Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Letter, Heaven Sent

Dear Russ and Beth, my dear children,

The trouble with Heaven, it turns out, is that the place is so darn heavenly. I'm not sure what I expected, besides not expecting to be here. That's not to say I was disappointed when Saint Peter shook my hand and welcomed me to eternity. And I certainly wasn't going to ask how he and the admissions committee arrived at their decision, lest a second look result in Pete taking a cue from NFL officials and announcing, "Upon further review..."

But now that I'm here, I'm beginning to wonder why anyone would want to come here for an extended stay, let alone forever. The truth is, as a place to spend eternity, Heaven ain't so hot - no pun intended. Perfection is overrated. I'm OK with being perfect. But what good is perfection when everyone around you is perfect? When I walked among the mortals, if a man casually mentioned that he had correctly answered every question on the SAT, I would be grudgingly impressed and, at the same time, tremendously proud of myself, knowing that if I had accomplished the same thing, which I didn't, I would not brag and go about feeling superior. OK, I'd feel superior, but I'd keep it to myself as long as the person I was talking with wasn't getting snooty. Well, maybe I would have bragged. But not that much, hardly more than just a little, I'm sure.

There are no SATs in Heaven, but if there were, everyone would get a perfect score. What fun is that? Pretend you're at a bar up here and after a few drinks you say, "Hey, did I ever tell you guys I got a perfect score on the SATs?" Nobody would say, "Wow!' or "Yeah right," or "No kidding," or You're full of it." All you would hear is a chorus of "Me too," "Welcome to the club," "Big deal," and "Doesn't everyone?" This isn't a place where you can feel good about yourself by reminding others that you are better than they are at this or that. And what's the advantage of being great at something if everyone else is great at it?

And nobody plays games here. That's not a figure of speech; it's the truth (I was going to say "literal truth," but Heaven is a redundancy-free zone, so, on the plus side, there are very few sportscasters and even fewer TV news reporters here.) No one has to fret about going to work, or paying the bills, or his spouse cheating on him, or his teenage son impregnating the girl next door. The people here have very little to do and forever to do it. You would think they'd spent their idle hours playing cards, or Monopoly, or shooting hoops, or racing cars or something. But they don't. I guess it makes sense. Take baseball: How can you have a baseball game when the pitcher always pitches a perfect game and every batter bats 1.000? It's impossible.

Heaven is full of beautiful parks where people stroll or sit on benches, and there are many, many little cafes where people go and have coffee or tea. Strangely, you seldom hear people conversing in those places, or anywhere else, for that matter. Please don't think that the garrulous are barred from Heaven. I've run into a few old acquaintances who were regular Chatty Cathys on Earth. The trouble is, in Heaven there isn't much to talk about. You can't talk about your misfortunes, because you don't have any. And you can't talk about other people's misfortunes for the same reason. And, as I mentioned before, there is no joy in bragging about your accomplishments, because anything you can do everybody else can do just as well.

And that isn't the worst of it. In Heaven you never have those wonderful conversations where you sit around with friends and talk about someone who isn't there in a delightfully mean-spirited, condescending, gossipy sort of way. Nothing in the Rules of Conduct prohibits those conversations, but no one here ever does anything gossip worthy. And even if they did, the people here are so damned understanding and forgiving that they would never be snide, spiteful or malicious. On Earth, a person who never has an unkind word to say about anyone is a pleasant but boring anomaly. Up here, the catty remark does not exist, and conversations quickly become sleep inducing and tedious. Boring as hell, so to speak.

Well, that's it for now. Perhaps by next time I'll have stopped whining about having nothing to whine about.

All my love,

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