Sitting with Arlyne, my son, and his family one evening, we came up with this thought: If there is a heaven, we thought, what would we see there and what would we like to do when we get there? Now perhaps truly religious people have it all figured out ahead of time, knowing who gets there and what heaven is like. Now I’ve been an engineer most of my life, a naturalist, a birdwatcher, a lover of history and a lot of other things. I am not religious but sometimes I wonder about heaven. I’ve had thoughts about this over many years, not just now that I’m old. I don’t want to offend everyone with my thoughts on heaven but I’m sure I’ll offend someone. Sorry, it can’t be helped. (By the way, I thought getting older would take longer)
WHAT IS HEAVEN? The subject of heaven just doesn’t come up very often in my family and I’m sure my thoughts are not the same as my family. But we went around the room that night and thought about it. None of us actually expressed an opinion about what heaven would look like. So I thought: Could it really be clouds, angels, shining lights and loved ones that got there before us? Perhaps. There are over 4000 religions in our world. Which afterlife will we go to? Only the one that WE believe in? Will people from all religions go to the same place? Will we lose our identities completely and become floating, flying, amorphous, happy beings? It appears from my brief research that there are rivers and trees and mountains and animals in heaven……and streets. What are they for? Are they really paved with gold, as some say? Nobody knows. Most descriptions of heaven have animals grazing in peaceful fields. Do animals retain their characteristics in heaven? Are they happy too? Do they go to heaven at all? Nobody really knows. Is there really a heaven at all? Believe me, nobody knows.
THE SIZE OF HEAVEN. I’ve sometimes wondered how many people would fit in heaven, or New Earth or New Jerusalem, as it is sometimes called. A college psychology professor of mine once told my class that his study of the bible found that (somewhere in there) the dimensions of heaven are provided. He said the dimensions are given in “stadia”, which is an archaic unit but is known to be about 600 feet. In other words, heaven is finite, at least according to Christianity, one of the world’s larger religions. My professor said that if all the people (and perhaps animals) that have died went to heaven, it would be over 1/3 full. That was 50 years ago. Some people say heaven will hold 39 billion people. It seems to me that in some future time, not that far off, heaven will be full. What then? Are we all going to be the size of atoms? Will we have no size? College professors are supposed to make us think, aren’t they?
I could go on with the questions, but what I really wanted to do was imagine what I would want to see and do in heaven. So, for this experiment, I decided that there is a heaven of some kind and a supreme being. I suppose this leaves out reincarnation. That’s something I have no real thoughts about.
MY CURRENT LIST. Almost all religions (or belief systems) accept that their supreme being can do anything and everything. I took this premise and came up with the following thoughts about heaven and what I would like to do there. Your list is probably not at all like mine. I’ll take Arlyne with me wherever I go, if she wants to.
- I’d like to experience and relive all the greatest, most memorable, wonderful and enjoyable moments in my life. Over and over again if possible. Whenever I want. This means being able to go back in time. Almost every faithful believer accepts that they can see their loved ones from the past. If can see loved ones from the past, my going back to experience the past seems entirely reasonable. I have very few regrets about what I have done in my life so I don’t really need to change anything. Probably can’t anyway.
- So I would like to go back in time (see No. 1) – to see my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents as I knew them when they were alive (if I did) plus when they were young people. Maybe see my great-great-great-great-great grandparents. Sheep farmers, I think.
- I’d like to go back and see the dinosaurs and other early animals, hear them and smell them and watch them. They were here for a long time. What a great experience that would be. I would like as well, to see the turbulent, volcanic beginnings of earth. I could spend a long time watching these things. After all, they took millions of years to happen.
- I would like to go back in time – to witness and resolve famous mysteries such as Stonehenge, the building of the pyramids, the extinction of the dinosaurs and a whole lot of other things.
- I would ask someone (God?) about the big bang. With billions of people in heaven already, how would I ever get to ask him anything?
- I would like to talk to the animals and hear what they have to say. I’m sure there will be some surprises. I’d like to talk in their languages, not mine. (MORE)
- I’d like to talk to former world figures: Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Crazy Horse, Napoleon, George Washington, etc., etc. Could I talk with them? Who knows? I would perhaps like to talk with great thinkers of the past: Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Shakespeare, Jesus, etc. Unless they already know, I’d love to explain the new things that happened after they died; RF communication, TVs, airplanes, satellites, space shuttles, computers, smart phones, fiber optics, etc.
- I’d like to travel all over the world, everywhere and see every last part of the earth. Including the center. There are places that I just couldn’t get to in my life on this earth. In heaven, I hope I can see the places I missed.I’d like to travel to see the other planets in our solar system and see other planets in other solar systems, other galaxies. Are we alone in the universe? (I don’t think so) Do black holes really exist? Are there other universes? Can I do these things in a finite heaven? I want to see living beings on other worlds.
- In my limited study of other people’s views of heaven, I see enormous value placed on earthly riches; gold, palaces, streets paved with gold, political hierarchies, various levels of heaven I can (and cannot) aspire to, etc. Since I really place very little value on gold, silver, jewels, rubies and other aspects of wealth, I hope I could happily ignore these apparent, popular attributes of heaven.
- DO I REALLY WANT TO GO THERE? If I can’t see, experience or do any and all of these things, what does heaven offer someone like me or anyone else? Do I have to leave behind all the things I love? Do I have to sit under a tree and eat grapes all day? Are there days and nights? Does it rain? Can I ask for these things? Do I have to wait billions or trillions of years before I get there?THE FUTURE. As to the future, I’m not sure I’d like to see it. If heaven is such a wonderful place, with no pain or anxiety or murders or other horrible things, why would I want to see the future or even the on-going present, which will surely be filled with these things? Maybe I wouldn’t be allowed to see the future in heaven. Who knows? The world isn’t going to change just because I die. Do I really want to see my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren grow old and die? What if one turns out to be a great thinker? It’s a complicated concept. I may pass on seeing the future.
I’m still thinking about all of this. I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of things. Just think about heaven yourself. Is it just perfect grapes and perfect endless days or is it something else?
Thanks again, The Drapers (mostly Bob)