The idea of heaven is different for everyone. We generate this idea through our experience, religion, culture, family history, etcetera, and add some imaginative creativity. For those who lack the creative imagination, ideas and images are shared through movies or literary means like Dante. When we discussed this in class after our starter 8, I had chosen a specific moment when I encountered ‘heaven on earth.’ In reality, no one really knows what heaven is really like, but I imagined it to be the best possible moment.
My ‘heaven on earth’ experience: In 1992, when most of you were barely born, I was invited on a trip to Key West, Florida by my best friend and love of my life. There were four of us altogether. During the trip, on the way to Orlando (yes, we drove), I received a call that my stepfather had died. Since Chris was paying for my part of the trip, I couldn’t just leave to come home. I couldn’t afford the airfare and I couldn’t make the others give up their vacation as well by returning to Oklahoma. When we reached Key West, the funeral was taking place. The other two guys on the trip were being complete asses and submitting me to practical jokes in order to cheer me up. This of course resulted in the opposite effect. The whole trip was beginning to look like a disaster. So, this must be the purgatorio before the paradisio. The 3rd day in Key West changed completely. The other 2 guys were invited to a condo party for the weekend and left Chris and me alone. (He is gay, so get that out of your mind). He begged me to go snorkeling with him, even though I had a phobia of drowning. I finally gave in. In the ocean, my brain experienced a whole new environment. The fish were so colorful. The coral was like lace. The blue-green water was a refreshing 74 degrees in February. This experience altered my perception and I began to realize how petty my problems were. It was amazing. Afterwards, Chris and I went to Sunset Pier to watch the sun setting on the ocean. Live music was playing; I distinctly remember “Red, Red Wine” as one of the songs and every time I hear it, it takes me back to this day, 15 years later. The sun was casting a warm, yellow glow across the water with black silhouettes of sailboats. The music filled my ears along with the sound of the ocean and seagulls. The cool breeze smelled fresh and clean. The warm sun was soothing to my skin. Chris’ presence warmed my heart. At that moment, that single instance where all this pleasure to my senses emerged, joined, combined…was my heaven on earth.
So, it wasn’t just a moment of perfection, but more. I had forgotten my worries. I had literally escaped from life as all of my senses were overwhelmed with perfection. Love was involved. The sun could represent a feeling of God. I think that all of this was a bunch of little samples of heaven, and that heaven is really much, much more. This instance was like a man dying of thirst receiving a small sip of water. It’s enough to get by, but you know there is much more that is so much better. Perhaps this is why people meditate or go to spas. It’s their way of escaping the self to be subject to something much better, and clearing the mind to be free of harsh reality. I only hope that everyone gets to witness some kind of ‘heaven on earth’ like this, even if it’s only a small sample of what heaven really is.