Tag Archives: mark twain

Heaven: What’s all the hype about?

Who would want to go to Heaven?

I’m serious. I understand that most Christians would probably tell you that the conditions of Paradise are ultimately unknowable until we get there, but if we can conceive of it at all, there must be some common denominator between now and the afterlife. 

For example, each person would still have his/her individual identity, right? As far as I know, Heaven is supposed to be a place of perpetual peace and joy, where we are reunited with our loved ones forever. We’re supposed to actually experience love and joy to their fullest potentials. This would imply that our concept of self and the relationship between the self and others would continue into the afterlife. Assuming this is true, wouldn’t our normal thought processes still be in tact? And wouldn’t that make us vulnerable to the same anxieties, fears, distresses, annoyances, irritabilities, etc. that bother us here on Earth?

But okay, I get it, everything is supposed to be happy and filled with love and all that. There’s no reason to hate each other or have any of the aforementioned negative feelings because it is a place that is irrevocably tied to God, who is perfect, and none of the same temptations that cause negative experiences on Earth are present. As Hell is supposedly eternal “separation” from God, Heaven is eternal unity with God, whereas Earth is, well, something in between. I’d invite any of my Christian friends to correct me on this. And if you have answers, I’d be thrilled to hear them. 

Recently I watched a 1989 animated film called “All Dogs go to Heaven”. (I was coerced by my girlfriend.) Although it was aimed at children, the movie really had some philosophical underpinnings that would make any adult reconsider the afterlife. In the film, the main character (a dog) goes to Heaven but gets bored because nothing is happening. Everything is happy and pretty and nice but there’s no zest, there’s no action to give life a little spice, and the dog ends up missing his time on Earth. And this is precisely my main issue with the idea of Heaven. Where is the joy if it is not contrasted by sorrow? How can we feel genuine bliss if there are no hardships to overcome? It seems to be common sense that in order to have a positive feeling you need a negative one to compare it to. This is what gives it that extra satisfaction. In a perfect place, where sin is nowhere to be found, how would these positive experiences be felt? In short, the concept of Heaven simply seems to contradict everything we know about love, joy, peace, and all of the positive feelings we experience as human beings. 

But say it was possible. Would you want to be there? I know I wouldn’t. In my view, it’s the tragedy and pain of life that makes for the best art and it’s the adversity that makes our achievements satisfying. If there were no problems to solve, no obstacles to pass through, no pain to endure, what would we have left? A whole bunch of nothing is you ask me. Think of your favorite book or movie. Would it have been any good without some sort of conflict? For an interesting plot, there has to be some sort of dilemma a character is forced to work through. Mark Twain said, “The secret source of humor is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humor in Heaven.” He must have been right; humor is primarily a weapon brandished to combat sorrow. And isn’t humor one of the things that keeps us going? That makes life enjoyable? That makes the saddest circumstances survivable? Who would want an existence without humor? 

So what is this thing they call Heaven? No art to make things beautiful, no tension to make things interesting, no humor to make things funny, no adversity to make triumphs satisfying, no tragedy to contrast joy. If there is a Heaven, I don’t know what it would be like. But I can tell you one thing: I’d rather rather live one life on Earth – filled with art and books and love and pain and tension and excitement and adversity and growth and tragedy and humor – than spend an eternity in this so called “Paradise”. 


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