Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The trouble with Heaven

Let me start by saying that I certainly will not object if after I die I learn there is life after death.
The problem I have with the idea of life after death is simply this: I am unable to imagine life without death.
Everything I understand about life and most of what I like about life involves death.
The day dies into the night and the night dies into the day. One season dies and another season is born. All the food I eat, animal and plant life, dies for me to eat. Were it not for death, it would become impossible for new life to come into existence. The Earth could not support new life if death did not make room for the new.
All the various ideas about life after death seem to me to require a degree, a large degree, of stagnation and stagnation looks an awful lot like a nice word for dead.
I see life as variety and change. It is all that we like and all we don't like. It is joy and sadness, pleasure and pain. It is rest but it is also work.
Work! Think about it. If Heaven is a state of eternal rest with nothing to do, doesn't Heaven begin to sound like a very boring place, a place, so to speak, of zombies, of the living dead?
I have thought about these things, especially the nature of work. I have tried to imagine what life might be like if we were able to eliminate all the things about life that we say are the bad things. What if we could eliminate all sickness, all accidents, all the murder, rapes, robberies and various other crimes (sin)? What if nothing ever needed to be fixed? What would we do with nothing to do? Would the only thing we would have to do would be to honor and praise God? And what about God?
It seems to me that the number one definition of God is the Creator. And if God truly exists and is infinite and eternal as most people who believe in God believe, then God will go on creating anew as God has always done because God would not stop being God so that God could just sit around doing nothing while we do nothing but sing praises.
As I said at the start, I am not against having life beyond death. I just can't imagine life without all of its ups and downs, without what we call the good and the bad, including death.
And as to the idea of reincarnation, I can't imagine being anyone other than who I am. I need to look in the mirror and see me. I need to remember as many yesterdays as possible to be assured I am truly me. I need to recognize me and I need to recognize you and I need you to recognize me. We need physical continuity to know we are we. This continuity of existence is essential for anything to exist. I repeat, it is the continuity of existence that is essential for anything to exist.
But what about the soul? Couldn't the soul move from one physical body to another or couldn't the soul exist as an entity in and of itself?
The best response I can offer in the fewest words possible is to say that for this to be true the soul would require the knowledge of its own continuity before it enters a body, while it is in the body and after it leaves one body for another.
Maybe you would say, "Yes. This is what happens." But how can you say that when you yourself cannot speak of this continuity you claim to exist? I know there are a few people who over the years have claimed they had a past life. Maybe you are one of them. But I have never heard of anyone who claimed to have a past life and who has also said something along these lines: "When I was a black slave, I remember Joe who back in the day was my master but who now has been reincarnated as my wife."
What I am suggesting is that if a soul could recognize itself in both a current and past body, it should be able to recognize other souls from past lives who now occupy different bodies. Again, it is continuity of awareness of existence that is essential to knowing you exist. Without it, we are in the world of imagination.

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