Ascension and the Heavens

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?

23 thoughts on “Ascension and the Heavens

  1. I enjoyed reading the other comments. I agree snow flakes and stars are lovely.
    But, I have to admit my opinion is a bit darker. Simply put, I don’t think ‘heaven’ is open yet. I think ‘this generation’ is toiling here in this cycle of life and living until that time when heaven can happen, and then it will be actual and unimaginable. A complete transformation from the suffering that is life as we know it.

    1. Hi Uva Be, I’m grateful that you shared your opinion here in comments. Sometimes it seems like the future is a stage where the curtain is closed, and we only get to pull back the corner and peek at the stage at times. I really hope suffering ends, but am not sure at all.

  2. When I think about my concept of heaven, I find myself considering the complexities of our known planet, from snowflakes to oceans and from stem cells to mountains, its inhabitants, its beauty, and its place in the vastness of the universe. Then I think that for all the complexities and beauty I see in my life as I know it, I haven’t seen anything yet compared to what I think heaven will be like. Sometimes I catch myself thinking (or saying to someone), “it doesn’t get much better than this on this side of heaven.” I also try to remember that the idea of heaven gives me a sense of security, that I prefer to think about what will happen to me after I die as something to look forward to rather than to think of it as simply the end.

    1. Barbara, this seems so important to me, to be able to think of dying as not simply the end. In college years I often thought of it biologically, but as I get older and experience things it seems more and more as if endless possibilities could arise. Thank you for sharing your beautiful concept of heaven.

  3. This is a great post, Jennifer. When I was a child, I pictured heaven as a place far above the clouds. Our finite minds can’t grasp the concept of infinity without feeling overwhelmed. As an adult, I believe that heaven is a state of being, something that can’t be understood in this life. I also believe that heaven can look like whatever we want it to. For me, I picture beautiful serene scenes of nature — all of my favorite scenes collected into one.

    Still, though, my finite mind wants to make sense of heaven being a place.

    1. Hi Kristin, I love this idea that it can look like whatever we want it to. Maybe it is like, “as a man thinks, so he becomes.” The images of serene nature seem so perfect, like a visualization to guide you as if in meditation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

  4. Jennifer,

    this is an intriguing blog post and I have to split my answer in two parts 😉

    a) The embedded movie is really wonderful. Years ago I was fascinated by astronomy too. I bought a small telescope – joined SETI@home….It’s a wonderful and sometimes bizarre world. Look at this “Rose” of Galaxies…By the way:”Contact” by Carl Sagan is a great novel in which the question “where is Heaven?” is a subject, too. I read it several times.

    b) Where is heaven? I guess each of us want the kingdom come in which this planet is a peaceful place, where humans can live without fear, where animals can live without fear. I’m afraid this will alway be an utopia. But: if we treat each other with respect (even animals…), and understanding, if we stand together, then heaven takes place – between us, here and now.

    1. Hi Joachim, How beautiful the pictures of the galaxies are you share here, and fascinating that stars are still forming. Long after our lives are gone so many dynamic processes will be continuing all over the place. It’s amazing. I also appreciate your call for peace among people and animals, the lion shall lie down with the lamb…thank you for commenting here.

  5. May I be so bold to suggest that heaven may lie in the inter-breath; the gap between the breath we take in, and the breath we let out. Some eastern texts suggest that this is where the creator hid our life-force too.

    Happy Easter!

    1. Namaste to Delhi, Yes, this what I think about the ether, the space between the molecules. Without the breath, how long will any living thing plant or animal survive? Moments only. Thank you for sharing this realization here.

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