Mine is not a Catholic heaven. Mine is a composite of the finest elements of many creeds, combined with desire and imagination. It took three years to create. I carry it with me always. It calms me like no other theoretical construct, reducing my fear of death and giving me a heightened appreciation of life.
I figure it’s worth describing before I die.
Q. 1 How does one gain access to heaven?
The route to heaven is reasonableness. Those who live reasonably are treated reasonably when they die. This is fair, since reasonableness is seldom rewarded in life.
Reasonableness does not equate to mediocrity. It is a virtue as accessible to the anarchic bohemian as to the corporate executive. It means giving things a fair go. It means travelling through life without shafting other people or the environment.
It means being gracious, hard-working, honest, generous, positive and grateful – not all the time, but wherever possible and according to ability. Few can identify with martyrs and saints.
Better a world of reasonable folk than one perfect person to every thousand arseholes.
Reasonableness permits redemption, since it is reasonable to suggest that destructive behaviour can be reconciled over time by constructive behaviour. The rule of thumb is to over-compensate. And given the uncertainty of life, it’s best to atone as quickly as possible.
Cooking with gas are the reasonable, for they shall get a fair go.
Q. 2 How does one deal with bereavement in heaven?
When the dead arrive in heaven, most nurse crushing feelings of loss – for their own lives and for the people and things they have left behind. The Time Elasticity Rule offers relief. In heaven, time is malleable; decades can be compressed into moments.
Most newly dead elect to fast forward eighty years or so. As a result, they are reunited with loved ones moments after their own arrival. Surrounded again by friends and family, they can better come to terms with what has happened.
For others, the grieving process is too important to gloss over. They quietly sit out their time at normal speed, waiting for those dear to them to arrive, one by one.
Yet even for the purists, grief fades faster in heaven than on Earth. This is largely due to the staggering variety of exciting activities on offer.
Q. 3 How does one avoid boredom when one is immortal?
Entry to heaven necessitates deification. But immortality is no fun if there’s nothing to do. Heaven’s Edutainment System is the last word in sophistication and flexibility. Because information and novelty excite humans, few are immune to its attraction.
The System makes virtual reality look like Snakes and Ladders. It employs the universe as a setting and time as just one of an infinite number of parameters. It is the mother of all role-playing games. Yet this description is flawed, for what occurs in the System is real.
In short, it allows an immortal to assume any form, in any time, in any place, for any period of time, with any degree of self-awareness and extraneous power.
The awesome power of the System is best illustrated by example: An immortal is chatting with friends over coffee. An argument ensues over the navigational prowess of the Laysan Albatross. Rather than check the facts manually, the woman decides she’d rather experience life as a seabird first hand.
She elects to return to Earth in the 16th Century as a day-old chick on Cape Verde Island. She sets self-awareness to cut in immediately prior to her first flight, but grants herself no extraneous powers. The weeks pass. The woman is the albatross.
Only when she flings herself from the nest does she realise she is a returned spirit. Now she can really enjoy learning to fly. She wheels and dives, revelling in her power. She discovers how to make incredible journeys, drinking sea water, sleeping on the waves, and chasing the ships of Magellan.
After 30 years, she is drowned in a storm. At once she is back at her coffee. She relates her marvellous adventure to her friends and wins the argument hands down. One man is so impressed, he decides to play the role she has just vacated, with a different choice of parameters.
He is gone from heaven for an instant. Later, the albatross couple adjourn and compare experiences long into the night, replaying and reliving their favourite parts on the System.
From a tsetse fly on a rhinoceros, to a child at Joan of Arc’s execution, to a crater on the third moon of Jupiter. Nothing is impossible. There is enough to do and learn to fill eternity. Which is handy.
Heaven has everything for everyone.
Q. 4 How can somewhere so crowded be any good?
Some imagine that heaven is bursting at the seams, since everyone who has ever lived a reasonable life must be there.
This is a fallacy.
Heaven is not crowded, because only a fraction of those who have walked the Earth were on their first time around. The rest were immortals on safari, seeing what it felt like to live as a mother, or a farmer, or a refugee, or… whatever.
The beauty of the System is that when an immortal elects to experience a whole-of-life adventure with full realism, there is no need to create a new mortal on Earth. Imbued with the essence of his or her chosen vehicle, a ‘tourist’ is indistinguishable from the real thing.
People who feel they have met each other before may well be highly sensitive yet non-self-aware immortals on separate real-time adventures. It makes more sense for an immortal to experience many lives than for a mortal to struggle through just one. It keeps the numbers down in paradise.
No one likes a crowd.
Q. 5 How does one know if one is already immortal?
One of the most attractive aspects of heaven is that any of us could already be immortal. When adventure parameters are set to full realism, there is no awareness of immortality until death.
You yourself could be an immortal, touring your life.
Those questioning the attractiveness of an adventure with full mortality need only consider the futility of playing cards for matches. Playing for keeps is infinitely more exciting.
The possibility that we are here voluntarily, free to return in any form once we die, makes the prospect of death less frightening. If everything we love is already in heaven, what have we to lose?
We are able to enjoy every second and fibre of our existence free from concern about the hereafter, since we may well already be there.
Even if we are not yet immortal, we become so at death, provided of course that we have lived reasonable lives. The pain and suffering of our existence become as important as the joy and ecstasy, since they make for a more holistic life experience.
And any unpleasantness becomes more bearable when it is known to be of finite duration.
However you look at it, you can’t lose.
Q. 6 What if one does not value immortality?
For heaven to claim universal appeal, it needs to offer something for the nihilists.
Some people maintain that on dying, they will simply want to stay dead. Since the success of heaven does not rely on everyone ‘getting with the program’, oblivion is a viable option.
If, after a cooling-off period and comprehensive System demonstrations, the dead are not impressed by deification, they can forfeit their afterlives and disappear utterly and for ever. Few do.