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Visions of Heaven
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A few days ago babs wrote about the time her second grade class was asked to draw heaven for a blind priest.

Just drawing heaven would've stumped me and never mind depicting it for a blind priest. No one takes seriously those images of winged people in nightgowns dangling their toes over the edges of clouds. But since nobody has ever smuggled a cell phone into the afterlife, one guess is as good as another. Maybe that's truly what awaits us. And maybe it is really really fun sitting on the edge of a cloud for eternity. It would take me at least eternity to learn to play a harp.

About the closest we've got to a view of heaven are accounts of near death experiences where the nearly deceased travels down a long hallway toward a blinding, white light. No one who actually reaches the ends of those hallway reports back though. In his autobiography, Benvenuto Cellini tells us about being escorted up a flight of stairs to heaven for a chat with God but then Cellini was prone to exaggerate.

Emanuel Swedenborg believed that the heaven we enter first is indistinguishable from the world we inhabited. In fact, many of us could be dead and in heaven right now without yet being aware of it. People in heaven keep their regular clothes on, rather than having to don those nightgowns, which might be open in the back like hospital gowns for all we know.

During the middle ages many of the orthodox expected to ascend a ladder and pass a succession of toll gates guarded by demons who would test their virtue before allowing them through. Not a pleasant prospect. Having just got through dying most of us would probably feel like a nice lie down. It is interesting that even back then, when pressed to conjure up demons, people first thought of tax collectors.

We're all familiar with the eerily similar, if more benign, picture of kindly old white-bearded Saint Peter, who glances over our papers, totes up our lives, and then opens up the pearly gates or casts us down into the fiery pits of hell. At least, in that version of heaven, justice is finally served.

Maybe it's my punishment for watching too much television as a youth but I can't help wondering, what if we're not greeted by a saint at a gate? What if, when we arrive it's Monty Hall standing in front of two curtains?

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