99 What is so good about heaven? 8 Dec 2020
You know the song, “Is there Mogen David in heaven? If not, who the __ wants to go?” There is a reverent way of looking at the lyrics. They anticipate that heaven is a pleasant sensation akin to the effect of mild intoxicants. The very question suggests that both items are favorable and asks assurance that they will be enjoyed together.
There are countless portrayals of heaven as the place of rest—but nicer than the grave. They appeal to the human sense of overwhelm. We seek an end to stress, relief from external pressure to perform. I compare this to sleep that follows physical or mental overexertion. When my body hurts like one gigantic bruise, or I am trembling with inadequacy, sinking into sleep feels like the most constructive state imaginable, peaceful heaven.
We vary in our degree of discontent. In article 84 I likened the Buddhist concept of suffering to anything that is not in its highest state of being. I acknowledge the infinite extent of the good that is yet to be done, the progress that lies ahead. Trying to understand all of it in one present moment is overwhelm far beyond human capacity. In the face of all shortcomings combined, we idealize anything else. In place of “suffering” we are tempted to choose “nothing.” Momentarily, our only wish is to be relieved of burden, no matter what.
Not so simple
I have carefully used words intended to describe panic. It is never the sum or the end of existence. After experiencing adequate nutrition and sufficient quality sleep, I no longer want to lie in bed. The consummate relief has passed satiety. Being further confined to inactivity would be a new suffering. People who are mentally crushed languish in bed, but for the rest of us other delights beckon. Following exhaustion, rest is a welcome contrast. Following that rest, there must necessarily be another contrast. Activity and inactivity are valuable when they alternate; each is a foil for the other. This is hinted in article 91 as making the best fit.
This blog is permeated with appeals to find balance. Sleep and food provide the easy illustrations. Since life consists of more than these two elements, we do well to expand our appreciation of the omnipresent need for variety which is the alternation of activity and inactivity, of exertion and rest. With a few more examples, we will apply that principle even to heaven. Atheists join this nontheist in appreciating the metaphorical language here that theists possibly apply literally.
The simplistic scenario is that you work hard in this life and graduate to eternal rest. Articles 51 and 52 extended that from a single occurrence to an infinite cycle that repeats at higher orders. To think otherwise is to work hard one day and then stay in bed all day every day ever after--a weird concept of heaven. The opposite is tolerable and desirable. Indeed, permanent stasis is death, and it is reasonable struggle that keeps us alive.
A Twilight Zone episode focused on a gangster in the afterlife who was given everything he requested, including indulgence and licentiousness. When he was bored with successful bank heists, the administration built in probability of success to keep him entertained. Eventually even that bored him, and he burst out in complaint. At that point he was informed that the place was not Heaven.
A Dr. Who episode showed a sarcophagus-style structure studded with talking faces who complained that being trapped in eternal life was a curse, not a blessing.
Can you imagine an energetic producer of streams of successes who can tolerate suddenly having unvariegated peace and serenity plopped down on her? Is forced inactivity a blessing? Can you strum a harp forever?
Less simple Heaven
Article 52 suggested letting me describe heaven and sending me to the place I describe. The above gangster probably received that treatment. In this life we call his condition prison. Items were supplied but he could not actively pursue meaning. In contrast, in article 88 I describe the pattern I anticipate. According to life forces I already experience, my reward is not an abstract remote place. It is rather a condition I call joy.
The next life stage is not so different from the present one. It is an extension. I seek there what I seek here: reasoned outcomes, challenges with possibility of failure, growth, change, variety, individual identity, meaning, choice with consequences, and achievement.
Applied here and now
This article grows from the seed in article 15 discussing peak motivation. We work harder for others than for ourselves because we are needed. I intend to stay motivated in my next estate which is often called heaven. The blessing we call work only starts in this life. It is an eternal privilege.
Some people worry that others will not work as hard as they do. They look down on “freeloaders.” The viewpoint overlooks the fact that work is so much joy that it characterizes heaven. Healthy people engage voluntarily. People who become so discouraged as to stay in bed all day are crying for an entry into the present heaven of being needed. As a society we can revise our passive model of everything-supplied heaven with a realization that being motivated together brings us into our active heaven starting now. It is good.
Do you want to go to the beautiful next stage of human progress? Not limited by any theology, what would you like next? Don’t just long for relief from something unpleasant. Instead, increase what is pleasant. Too much rest is boring. Anticipation and realization keep us alive—forever! Enjoy preparing your future!