The idea of moments that people had experienced heaven on Earth really seized my imagination, so I went around asking people. Like we discussed in class, they all seemed to involve times of self-forgetting, which is when they experienced the joy, reveling in something other than themselves. I thought that was a really interesting definition of joy versus happiness, that happiness can be self-centered while joy has to do with losing one’s own self-consciousness and gets lost in a moment with someone or something else. Most people I talked to had experienced their joy in a communal experience, though some did discuss times when they went out into nature and lost themselves there, like Rachel on the beach, which also one of my favorite places to lose myself. One of my friends just had a hypothetical idea of his moment of heaven on Earth. He said that his idea would be being comfortable enough with the people he was with that all the walls would be let down, and everyone would be able to just be as they were with each other, with no walls. This also communicated an idea of losing consciousness of self, because as long as walls are up, we are thinking about ourselves. It’s only when we experience moments of self-forgetfulness that we do let our walls down. So every example of heaven I’ve discussed with people has involved a moment of joy, of self-forgetting, and that was an amazing revelation to me. They were also hard for people to explain, which seems to be a universal theme in the Paradiso.
I also agree that part of our existence spent here on Earth should be times of trying to create heaven on Earth, making the Earth more heavenly, whether that means cleaning up the environment or just changing how we treat other people. I don’t think it has to even be a Christian agenda, though it seems like it should be one of the major concerns of Christianity. Of course, I suppose if a person is just concerned with heaven , then Earth doesn’t really matter so much anymore. However, I’m sure Dante would say that those people who are only concerned with heaven aren’t the good people who are going to be going there, since they aren’t really concerned with others, and so don’t have a lot of the love for everyone that is Christ-like and necessary.
It seems really lucky that the weather has changed to being sunny the last few days. There’s been more light than ever just in time for all the light of heaven and images of glowing individuals. It’s also fun that we’ve been playing more music in class. Music is another way to bring heaven to Earth, I think, because it’s all experiential, no words involved. When you play or listen to music, you don’t explain it to people. Everyone listens and takes their own experience from it. It’s cross-cultural, no language necessary. It seems to tie in exactly with Dante’s idea that faith cannot be explained. At some point, the faith just has to be there. Which I suppose is why they keep on singing songs to him in Paradiso when he asks questions. Just like in class.