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Heaven, On Earth

“When conditions are such that life offers no earthly hope, somewhere, somehow, men must find a refuge.” — Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way

Everybody wants to go to heaven
Get their wings and fly around
Everybody want to go to heaven
But nobody want to go now
— Jim Collins / Marty Dodson, Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven

Heaven is sometimes believed it to be the light at the end of the tunnel in an otherwise bleak and miserable life. It offers hope when there’s no reason to believe there ought to be any. Others describe it as a place to aspire to—an exclusive club that only the truly enlightened amongst us will ascend to. I’m not sure I’m buying that. We’re already in an exclusive club having been born at all. Do we accept the miracle of being alive each day we wake up? If we don’t celebrate this miracle, what makes us believe we’ll behave any different if we reach Heaven?

“I don’t feel the slightest interest in the next world; I think it’s here. And I think anything good that you’re going to do, you should do for other people here and not so you can try to have a happy time in the next world.” ― Katharine Hepburn

I fall in Hepburn’s camp on the idea of Heaven. It’s all very nice to talk of an afterlife and being happy then, but we live here and now. This is our time to fly. We’ve each hit the birth lottery, and thus far have evaded the grip of the Grim Reaper. Isn’t that cause for celebration? We might think of this lifetime as an apprenticeship for whatever comes then, should we be so bold as to believe we’ll ascend to such a place.

Simply put, when we defer to this “someday when” we do a disservice to ourselves and the universe. Sure, we can’t always control whether our lives at the moment are heavenly or hellish, but we can control how we react to it. And most of us can do a lot more than that.

“Take care to create your own paradise, here and now on earth” — Omar Khayyam

Stories about heaven and hell offer guidance that historically helped keep society together. But the same stories can be used to pull people apart. We see a fair amount of that divisiveness in the world today, with people using stories of heaven and hell to justify horrific behavior and violence. If there are indeed Holy Gates I’m not sure I’d walk through the same way some of these characters believe they’ll be going. So maybe save the preaching for someday when. Nothing speaks louder than action. Give me fairness and love and living by the Golden Rule. Celebrate and honor the miracle right here.

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