Think Outside the Gates

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by Alex Petric

Coldplay released their new album this week, and although the quality of it is debatable, it’s undoubtedly renewed interest in the band for many people. While browsing one day, I found the following quote from lead singer Chris Martin regarding their song “42” from their last album:

“Ghosts are supposed to be people who haven’t found their final place, right? And we just thought it would be funny to spend your whole life trying to get to heaven and then you get to the gates and they say, ‘You didn’t quite make it.’”

It’s interesting to note how humans have conceptualized the afterlife. Many religions describe Heaven by comparing it to things we know on Earth. The Qur’an portrays Heaven as having gardens and palaces. Jesus tells numerous parables comparing Heaven to a field, a seed, a net, leaven, and treasure. Some branches of Hinduism see Heaven as a paradise of pleasure with multiple levels, where individuals enjoy eternal youth. Even the ancient Egyptians had a view: they believed Heaven was a dark place, far removed from Earth, beyond outer space.

Growing up, whether in church, in school, or at home, people would tell me what Heaven was like, and their descriptions often included clouds, angels, and trumpets, among other things. I always found it odd how some traditions give in-depth descriptions of angelic hierarchies, or that some insist on the existence of “guardian angels” and seem to know everything about how to relate with them.

I think religions sometimes confuse metaphors and comparisons for rigid facts on which there can be no debate. While this hasn’t exactly been the case with our views on Heaven, I think such poetic language can sometimes limit our own ideas. We keep thinking of Heaven as a far off place, with all these characteristics. Often-times we conceptualize Heaven as having rules for admittance, but to me, it seems a little strange for a person to simply be judged on what they’ve done, rather than their actual character, according to a rigid set of rules. Otherwise, Heaven starts to seem like an amusement part ride that declares “You must be this holy to enter.”

I think, assuming it exists, Heaven wouldn’t be limited by space. It would be more of a state of mind than a place. I often think of it simply as being with God, or in God’s presence. And while there can definitely be the idea of being united with God at the end of one’s life, there’s no reason we can’t dwell in His presence now.

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