What is heaven? If you went there, would you ever want to return?
Anne Lower is producing a web series called They Live Among Us about angels who have fallen back to earth and struggle, as do we normal humans, with moral decisions, with life and death, with traffic in L.A.
Think of heaven as East Helena, Montana, a small town sitting on a pool of radioactive ground water, boasting a Papa Joe’s (cardboard-tasting takeout pizza) and a gas station/grocery store. If that were heaven and you were given a chance to come back to earth—let’s say earth is, in this case, oh…Spokane, Washington, with Equity theaters, fresh-brewed coffee and a film commission—would you want to go back to heaven? Even though god told you East Helena was heaven, I’m pretty sure you’d stay in Spokane if you could choose.
Now think of heaven as Penelope Cruz’s house. You are a healthy male and Anton Chigurrh is out of the picture. Penelope is never mussed up, always fresh and sweet and welcoming. If you left that heaven and were sent to Spokane, where most of the women work in the fresh-brewed coffee houses and those who are actresses are of average looks, you would desperately be trying to return to heaven. Oh, that god, what a pest he is and what a jokester.
Wait, though, what if in heaven Penelope aged? Would heaven still be so appealing if she grew to be 60 and 70 years old? I asked a repentant sinner and a fan of Penelope this very question. He said that heaven would only be heaven if Penny remained between 20 and 35 years old.
This sinner, I pointed out, is constantly dropping girlfriends when they get old. He is losing faith in Penelope right now in favor of Mila Kunis. He has dropped Susan Sarandon long ago for Kerry Washington. His comeback to this is that he didn’t have a real relationship with them; they were all PRETEND girlfriends.
“Of course,” he amended his earlier answer about heaven’s being conditional on Penelope’s remaining on the lower side of 35, “if I had a relationship with Penny…love, friendship. If she loved me; we were companions; she was empathetic. It’s more than just beauty and sex. However, if it were just on a physical level, there’s a cut-off date.”
My friend the fallen angel explains that people who are unable to have real relationships keep changing partners. Aha, I see. This heaven thing is complicated when you throw in real-life factors.
I asked Ned (whom I could not definitely identify as either good or evil: he’s just a regular person.) He wouldn’t engage with me on the real heaven, but he was willing to speculate on a hypothetical heaven.
“Heaven should be all about what’s promised, all about your expectations. For instance, Pam and I don’t want to mess with the status quo because our expectations of retirement are at a certain level. We want to travel to France; eat dinner out. That is our heaven. We wouldn’t want to go to heaven if it were in East Helena, Montana. We would TRY to get kicked out in favor of Spokane, Washington, were that our choice. And we wouldn’t be striving to get back to East Helena Heaven, that’s for sure.”
But what if you don’t behave in a way that lets you get kicked to the curb in Spokane? Maybe your punishment is a worse place. Say, for example, Anaconda, Montana? This is a town without hope, a landscape not only sitting on radiated water but staring at a landscape of abandoned copper mining equipment. Nobody in Anaconda has a whole lung or a face unmarred by gross melanoma. Anaconda. It’s not the very nice creatures that like to hug; it’s copper mining. And not even a Papa Joe’s.
What is real heaven? Not a hoity-toity heaven where you have to praise the god who lets children starve. Not the personal, individualist, narcissistic heaven of Penelope Cruz’s house. Real heaven is much like we dream the future will be, not in a metaphysical sense, but in a realistic sense of place: a Star Trek The Next Generation mode where people are free of the chains of wage slavery and free to develop their minds and bodies and emotions and artistic sense and curiosity. Real heaven, in a social sense, is a socialist future; is all about lifting everyone.
What if you messed up in that future? To be kicked out of that heaven would be real death.