On Easter Sunday, I told the story of the ascension to my younger family members, as I had learned it. After the story and half way through dinner, I was asked, “Where do you think heaven is?”
I’m not quite sure if this was a question or a challenge, maybe both.
It took me some time to formulate a response to this important question. I do think about death, and am even preoccupied with questions of this nature. I’m keenly interested in what may happen to people and animals after death. We rarely speak about it directly. And I’d never focused on where heaven would be as a place, I had thought of it as a state of mind.
Yet, if we are aiming for something good, it’s important to know what and where it is. And if we hold something up as an ultimate good, it is equally important to have a concept of what we mean when we refer to it.
When I was a child, I imagined that whether a person went to heaven or the other place would be decided only by their own state of mind at the precise instant of death. If happy or peaceful then a person would go to heaven and if sad, angry, frightened, then to the other place. Watching certain things and people die had given me this impression.
I think heaven may be in a different place for everyone. To answer the family, I said that I think for me heaven will be in the ether–the space between the molecules of air. I don’t expect it will be in any particular place but if I had to say, maybe the ether which flows around in between the molecules of my very favorite places. Free and natural spaces like the Botanical Garden, or the old pear tree in the Bronx garden, if I am lucky.
Astronomers may see it differently. Today online a friend shared the most beautiful photos of the heavens, the astronomer’s heavens. Watching this new time lapse photography captured in April 2011 by photographer Terje Sorgierd transformed me. I’ve embedded it here. It shows how perfectly suspended earth is as part of the universe. I’m not sure if our place is being stuck to this planet or among the stars. But both places seem infinitely beautiful and I’d be happy with either.
Where do you think heaven is?