It's an old photo.

I love staring out the window on planes. Sitting in the aisle opens up to all sorts of problems, like getting your elbow hit by the drink cart, or having someone fart in your face while they wait in line for the bathroom (this really happened to me).
I’ve lived a full life, I know.
The world above the clouds was my first impression of what heaven was like. It’d be all soft and fluffy and we’d all get little harps to strum on.
As a grown up, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed when I look out the window – a feeling of lost innocence. What’s my idea of heaven now? Can people really understand a place of perfection? Is it perfect?

Back in med school, Dave Deleon one day just came out with this:

Dave: I think heaven would be sitting in front of my house, everything’s calm and peaceful, it’s early evening. It’s that feeling of home, a moment when you’re happy. And It’s different for each person.

I kept listening, waiting for something about farts to pop up. Then I realized Dave was having a serious conversation. Oops. Anyways, I thought this was a great concept of heaven, if less glamourous than streets paved with gold and diamonds and armies of angles singing. I liked it.

I think I asked Nancy and Tricia their thoughts. Tricia stuck mostly with Revelations, while Nancy and I got sidetracked discussing her fear of angels (she has a good point- they’re scary! They carry flaming swords and aren’t the cuddly cherubs people make them out to be).

In India, my friends and I met two sisters who joined us in a houseboat (I don’t know how that happened). We had quiet, languid evenings filled with watching lightning bugs. Jorge was curious about what Islam had to say about heaven and so they told us all they knew. All I remembered was that once you died, you were in the grave just waiting for judgement day. And on judgement day you’d be tested by an angel (see! Nancy was right!), like taking oral boards, and if you knew the holy book well enough you passed and if you don’t you…I forget. Purgatory? Hell? But we never got into what Heaven was like itself.

So on my last plane ride, with Aj on our way to our families for the holidays, I saw the sun over the clouds and was reminded of all this. I asked her to describe what she thought.
Aj: I agree with what David said. It’s definitely a place of peace, where there’s no worries.
Me: But what does the Qur’an say?
Aj: Well, it describes Heaven having lots of fountains.
Me: Really?
Aj: Yes. Fountains of milk and honey, chocolate fountains…
I had the feeling Aj was joking about the chocolate fountain part and was about to laugh but then I got into an internal debate on why was a chocolate fountain implausible. I mean the Bible says the streets of heaven are paved with precious metal, so why is that more valid than a fountain of chocolate? Especially since chocolate is delicious and good. And it’d be very pretty.
I think I was quiet for a long time because Aj broke in with “I was kidding about the chocolate fountain.”
Me: But it could be real, right?
Aj: Yes!
Me (feels validated): Ok.

Besides my friends, books were another source for this question. I really liked CS Lewis’ description of the afterlife in the Chronicles of Narnia, where all friends are reunited and everything is a reflection of the world we know, only brighter and better. I hated the Lovely Bones depiction of the afterlife. That heaven sucked and sounded lonely and boring. Boring like the book. My idea of heaven will not be like the Lovely Bones.

Instead, now I have a vague place in the sky with clouds where you’re at a happy stage in your life, surrounded by family, with fountains (one being chocolate), and a world like ours to explore, only better and more real. And I think the idea is just going to get more elaborate from there.

Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 4:19 am  Leave a Comment  

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