Whose heaven?

There is something eternal about the power to exist that cannot be measured against existing possibilities.  There is something special about the existence of sentient being in the midst of an insensible universe.  But can there be a special place in which our personal being is exalted for eternity in a sublime mutuality?  Are we all that similar or is one person’s heaven another’s hell?  Surely something has to give.  We all share in the simple things in life but differ in the cultural expression of our needs, wants, preferences and desires.  So does a candidate have to be compatible with what’s on offer, or is what’s on offer variable to suit?  Can our beliefs take care of the details?  And what about degrees of sophistication?  Will it be a caveman’s heaven or more like an advanced civilisation?  How sophisticated does or doesn’t it need to be?  Sophistication may be imperious to the lesser mortal, so perhaps heaven has its hierarchy to accommodate different types.   And what about those we don’t get on with?  What must we gain and lose in order to qualify?  Where is the common humanity in which all these differences even out?  


It would seem that the main thing we need to loose is our expectation, including our view of ourselves as a fixed person.  There is nothing fixed or complete about us.  Individuality is but a sample of what is possible in the life that we claim as ours; but even that life is bigger than us – our faculties are more than our choosing and we remain incomplete in all things we might have been in a different time and place.  Nor do our beliefs take care of us.  And what about those we love?  Do we love because of love or because of them?   Is love an invention or something bigger than us?  Can we take from love, or is it relative to what we are prepared to give?   Is there anything spiritual in the love of another or one another?  How does love define us if it is not unique to us, and if it is unique to us, how does it define love?  Is its uniqueness merely a construct of the perceived uniqueness of our experiences and of ourselves as having experiences that are unique to us?  And what does it mean to love a thing or an idea?  Perhaps love is the means of surrendering ourselves to the ideal it gives to us – an ideal for which we will forsake all else.  Is that why we talk of the power of love?  


Love is special because it is important and it is important because it is transformative.  And though it may be subject to our inventions and interventions it is hard to think of a better subject.  It is also possible to think of love in its broadest sense, beyond all the things we love, to see it as more than we make of it in the particulars of our lives – a presence that we cannot own – the torment of those who want to manage it on their own terms, who seek possession.  Then the love of self, in all the constructions by which we claim to know ourselves, may be the first hurdle we need to overcome.  For what do we possess of ourselves that we do not acquire?  And does not every acquisition take possession of the owner?  Do we not delimit ourselves by self-definition, by what we take personally?   Perhaps all we are, all the good things, don’t belong to us, rather they are something we partake in, something we cannot personalise in terms of what we want, or to differentiate ourselves from others.  For if life and personal existence are things to share in, then perhaps the personal factor in existence is bigger than all we can make of it individually, personally – yet in the attempt we cannot see anything in it save ourselves – something we may realise as such only by letting go.

Mike Laidler

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