Thoughts on an Afterlife
I’ve been ruminating on this post for some time. I blame Stephen King.
Dan bought me King’s latest novel, Revival, for Christmas. I finished it some time ago, my first book of 2015 — and it’s good. I would recommend it if you are a King fan. Compelling story-telling, as always.
*Spoiler alert* (skip on down to the ++)
Toward the end of the book, we, of course, get what we came for: a good dose of nightmare imagery from the King of Horror. A peek into what lies on the other side of the earthly curtain.
Our protagonist is a boy when he first encounters charismatic minister Charles Daniel Jacobs. These two men are destined to encounter each other over and over again, and each is dealing with his own obsessions and demons. Finally, our protagonist, having been cured of his heroin addiction through the application of “special electricity” by our antagonist, finds himself witness to a breach into the afterlife.
And it’s horrible, a terrifying landscape of dead souls prodded through a barren valley by ant-like creatures. The sky is a void hiding “The Mother” an insectile being from the Null. This, according to King’s character, is what awaits us when we die.
No God, no peaceful afterlife, no heaven or nirvana — not even a blank void of nothingness. A version of hell awaits every person who is alive.
The depiction of this afterlife reminds me of other King novels, including Lisey’s Story and From a Cadillac 8 — neither of which I liked at all. I pretty much hated Lisey’s Story. Too fantastical for my tastes, I suppose.
And even as a work of fiction, the story fell apart for me right at the end. My suspension of disbelief couldn’t deal with this imaginary afterlife. As part of the story, it makes sense. It is crushing to Jacobs because instead of being reunited with his beloved wife and son — who have been dead for years — he has discovered that Hell awaits.
Sometimes Dan asks me if I think I will be reunited with loved ones when we die. He asks specifically if I think I will get to see Gabriel. In other words, what is heaven like? And I truly do not know; I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it.
If I were more romantic, I would like the idea of seeing my first son. Something about that thought brings me peace.
But what I do believe is that after we die, we are reunited with God. That there is a heaven. And that regardless of how we conceive of it, we enter a world of love and light. Such that it doesn’t matter if our loved ones are there to greet us or not. That beyond this earthly plane there is no more longing, no more pain.
The infinite nature of God, or heaven, is completely beyond our comprehension. Since we can’t wrap our heads around the idea of the infinite, I think we try to give form to what may be waiting for us. We guess, we hope, maybe, we dread. King paints a picture of terror; books like Heaven Is Real paint pictures of a welcoming afterlife.
I prefer to believe in the welcoming version, the version where we are in God’s presence for the rest of eternity. Maybe that sounds glorious, or naive, or hopeful. It’s comforting to me.
Do you believe in Heaven?
ETA: It’s From a Buick 8, not a Cadillac. h/t Adam Music! (Who didn’t answer the question. Boo.)
5 thoughts on “Thoughts on an Afterlife”
I have a shaky faith at best (in the past year or so, I have taken to beginning most prayers with, “God, if you are real, can you please…”). However, if there IS a heaven, and I am hopeful there is (because with all the crap in the world, can this really be it?), my view of it has remained unchanged since I was about three: I picture a place kind of in the clouds where you can see everyone you have ever loved, and God is there, obviously (he looks like Fr. Mack, one of the first priests I remember).
I don’t think you touch anyone, but just being in their presence is enough. You just have this sense of peace, and there is light and love everywhere. When I think of heaven, I think of my Sittu (great-grandmother, who died when I was around three). I think even if you were married before and your spouse died, you would see both spouses, and, again, it would be okay/not matter.
So, in some ways, I think my belief in heaven is actually stronger/more concrete than my belief in God, for some really odd reason.
Thank you for sharing. This is beautiful, especially as it hasn’t changed since you were 3. Doesn’t Jesus say something about having the faith of a child? Maybe it can be so simple. 🙂
I have a lot of thoughts on this. I’m going to have to come back to this tomorrow.
My thoughts on the afterlife tie directly to my views on religion. I honestly believe there is more than one way to praise and worship God. All paths are valid in my mind. This means there are a whole lot of people many don’t expect to see in heaven. Did you ever see the movie Defending Your Life? I want to watch that again. Good movie, and a good take on what happens and why. The comedian Dave Allen has a great joke that sort of sums up some of my thoughts and I posted it this morning on my blog (shameless plug – http://www.postpostmoderndad.com/2015/01/14/3-of-my-favorite-jokes/) but it doesn’t quite end there. I don’t see Heaven as a place where we are all wandering around in any form which would be recognizable as our corporeal selves. It’s more a “one-ness” with God that I think we experience. The more I articulate it the more describing it escapes me.
Yes, I tell that joke, usually with “fundamentalist Christians” not just any Christians. But I see the point. I go back and forth about the idea of a corporeal self in the afterlife and just a spiritual one-ness with God. After all, the Bible does talk about the old Earth passing away, and a new Earth taking its place. So, I wonder.