Due to my middle son’s renewed interested in Legos, there are Lego structures all over the kitchen, dining room, and living room. Occasionally they get knocked over by his brothers or the dog, when any or all of them are being rowdy. “What do you expect, honey, when you leave your creations in the public domain? We all can’t tiptoe around them!” I admonish him before he yells at his brothers (or the dog) yet one more time.
One of his designs needed to be rebuilt a few times. It looked kind of random to me but he was very particular about how it was put together. When I asked him about it, he told me it represented heaven (yellow), earth (white), and “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks” (red). (He’s not entirely comfortable with the word “he**.”)
“Wow, hon, look at that: it seems that there is hell on earth here.” (I, on the other hand, am not uncomfortable with the word at all.)
“What do you mean, mom?”
“Well, see how the white part and the red part are on the same level here?”
“Well, it’s just kind of a visual reminder that you don’t actually have to sink to the depths of hell to be miserable. You can be miserable right here on earth.”
“Well, haven’t you ever heard that expression ‘living hell’?”
“Okay, say you do something you know is wrong and you don’t feel all that good about it – isn’t that kind of hellish?”
“Well, it feels bad, yeah.”
“And you made this so it looks like if you do descend into hell, it’s a pretty long way to get back up…”
“Yes, it is. It’s bigger than heaven.”
“Why is that?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t mean it to be. I just had all those red pieces.”
I thought about the “slippery slope.” Temptation is out there: start taking steps in the wrong direction, you get closer and closer to the edge, and before you know it, you’re sliding and then sinking to new depths. From the American Heritage Dictionary, the slippery slope is “a tricky precarious situation, especially one that leads gradually but inexorably to disaster.” How many of us have ever ended up in a disastrous situation, but “didn’t mean it to be?” I know I have, and it is a long road back, but thankfully, not impassible, nor impossible. Certainly more than I wanted to share with my son at that time, so instead, I commented, “Oh, but look – it seems like you have made it possible to have heaven on earth, too…”
“No, not really. Heaven and earth are not on the same level. Maybe your fingertips can brush heaven, Mom, but heaven and earth are definitely separate.”
“Hmmm,” I shrugged, and smiled at him. “Well, make sure you move that awesome structure to the side table so it doesn’t get bumped again.”
I didn’t want to debate his philosophy, even though I did not entirely agree. I think about heaven and the afterlife a lot, especially around the anniversary of my mother’s passing, which is just prior to Thanksgiving. I have written about this before. Where is heaven? We can’t see or hear everything in the electromagnetic spectrum; in fact the portion that we can see and hear with our human eyes and ears is just a small percentage including certain colors of light and radio waves. We can feel some things that we can’t see, such as infra-red light. Is it possible that heaven is right here among us? If you have a living hell, couldn’t you have a living heaven? If heaven is a state of mind, as some people say, couldn’t hell be the same?
I also thought about a conversation I’d had with my oldest when we were discussing our souls and whether or not they existed before they were in our bodies and what happens to them after our earthly existence is finished. This conversation touched on karma, reincarnation, and paganism, too, and had originated when my son had asked, “Why did God make porcupines, anyway?” after our friend’s dog had to have surgery to remove the quills. I told him I surely didn’t know, just as I didn’t know why He made mosquitos, or more importantly, why He lets bad things happen to good people, and hopefully we’d have all our questions answered someday. “When we die and go to heaven, we can ask God.”
But still I wondered about people of different faiths. I had read a quote attributed to Bishop John Shelby Spong, “God is not a Christian. God is not a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist. I honor my tradition. I walk through my tradition. But I don’t believe my tradition defines God, it only points to God.” So, it seems there have to be many paths to heaven, just as surely as there are many paths to hell. Could one man’s heaven could be another man’s hell? Is that why there are many rooms in heaven?
Off from school, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, my middle son was eating butter-flavored microwave popcorn and watching a movie with his younger brother and the dog. I overheard him sigh, “Mmmm, this is heaven in the palm of my hand!”
“Hon,” isn’t that like brushing heaven with your fingertips?”
His crooked smile and glance at me indicated he knew what I meant.
“Yeah…but look,” he pointed to the TV where “Forrest Gump” was on. It was the scene where Jenny is walking slowly “home” towards Forrest, as he’s mowing the lawn. “That’s what heaven on earth is, Mom.”
Apparently he’d been doing a bit of thinking on the topic as well.