Why avoiding heaven should be at the top of your 2013 to-do list

Choices

Heaven is perfect. Everything to be understood is already understood. Any choices we make don’t change our happiness. We’re perfect. We have nothing to strive for. There is nothing more to know. A constant state stretching into infinity.

Heaven, perhaps not coincidentally, sounds like death.

Your actions are insignificant since everything will turn out as it should. During death, you become disordered into the system. But in heaven, everything is ordered. And since there is no disorder to shy from, the order is meaningless. And if there are any changes in heaven, they become meaningless, too.

This is why we must make choices with positive or negative consequences.

To have significance, our existence must include taking risks. There must be a negative outcome to suffer, so that there is a positive state for us to value. We must have a little suffering, a little wanting, a little desire, to make life worth living, actions worth taking, love worth making, and friendships worth building, because…

No desire means no love

The argument for a heavenly state is that we need to be content…we need to have gratitude with what IS before looking to what more can be. Desire leads only to more desire, unless checked by gratitude. Gratitude gives us peace. It keeps us grounded. It allows acceptance of what is, so our identity does not become wrapped up in what we do. Our selves always come before our job, or home, or looks, or our friends. If those things are stripped away, our gratitude for our humanity, for just having the dumb luck to be born, to exist, this profound truth will sustain us.

Gratitude allows us to value life. And valuing life itself gives us the reasoning for how we will use this life. Why we do something is as important as what we do.

But a heavenly gratitude without the passion to act is a divine lobotomy, stretching timelessly into oblivion

Human nature ties us all together. After we recognize that we all grow angry, fearful, happy, anxious, peaceful, lustful, needy… then we…then we can decide how to act. Will I be driven by my insecurity? Or by purpose and confidence and love?

As much as our natures are alike, our behavior differentiates us. Yes, we are all special, but only because of our behavior.

Our behavior makes us who we are

Our behaviors are based on our decisions, and we decide based on costs. Costs of how much we want to suffer, how much we want to risk losing something for what we love…Do we shoot for the love…or not?

Heaven is perfect. But that just isn’t good enough

So, don’t lose that desire. Carry heaven in your mind, but realize there’s more to you than the passive contentment behind those pearly gates.

To a new year of risk. To days that end with a resounding “hell yes!” or with a little fear because you don’t know what’s going to happen. And ultimately…doing what you love.

Cheers to 2013, friends.

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I was confirmed at Catholic mass



I attended a Catholic mass last Tuesday and heard the Bishop of Columbus speak. He said something that has changed my view of religion in a deep and meaningful way. In fact, after he confirmed the class of young people, he confirmed my formula to power.

In conclusion to his talk, the bishop said that unless you know, love, and serve God, you cannot be happy. I found it important that he concluded by mentioning the key to personal happiness.

So God brings us happiness…but how?

I thought about this and realized that God has absolute power. We do wrong and he tells us to accept him as having this power and he will take away that sin. Fault is our feeling from doing wrong. If God takes away that fault, we can be happy and that’s the only way we can be happy.

So why are people, both Christians and others, still unhappy?

Christianity is misused. Some followers rely on others for their connection to God. Their minister, their priest, other authority figures. But Chrisitianity tells us we need a personal relationship with God.

There is another misuse: We help others before we help ourselves. We feel good about ourselves through these actions, but Christianity tells us that the crux of finding happiness isn’t through our actions, it’s through recognizing we make mistakes and are imperfect. And this knowledge, not action, is where we must start:

We must accept ourselves

Religion fails -rather, WE fail- when we jump ahead of this state of mind: We fail as Christians when we think going to a church and giving to others will make us happy. We cannot be happy unless we know ourselves. Knowing God and knowing ourselves is the same thing. The saying God is love makes sense: When we know God, we love ourselves despite being imperfect.

But God cannot accept our guilt, only we can. The Bishop did not say God knows us. He said WE must know God. That’s why when we’re unhappy, it’s not God’s fault. It’s our fault. And once we accept this fault, we accept responsibility for ourselves. We lose that ego, we lose that worry. We become free and empowered.

Once we’re free from worry, we immediately become connected to others, because we see that everyone else is imperfect, too, and we’re not separate from them. And we see that when we don’t help them, it’s like not helping ourselves.

Freedom and connection are the consequences of accepting our imperfection. And freedom is happiness.

The Bishop was correct that we cannot be happy without knowing, loving and serving this idea: Accept your imperfections.

I thank the Bishop for confirming this in me.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person.

I was out walking with Jesse the other day. The sun was setting and the western skies were aglow with shimmering orange and yellow and red. We passed a home with a back yard that was carefully landscaped with evergreen trees. They were clustered within neat rings of stone. A decorative stone bench sat at either end of the yard. There was small, neatly trimmed shrubbery flanking the area.

“That yard looks like a park,” I said.

I thought about the care of the owners to ensure that the branches were trimmed. The stones and benches clear of weeds. The grass surrounding them cut. I said, “I wonder what the yard is going to look like in a hundred years. Will the yard even be there? Will it be destroyed? Will the family have moved on, and will there be another family owning the place?”

The transience of life

I think about how much the yard was appreciated. I think of our constant struggle to keep order. Maintaining our hygiene, cleaning ourselves, walking about, working, exercising, cleaning again. Picking out the soap and shampoo that we like, maybe it’s the cheapest, or the one that has best scent, or the one used in all the salons, or the one that’s not tested on animals.

Finding the restaurant with the tastiest dishes, the ones we must have, and we’ll pay for it, because nothing else is good enough. Maybe getting fast food, because we just want to eat something, anything. Or going to places that get their ingredients locally. Or having a garden, or not eating animals because we do care, we care a lot about our actions…

Does it matter?

Eating, brushing our teeth, eating again, brushing again, stopping the rot, keeping the bacteria at bay. Our diligence! Cutting the grass, cursing the rain, cutting the grass again, trimming bushes.

Again and again and again.

Going shopping to replace worn clothes, or just because it feels good. Trying to make more money, searching for that job that will make us comfortable, that income that’s just out of our reach, if only we could get to it.

Until we don’t do it anymore

Until one day, we stand at the gates to be judged. The gates of truth. Our conscience. And we ask ourselves if we spent our time wisely. Did we make an effort to do the right thing, or did we follow the crowd? Did we work too much, too little? Did we care about our contribution, about the consequences of our actions? Did we care about people, about the future, or did we throw up our hands in helplessness? Did we worry too much, or did we enjoy our life?

I looked at the yard and thought all this, because this is what I do. I thought about the big clock. Tick-tock. And then I stopped thinking of that. And I started appreciating everything a little bit more.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person? Neither is possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for them.

TED Talk Tuesday: Atheism 2.0



Alain de Botton says religion is a system that works. It knows human nature. So let’s not throw away the template just because the content is questionable. He wants us to use the religious method.

Religion treats us like children. And it is well to. We need to be life-long learners, but we cannot wait on chance occurrences to teach us the important stuff. Botton describes the value of the religious system of education, from the sermons to repeated practice, which the secular world has left to the individual.

Even our higher institutions expect the newly minted adult walking onto their campuses to know what it’s all about. After graduation, the corporation is ready to provide us the structure for our lives, and the branding and clarity.

“…except they’re right down at the bottom of the pyramid of needs. They’re selling us shoes and cars. Whereas the people who are selling us the higher stuff — the therapists, the poets — are on their own and they have no power, they have no might.”

Life is about growth and discovery, and we need to get into our groups and start communicating our ideas in a more organized way. The secular world has fled so far from religion, it’s forgotten that we need to congregate. We need sermons. We need to communicate ideas.

“My concluding point is that you may not agree with religion, but at the end of the day, religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they’re not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone. They’re for all of us.”

Tell it, brother!
Amen.