Friday, January 19, 2007

God, Billy Joel, and Deepak Chopra: Trifecta of Awesomeness!

“Some believe that if they continue down the bad road, when they die, those choices will lead them to hell and they will forever suffer for it. This keeps most of them on the right path.” –Tams

Hell is not the only reason people lead good and decent lives. People who don’t believe in Hell must obviously be motivated by something else. I interpreted Flannery O’Connor’s words differently. I don’t read “no Hell, no dignity” to mean that Hell is the only reason that keeps people from sinning. In fact it is not. “No Hell, no dignity” means that we have free will, to choose good or evil, right or wrong. If God didn’t give us a choice, then we would be stupid ignorant puppets. There would be no purpose or meaning to our lives. Indeed if we didn’t have free will, “good” and “evil” would lose their meaning altogether. If we all knew we were all going to Heaven, and there was no punishment, there would be no way to separate the “good” actions and deeds from the “bad” ones. To give us a choice, free will, puts the responsibility on us. God is honoring us in the creation of Heaven and Hell, putting His faith in us to make our own decision. If he was a selfish, jealous God, he would not have given us a choice. We would have had to love him. Imagine if you just bought a puppy. You want it to love you, and wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a way to ensure that it loves you unconditionally, some way to brainwash it, force it to love you? But if you give the puppy free will, and it chooses to love you on its own accord, wouldn’t that be so much sweeter, so much better? That’s how I read Flannery O’Connor’s words.

“I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” –Billy Joel

Not everyone is going to get the chance to make the ultimate decision on their deathbed: Hell or Heaven? We make this ultimate decision every day of our lives, in the little decisions and choices we are faced with. Life is a journey. So (if there indeed is a Hell and a Heaven), I’m totally on board with the idea that people choose for themselves to go to wherever they end up. I mean, some people are going to totally be with their crowd down in Hell. I think I also kind of agree with Billy Joel…I mean, how boring is Heaven going to be?

This got me thinking about this Christian idea of a “good” place and a “bad” place to go to after death. What if there’s just one place where we all end up? Or no place? Or a different place for every person? Reward, punishment for what you did on earth…what if the afterlife isn’t about all that? What if it just is?

This reminded me of a guest I saw on the Colbert Report in December. Deepak Chopra just wrote a book called Life After Death: The Burden of Proof which sounds really awesome. Apparently it’s rooted in traditional Indian concepts of the afterlife. I remember him describing death in terms of a telephone call: you can’t see the person you’re talking to, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And when they hang up, they’re gone from your reality, but you know they’re not really gone gone. He was saying death is kind of like that: people who die are still there (or here?).

“Chopra tells us there is abundant evidence that “the world beyond” is not separated from this world by an impassable wall; in fact, a single reality embraces all worlds, all times and places. At the end of our lives we “cross over” into a new phase of the same soul journey we are on right this minute.

…But far more important is his urgent message: Who you meet in the afterlife and what you experience there reflect your present beliefs, expectations, and level of awareness. In the here and now you can shape what happens after you die.”


Chew on that.


Hell's Belle said...

Wow. I like the Billy Joel quote. I always have. I don't think it's that way- at least, according to traditional Biblical interpretation, and according to Dante it's those who are in heaven who are laughing. Those in hell are gnashing and moaning and wailing and eating garbage. I think the idea of "sinners and saints" is antithetical to the Dantean perspective- if you are in heaven it's not because you weren't a sinner. A person can be a sinner and a saint. The Bible calls us saints, and it also calls us gods. We are, as you point out, what we choose to be. We are all sinners, but if we choose to love God we are also saints. Heavy stuff I know! I love Dante. and Billy Joel.

Hell's Belle said...

additionally, i think billy joel was paraphrasing mark twain in huckleberry finn.