buddhism and life | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Welcome to heaven

  1. Zo0tie

    Does God allow starships in heaven,
    Can we fight Klingons up there?
    With phasers and photon torpedos,
    And not even muss up our hair.

    Does Starfleet of the Federation,
    Beat all the bad guys they meet?
    Where battles are glorious and no one gets hurt,
    All conflicts wrapped up nice and neat.

    And when all the fighting is over,
    And we’ve locked up all our ray guns,
    Can we all beam down together,
    To Omicron Delta for fun.

    Is there a bar we can go to,
    That serves us green beer and blood wine?
    Where heros and villains can laugh for all time,
    And upon roasted targ we will dine.

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