May 24, 2010

Child's Concept of Heaven and Hell


I left the shades open at night so I could see the stars. I would lie on my bed, pretending to sleep, with my head pushed all the way into the corner so that I could see up, over, all the way to the stars. I watched them, and I felt them move, and I felt them breath. The stars were my people, and if I just tried hard enough I could walk among them.

I sat in the dark, my knees curled up against my chest, watching the sky. The planets together made stars, the stars together made galaxies, the galaxies together made the universe. Could there, then, be other universes, that spun with our own and sent out their own tendrils of existence? Could a universe, not a planet, not an individual, but an seemingly infinite spread of stars, be the plaything of a deity? If there could be infinite stars, why not infinite universes, spawned from the droplets of a universe cloud that sent out tiny, heavy particle that begat another big bang.

When I died, I would have my own universe. We all would have our own universe, our own world, where all understanding is known and the entirety can play out before our eyes. Where we can see the souls of the stars as easily as the people, feel the voice in the vacuum as well as in sound. When a tree falls in the woods of our carefully crafted universe, we can hear it.

The universe I live in, as I watched over my world, looked rather a lot like my grandmother's apartment in Florida. I suppose that is what happens, when one's heaven is the stuff of dreams.

There were nights when I could do little but ponder the future. It would be nice to be omniscient, but even in death, would it be possible? And how could I reconcile the simultaneous truth of all religions with their numerous contradictions? I would read by day, texts of what could be, words that I didn't know piled into sentences with structures beyond my grasp. I wanted a pattern, a similarity, a simple this is what is and was and will be that seemed constantly inescapable. A heaven of angels seemed no more realistic than my universe of gods, waiting for the final day of reckoning seemed rather less likely than the lot of us walking, gray and soulless, through a refugee's world before flying towards the sun and dissolving to Dust.

I thought too much for a child. I thought so much that I knew that I thought too much, and elected to leave the issue of where we went up to the individual.

I would go to a heaven of my own, and use my time to visit the heaven of all I knew. My grandmother could sit with Jesus in the clouds, Aunt Joan could settle herself fully into the memory of each individual and meddle, my dog could trail me loyally while plucking milkbones from midair, we could have houses for the homeless, and the entire world would get what they needed, what they expected.

But the expectations began to push against each other. What heaven do you give the criminal, what haven is allowed to a wicked man? Does the remarried widower live with two wives? I suppose that, with infinite days, each wife has infinite time, but there are just as many restless nights, alone. And then, if we are given what we expect, is the atheist truly allowed to desist?

I did not know. I did not like that I did not know. I eventually discovered, however, that I would be much better off, overall, if I was willing to wait.

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