Archive for July 16th, 2009
A co-worker raised a thorny issue today. Assume that there is actually a heaven and that if you are good, you get to go there after you die. Assume, further, that your spouse dies first, and you thus get to be re-united with your spouse in heaven. Now that would be one hell of a joyous reunion, right? You both actually died and now you find each other up there! But not so fast . . .
What happens to widows and widowers who have remarried? If all of the relevant parties were good, we’re going to have this uncomfortable situation: Joe goes to heaven and he sees his first wife Edna asking him to join her on the cloud on the left, while Betty, his second wife, is asking him to join her on the cloud on the right. What should he do? I thought that the whole reason that you could re-married is because your first spouse was dead. But that tidy earthly situation would unravel in heaven.
It could get really complicated in heaven if there were sex in heaven, but there apparently isn’t. I once heard a Christian radio-show preacher having an extended conversation with an earnest caller about this exact topic (I wrote about this conversation in 2006–it was one of the first posts at DI). The radio-preacher assured that man that there was no such thing as sex in heaven, but don’t worry, because the joys of heaven would be “better than sex.” The caller was upset. He insisted that he wanted to have sex in heaven–even if there was also something “better than sex.”
If body-less people still have emotions and passions, I would expect considerable turmoil in heaven. Even couples who had been happily married for 50 years might have their patience tested after sitting together on the same cloud for several million years. What if she decides that she wants to go visit some other guy on some other cloud, legitimately claiming: “I know that it’s utterly perfect up here in heaven, but we’ve already discussed everything that we could possibly discuss. I know everything about you; you know everything about me. I’m tired of having that thing that’s better than sex, even though we have it 3 times per week, which is more than most couples in heaven.”
Is there marriage counseling in heaven? A heavenly divorce court? What about popcorn? Just because you don’t have a traditional human body up there, wouldn’t you still crave popcorn? Consider this case of dead Mary, who now lives in heaven:
Mary [speaking to her dead doctor, who works as a physician in heaven): “I crave popcorn”
Mary’s doctor: “You have phantom taste buds syndrome. You just think you crave popcorn. You don’t really crave it, and that’s a good thing, because popcorn would fall right through your ethereal hands. But don’t worry. We have things that are better than popcorn up here.
Assume, too, that the guy who wanted sex in heaven finally dies and makes it to heaven. After a few restless nights, though, he complains to the heaven doctor: “I’m horny.”
Heaven doctor: “No, you only think you are horny. You have phantom penis syndrome.
I’ll end with a quote by George Bernard Shaw:
Heaven: a place so inane, so dull, so useless, so miserable, that nobody has ever ventured to describe a whole day in heaven, though plenty of people have described a day at the seaside.
Conductor Edward Downes and his wife Joan decided to end their lives on their own terms:
He spent his life conducting world-renowned orchestras, but was almost blind and growing deaf – the music he loved increasingly out of reach. His wife of 54 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. So Edward and Joan Downes decided to die together.
Downes – Sir Edward since he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 – and his wife ended their lives last week at a Zurich clinic run by the assisted suicide group Dignitas. They drank a small amount of clear liquid and died hand-in-hand, their two adult children by their side. He was 85 and she was 74.
Many people feel that suicide necessarily cheapens one’s life. In many cases, I don’t agree. I do think that the choice of when and how to die belongs to each person individually, as long as the decision was not made impulsively or under the influence.
If the day comes when I decide that I can’t bear the pain, or that I no longer find joy in my life, I would hope that I wouldn’t need to travel all the way to Switzerland because inter-meddlers think they know better than me about the meaning of my own life.
Stan Lebar worked for Westinghouse in the 1960s. He led the developmental team that produced a state-of-the-art camera for NASA—the camera that was taken to the moon on Apollo 11 and recorded the first moonwalk. Most people have seen those images, many times—grainy, fuzzy black & white pictures of something that looks kind of like an astronaut slowly descending something that kind of looks like a ladder on the side of a large object that we are told is the lander. Whatever. We suffered through these scenes, probably many of us annoyed at the quality, impatient that better pictures weren’t available. (Better still pictures became available, shot with specially-made Hasselblads, that remain absolutely stunning in clarity and detail, so made up for the sub par video, at least for some of us.) After all, even Hollywood, using by today’s standards primitive technology, could create vastly superior space vistas—compare the images from the 1966 film 2001: A Space Odyssey with the NASA footage from a few years later and you grasp the disappointment.
(It has long been my opinion that support for the space program waned because NASA managed to take something as exciting and sexy as space exploration and turn it into the equivalent of a lecture on statistics. The late, great science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein chastised NASA at Congressional hearings for not doing more P.R., better P.R. When he was told that the government didn’t do P.R., he had further things to say about campaigns and such like and then pointed out “NASA has a press department, doesn’t it? That’s the job of the press department.” Anyway…)
The camera built by Mr. Lebar’s team was far superior to the poor images we all saw—and continue to see. The recording medium, however, was incompatible with broadcast television at the time.
As you may know, NASA’s 1970′s technology Space Shuttle is about to retire, and NASA hopes to have a replacement system after a gap of a few years. Good planning, guys! Sure, the U.S. has plans to hire French and Japanese and possibly even Chinese technology until we can catch up in space.
This completely private, completely civilian company has just launched a satellite, and has paying customers queued up for future launches. Including NASA. Kudos to PayPal founder Elon Musk for going from start-up to commercial flights in just 7 years.