I usually like to post something light and silly on Fridays (Fanciful Fridays anyone?) but today’s light-hearted post, in honor of Steve Jobs’ journey into What Comes Next is something I actually take very seriously. What does come next?
I believe very strongly in life after death. I was raised Swedenborgian, but I love studying different religions. I have delved into Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Islam, Neo-Paganism, and have dabbled in Baha’i, Buddhism, and even *gasp* traditional Christianity. Everybody has a little bit of something I like (and a little bit I don’t like at all). My beliefs about life after death are about 85% Swedenborgian and a mish-mash of the rest.
I believe that whatever you think is going to happen to you after you die is what’s going to happen to you…. At first. The point of the afterlife is not to freak anyone out. It’s to make a transition from this life to the next. So if you think you’re going to end up sitting on a cloud with a halo, yep, there’s your cloud and halo. If you think you’re going to sit in a waiting room until everyone is called for some Great Judgment, oh look, waiting room. If you have no idea what will happen then you’ll probably wake up on the other side and things won’t look all that different from how they did when you left this world.
But once you get bored of sitting on your cloud or waiting, when you get confused and frustrated from wandering around clueless or being all non-corporeal, someone will come along and invite you to find out how things really are. Then you’ll resume a kind of life that feels almost normal as you go through the process of figuring things out and deciding where you belong.
This first place that you end up in is called by different names in different religions, but in the church I was raised in it was called the World of Spirits. Everyone goes to the World of Spirits first. I guess you could compare it to Purgatory, but it’s nicer. It’s like therapy with the best counselors in the Universe. In the World of Spirits you meet the people you knew who left the Natural World before you. And yes, there will be parties. I mean, they’ve been waiting for you! It’s like a great big birthday bash. Happy times.
The good thing about the afterlife is that there is no “real” time or space, just the appearance of it. So you can hang out for weeks and weeks with these loved ones who went before you but you’re not wasting time because time isn’t linear like it is here. You can also travel as far and wide as you want simply by thinking about the place you want to be. Then bam, you’re there. This is true for all of the afterlife, by the way, not just the World of Spirits. And because there is no time you can take as long as you want to sort through your life, revisit the people who were important to you, and figure out where you belong.
But where do you belong?
A lot of religions believe in a God who sends people to one place or another. Not me. Oh yes, I definitely believe in God, and He definitely wants everyone to be close to Him. And where we end up is either closer to or further away from Him based on who we are and how we lived our lives. Because in the afterlife we choose where we want to be and we end up spending eternity with like-minded people. Well, you say, then of course everyone would choose Heaven, so what’s the point?
Nope, it doesn’t work like that. When I say that we end up with like-minded people it means that by the choices we make in this life, the way we conduct ourselves, the morality we have or don’t have, the things we love or hate, and how we treat other people we form ourselves into who we really are. There’s a reason the phrase “Writing is in my soul” or something along those lines exists. Our lives determine who we are. So, for example, if I lived my life in this world choosing to be a kind-hearted, understanding, compassionate person, then when I get to the afterlife I will spend all eternity living with other kind-hearted, understanding, compassionate people. Some folks might call that Heaven. On the other hand, if in this life I was petty, cruel, and loved gossip I would end up spending eternity with other people who are petty, cruel and who love gossip. Sounds pretty Hellish, doesn’t it. So be careful who you are in this life because you will end up spending eternity with people just like you.
However, when I say “just like you” I’m talking about your core. I’m not saying, for example, that I will end up in a Heaven full of Writers. (God no!) Actually, quite the opposite. Heaven (and Hell) is made up of a myriad of countries, cities, towns, kingdoms, villages, whatever. Each one is full of a variety of people who interact perfectly together. Everyone in any given Heavenly Society contributes something to the whole that no one else can and everyone’s contribution fits in perfectly and is appreciated by the other people in your society. Imagine how awesome it would be to spend eternity with a bunch of people who you get along famously with, who you love, and who love you.
Speaking of love, I also believe in love that lasts forever. The Swedenborgian church has its own term for it, Conjugial Love. Conjugial is a Latin word that more or less means Married or Married Love. What do these lovely made-up words mean? They mean that if you haven’t already met them in this life, when you get to Heaven (if it’s what you want) you WILL meet your perfect soul-mate. And you WILL live happily ever after with them for eternity. Pretty sweet, eh?
One other thing I should add is that everyone in Heaven has a Use. And by Use I mean everyone does something. I’d call it a job, but “job” has such a bad connotation in this world. Think of it this way. Whatever it is that you love to do the most, you’ll get to do that. And you won’t have to worry about money. If your passion is gardening you’ll be free to spend as much of your time gardening as you want. If you love numbers (and oddly enough, there are some people out there who really do) you’ll get to spend eternity crunching them. I’m sure someone in Heaven needs an accountant. If, like Steve Jobs, you love inventing awesome new things, yep, there will be awesome new things that need inventing. In Heaven? Really? YES! Because God works through people, not through magic. Even in Heaven things just don’t poof into existence. Granted, I have no idea how all that does work, but I’m sure there’s an app for that.
Okay, all of this theoretical stuff might be a lot to chew, so let me give an example. And I apologize for being so long-winded today, but hopefully it’s worth it.
This is what I plan to do when I die:
First and foremost, I’m going to hang out with my Mom. She died in 2001 and I miss her. Who knows how long it will have been since I’ve seen her by the time I get there. We’re going to have a lot of catching up to do. And my Granddad, who died in 1982. I was only 8, but we were close. And my friend Erin who died just after her senior year of high school. Lots of parties. And once I’ve done all that and gone through whatever preparation and sorting process I need to go through I, Merry Farmer, am going to enroll in the University of Heaven (or Heaven U, whichever gives me the best scholarship). I am going to study the History of Heaven as it has Related to Earth from the Dawn of Time to the Present. I’m sure this will take me a while. But it’s Heaven! I’ve got all the time I want. This course of study will involve a lot of field-trips to societies of people who died during different times in the history of Earth. And because those people will be living in places that are most comfortable for them, i.e. places that came into existence in the time in which they were alive on Earth, it will feel like traveling through time. Yes, time travel is possible. Sort of.
My Heaven will look like a Maxfield Parrish painting
Okay, still with me?
While engaging in this course of study I’m sure I will write a lot of novels. Because of course there are novels in Heaven. Of course there are universities in Heaven. I mean, some people’s deepest love is to teach, so they get to teach. Some people, like me, LOVE being a student, so they will get to be a student (to eternity … with no tuition … and no grades!) Some people love to read, so there will be books. And if no one writes in Heaven, then I’m not going. I think you get the picture.
And of course, if I haven’t already met him in this life, I will meet the Love of My Life. Gosh, I hope he looks like Richard Armitage! By the way, sex in Heaven? Hell yes! The best ever!
I also think that Reincarnation fits in here somewhere, but I’ve gone on WAY too long, so I’ll save that for another post.
I’m sure I’ll do a lot of other things too, but I don’t want to load up my plate too much until I see the rest of what’s at the banquet. Because as my Mom said when she appeared to her sister, my aunt Martha, in a dream about two weeks after she died, “Heaven isn’t anything like any of us think it is, it’s better.”
Granted, I’m not exactly in a hurry to get there, but I’m also not remotely afraid of death. Dying, yes. Death, not a bit. Call me crazy (and plenty of people do) but I can’t wait!
Someday, maybe next Friday, I’ll come back and describe to you what my Hell would look like. Hint: Eternal late February with a car that doesn’t work.
P.S. This post is intended to entertain, not proselytize. So if I’ve offended you *cringes* Sorry!
(But if you’re really curious about the beliefs I was raised with that formed the basis of what I developed as my own personal belief system feel free to look here: http://www.newchurch.org/beliefs/life-after-death )