Stan White is a photographer who has had a lifelong interest in three-dimensional imaging. He has written non-fiction all his life and more recently poetry and short stories. He has published three books of poetry, has been published in anthologies and in the literary press. He is retired with his wife in Brantford, Ontario.
What Heaven is Like
You know how it feels when you are coming out from under an anesthetic? It was like that. A voice from nowhere saying, “Mr. Whoeveryouare, it’s all over, wake up, wake up. Are you alright?
“I think so, though it was a lot hotter than I thought it would be and I don’t remember anything after I’d cooled down and they were raking out my ashes. I’m not sure, if I had it to do it over again, I’d go for cremation.”
“Don’t knock it,” the voice said, “try lying around in a cold, damp coffin for a couple of days. That’s not fun either. But, either way, it’s never worse than a root canal job.”
By now I was beginning to get my wits together. “But where am I?” I said, beginning to get a handle on the image of the fellow I was talking to. He was about my age, though for the life of me, at that moment, I couldn’t figure out how old I was, a pleasant enough fellow dressed in jeans and a tee shirt.
“You are in Heaven.”
I’m in Heaven, I mused and the tune came immediately to mind. I wasn’t entirely surprised; though not God’s gift, heaven knows I left an absolute plethora of sins of omission, but on the other hand, I wasn’t an axe murderer or anything like that and I figured, that if I didn’t make the cut, that other place was going to be mighty crowded. “But it looks exactly the same as Earth,” I said.
“It might look like it but it isn’t. The Old Man didn’t make the same mistake twice. It’s all think now…it’s all about think.”
“The Old Man?”
“God,” he said. “We call him the Old Man. He doesn’t mind. Realized he’d made a heck of a mistake with creating Earth. Part of it was the time restraints. You couldn’t do a job of that size in six days. He realized within weeks, what was the matter, and it was the matter.”
“It was the Matter?” I queried.
“Yes you know, matter…things, items, stuff, dirt, custard, slime, lettuce, diapers, rocks, jungles even water, smoke and kapok and especially flesh. He noticed they couldn’t leave matter alone, hoarding it, stealing it, coveting it (especially flesh), and even breaking it down to its tiniest parts and making big bangs out of it. So he made heaven without matter. It’s all ethereal. It’s all think. Here in Heaven, you just think it, and it is.”
I began to appreciate the incredible potential and harked back to all the thoughts I had on Earth that never came to anything. Remembering all those girls I’d ogled and thought I’d like to…but never mind about that. I felt I was going to have pretty good time of it here. It might have been well worth not having been an axe murderer.
“You wouldn’t believe that here in Heaven now,” he went on, “there is no use for at least half of the ten commandments. No point in stealing, or hoarding or fancying. Nobody collects stuff anymore. It drifts, you see! You’d spend all of your time shepherding it like it was a herd of wandering sheep. As for idols, they are ten a penny. Nobody bothers to worship them any more. God’s all right; he’s one of us…doesn’t bother to shave most days.
Just then I was distracted. “Isn’t that Marilyn Monroe?” I pointed to a woman walking down the other side of the street.
“Doubtful. Like I said, you can think yourself in to being whatever you want. Marilyn is very popular with the women. There are thousands of her”
“I wouldn’t mind being like I was sixty years ago,” I said.
“Go ahead, just think it, if you can remember what you looked like. Most of us can’t so we settle for Clarke Gable or Errol Flynn. Yesterday I saw a Rudolf Valentino complete with burnoose and camel. With the influx of the boomers in a few years I’m dreading the number of Elvis’es we’re going to have. The place will be teeming with them.”
“Look,” I said, I’m embarrassed to have to ask this, but is sex still a sin?”
“Don’t be embarrassed old chap. Everybody asks that, old or young, male or female. After all, it is the beginning of your new life. If your question is: is there sex in Heaven, the answer is: No and Yes. Sinning doesn’t come into it but there is a problem.
By now I was already halfway into thinking myself into the company of one of the many thousand Marilyn Monroes possibly as a Clarke Gable for I certainly didn’t want the impediment of a camel. “I don’t understand,” I said. “I thought you said that all I had to do was think it.”
“Yes, yes, that is so, but it’s a bit more complicated without matter,” and he held his hand out to me and I responded as though to shake hands and our hands passed through each others. “You see,” he said, “there is not much point in coveting your neighbour’s wife and your neighbour’s wife coveting you if all you can do is to walk through each other. Things have been like this for several eternities. There have been a lot of complaints.”
I guess he must have seen the disappointed look on my face for he went on, “Look,” he said, “it’s not the end of the world.” Then realizing he had used an unfortunate phrase he corrected himself, “Things aren’t as bad as they seem and…I probably shouldn’t be telling you this, but a fellow came up here a few weeks ago…big head of hair…name of Einsteen or Eenstein…something like that…spoke with a German accent. He said that if enough of us were to pack ourselves into the same space there might be a incremental increase in mass which in turn could…