How Was Heaven?

What if you died and found yourself standing in front of St. Peter, and the almighty asks, “How was heaven?”

We spend our entire lives striving to get somewhere else. What if heaven is here and now?

Shortly after I graduated from college and accepted their job offer, The Pillsbury Company moved into a new office tower in downtown Minneapolis. Our team took up residence on the 38th floor. The building had floor-to-ceiling glass windows that offered a dizzying view of the city. Standing with my toes against the glass, I commented to a colleague that it sure was a long way down. 

It was a beautiful day, and Tom replied, “If you suddenly fell, do you think you would be able to enjoy your last moments?”

“Of course not!” I said. “Could you?” 

“I would like to think so.” He said. 

I’ve never forgotten that response. Perhaps that should be our life goal. To completely let go of our troubles and anxieties and enjoy every moment to the fullest. In practice, it’s a pretty tall order!

That’s not the end of the story. 

Forty years later, I invited Tom over to listen to some jazz on my hi-fi system. Tom, a music lover, was gravely ill with a terminal disease. We listened in silence as his favorite artist, Cannonball Adderly’s sax, filled the room. In a pause between songs, I asked Tom if he remembered his comment about the fall from The Pillsbury tower so many years before. 

He, in fact, did.

Fighting back the tears, I asked if his views had changed. Tom smiled and replied, “The end certainly is coming a lot quicker than I expected! But, isn’t it a beautiful day?”

The future is uncertain. Life carries risk and ultimately brings unrecoverable loss. 

Maybe heaven is found in the fleeting moment. 

Too often, we live life like the fall, stressed to the max. Life places so many expectations and obligations on us. We would like to “zen-out,” but there doesn’t seem to be enough time. 

If heaven is here and now, how can we fully experience it?

I think the answer lies in the quality of our awareness. Anxiety arises from our state of mind, which in turn arises from the quality of our awareness. Things don’t really make us anxious. We make ourselves anxious.

A journalist once asked Gandhi if he could describe the meaning of life in twenty-five words or less. Gandhi replied, “yes, of course, but I only need three. Renounce and enjoy!” 

Sage advice, but it’s not easy to leave our baggage behind and enjoy the gift of presence. Tom was one of the few people I’ve known who lived this philosophy. 

As I get older, I’m finding new meaning in songs.

In the last song he wrote before leaving the Beatles, Paul McCartney sings,

“Let it be!” 

That’s a good start!


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