Heaven
And My Heart Beats So That I Can Hardly Speak

   When I was very young, my Boogieman was God.  I'm perfectly serious, I was terrified of God, 'cause when Judgement Day came, you wouldn't know who would got to Heaven and who would go to Hell.  Not all of your friends would go to Heaven, not even all of your family would go.  (And at the time, my Dad was not baptized, so the implication was that he was not going to Heaven.  How could God not let my Dad go to Heaven?)

   So Judgement Day was scary.  If there was a roaring sound, my heart would take off like a jack-hammer, as I thought "Is this it?"  I very specifically remember one time listening to The Sweet's Desolation Boulevard LP (the American version, of course) and hearing the eerie voice at the end of "Into the Night" for the first time.  I'd had the album for a while and had never noticed it before.  It was nighttime and I don't remember what I was doing, reading, drawing - writing a story, most likely at that point in time - I just remember that voice and my fear, not realizing it was the record at first.

   I don't think I calmed down for half an hour.

   I had very specific images of Heaven as a child, and it honestly was not a pleasant place.  I know what you're thinking, but you see, my image of Heaven was as a place where my friends and my family might not be there (not good) and where, basking in the "eternal glory of God" and all that, life was just one long, never-ending church service (which was even worse!).

   All of that served to make Hell almost seem like a better alternative.

   And my vision of Hell was unique too, I believe.  I never saw it as a place of literal fire as nearly everyone else seems to.  After all, the soul is not physical, how could fire be a torment?  I saw Hell as basically panic and sorrow that never went away.  Panic:  you aren't in Heaven, you aren't with your friends and family who are there, you aren't with God and you're never going to get out.  Sorrow:  you aren't in Heaven, you aren't with your friends and family who are there, you aren't with God and you're never going to get out.  (Hey, think about it... have you ever experience that heart-pounding ache of a hole in your chest when you miss someone?  How'd you like that to never ever go away?)

   I'm not sure why or how I developed these interpretations (and I give my younger self serious props for being so insightful about Hell in particular).  I had these views from very early on, when I absolutely believed in God and Jesus and The Bible, just as I believed in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.  (And yes, today I equate all of these beliefs equally - except I think that the games of Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are good things.)

Heaven... I'm In Heaven...

   I used to have a recurring dream throughout my youth and adolescence (not the horse-eating-my-arm one, another one).  It's Judgement Day and I'm separated from everyone I know except my dog (a collie named Shep); I have no idea what's happened to my family.  Sometimes I'm really scared, sometimes I just want to find them (and sometimes even my dog was gone).  Before Judgement and the actual sorting of souls, there was a final world-wide feast (a last supper - I really should have been a writer!) for everyone.  Everyone who was alive at that time and everyone who had ever lived, returned to life.

   The dream would last various lengths, sometimes with me just going past all the tables, looking for my family, asking if anyone had seen them.  Sometimes that would be all, but sometimes the feast would end and everyone would get in line and walk, separating in the distance as they went to whichever destination they were destined.  Then I'd really get scared as I still hadn't found my mom and dad or brother and sister.

   And then I'd wake up.

   Although I didn't know, there was never any sense that I was going anywhere but Heaven within the dreams.  Sometimes the feast would take place in Heaven after the sorting, in great halls rather than in the open with red burning skies on Earth.

And I Seem To Find the Happiness I Seek...

   I have never, ever told anyone about these dreams before.  Dreams are so very personal, and I've rarely discussed even a nightmare with anyone, even a girl friend.  "Oh, yeah, I had a dream about so-and-so last night" is usually the extent of it, so it's not an earth-shattering revelation (get it?) that I've never discussed these dreams before.  But I think these philosophies and dreams were also a large part of my always questioning religion, even as I believed I believed, thought I believed, gave lip service to believing, to finally just realizing that I did not believe and, except for when I was very young, really hadn't ever believed.

   I've just been thinking about this for the past few days (haven't had the dreams since I was an adolescent), largely because I read Me of Little Faith, Lewis Black's new book about what we believe theologically and why we believe it.  So I decided to write about this and discuss it for the first time.

   I'm not bad, I just draw that way (to paraphrase).