In one of my previous incarnations, about the time of the Nixon administration, there was an internal struggle between my desire to go to heaven and my wondering what the hell everyone would do once we got there. This seemingly is still a puzzlement to many, as googling “description of heaven” will return an almost endless list of opinions on the subject.
I rather liked the heaven as found in the hymn “Mansion over the Hilltop” with its promise of a goodly amount of earthly pleasures in a more celestial setting. Who couldn’t get with living in a gold house “that’s silver lined” sitting on a street of “purest gold”? Of course, my gay gene kicked in with that visual, making a note to let God know I would prefer the street be yellow gold (think The Wizard of Oz, only better) with the mansion itself a more sedate white gold, if platinum isn’t an option in heaven.
In addition to the mansion, the song puts a robe and a crown on the wish list. I’m thinking sable with ermine trim for the former and an exact duplicate of St. Edward’s crown for the latter. Of course, a really good air conditioning system is going to be needed in this mansion if I’m to be swaddled in furs all day long, and I think a smaller, but stunning, tiara would be needed for daytime wear.
So what kind of heaven is this? Is this a place “where the ransomed will shine”? Or are we rewarded by becoming a bird in a gilded heavenly cage?
Over a few years, I moved into another incarnation, about the time of the Reagan administration, which some of you may remember me referring to as my Metafloozy years. Part of that experience was flirting with the concept of reincarnation, which was appealing in part for being more esoteric than “born again” Christianity.
Reincarnation also offers something to the ego not interested in being that bird but still not wanting to die. With its almost endless cycle of death and rebirth, we can imagine ourselves on an infinite yellow brick road, gathering spiritual insights all along the way.
Well, that kind of made sense in my 20’s. By then, I had at least learned how to learn, even if the lessons weren’t exactly spiritual in nature. Life had taught me little things like never order spaghetti or ribs on a date, avoid overindulging in alcoholic beverages that come in a pitcher, and under no circumstances rearrange one’s bedroom to accommodate the weight press of one’s boyfriend. As Mark Twain put it, “There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.”
So accumulating nuggets of understanding of a more substantial nature over the course of one’s lifetime seemed a noble pursuit, even a raison d’etre. Collecting spiritual insights over several, many, or even a hell of a lot of lifetimes would provide enough card punches to achieve spiritual liberation, leading to nirvana. Sounds like heaven to me.
Because it is, just that. Same song, second verse. Christianity was offering a nonstop elevator to heaven, while the Indian religions meant you were taking the stairs. And I was right back from where I started from.
Perhaps the only thing I got from all of that is it truly makes no sense, regardless of whose game we’re being forced to play, not to at least try to avoid doing the dumb thing. What the right thing is might not be obvious, but we can read, we can observe, and we can seek understanding. We don’t have to belong to the group whose learning comes from, as Will Rogers put it, having “to pee on the electric fence themselves.”
Moving up to the Biden administration, that old mule named Mitch McConnell has a hind leg raised and ready to kick the Democrats in the face yet again. And, let’s face it. If he lands that kick, it won’t be the second time. Or the third or fourth. It’s not about infrastructure or voting rights or anything else. It’s about winning through obstruction, which he is really good at doing—especially when Chuck Schumer, channeling Oliver Twist, seems to be asking for more.
COVID-19 seems to be learning, too, as it goes on with its more dangerous Delta variant. 99.5% of new deaths (around 8,000 in the last month) are unvaccinated individuals, so hopefully the new Delta dawn will lead to more people moving into the vaccinated category instead of finding out for themselves whether there really is a mansion just over the hilltop, another transmigration of the soul, or just continued lack of consciousness.
Regardless of how each of us sees all of this, from dating advice to the meaning of life, can we at least all agree that peeing on the electric fence is never the right the thing to do? Even if it’s your fence.