Heaven is

By May 5, 2013Comms

I got what I call “Bible Thumped” yesterday. It’s my colloquialism for being proselytized. It was a fellow officer, in an egregious breach of policy that could easily cost him his commission if I decided to complain.  But I know that all he wanted to do was help me, and there’s no call to punish a person for that.

In a way, I’m grateful, because he got me thinking about some important stuff, and sometimes when I do that I take it here, because I do pretty much everything out loud, thinking included.

He asked me what religion I was. I told him that I was an antitheist, that I deliberately chose to believe in God so that I could call him to account. That 3 tours in Iraq and my nephew’s severe autism had enforced the view that God is someone who pulls the legs off spiders, a malevolent divinity that must be resisted, beaten.

He talked to me about Job, assured me that suffering in this life meant treasures in heaven. That was the thing to live for, to die for. My general impression was that he felt that life was a thing you get through, gritting your teeth in the hope of a reward on the far side.

“And what then?” I asked.

“Heaven,” he answered.

“I know, heaven. What does heaven look like?”

On this he was less clear.

He did say that it was different for everyone, and so when I got back to the barracks that night, I sat down and made a list of what my heaven was.

And I was surprised to find, that by the time I had finished, I was grateful to him.

Heaven is games, rustling papers, shuffling cards and clicking tiles. Yelling and yelling and yelling.

Heaven is Manhattan at night, pillars of glowing glass. Palaces of merchant princes. A shining island you have sworn to give your life to defend, but can’t afford to live on.

Heaven is five-foot swells and 24-knot winds, an army of giants hammering on your hull, reminding you that you’re flying.

Heaven is Indigo covered in salt blooms. Gun oil and diesel and burning trash. Radio chatter and acronyms. “Stern aspect” and “check your fire” and “ops normal.”

Heaven is snow on the fantail, fingers burning from hauling freezing wet line.

Heaven is a pistol on your thigh. The stock in the sweet spot, punching your shoulder. The swirl of cordite and smoke, the world gone blurry save the front sight post, as clear and brilliant as a polar star.

Heaven is the watch floor at 2AM, the world silent and dark, your face lit in glowing green and red. Conducting an orchestra that marshals the darkness, channeling shadows until all wake safely.

Heaven is the storm’s edge, swirling around you, winds screaming rage until you wonder if, when they clear, the world will still be there.

Heaven is frozen exhaustion, collapsing into the rack knowing you have spent it all, that there is nothing left, that you found your line and crossed it.

Heaven is danger close indirect, the shock wave ripping through you, rattling your teeth, shaking armored glass until the spalling sprays across your face.

Heaven is terror, fear pushing the needle into the red line so far and for so long that fright laps itself, the joint coming unglued, bringing the fractured calm where nothing can hurt you anymore.

Heaven is derision. Harsh words and accusations. Pointed fingers. Burning in effigy. It is standing in the midst of it, as you did in the storm, and answering silently, “Even so, my life for you.”

Heaven is words, oceans of words. Sending them out and getting them back, the scintillating affirmation, “We have heard you. You have made us feel something.”

Heaven is the crucible, the excitement of meeting the stranger on the other side, the person who you will be, who is nothing like the one you are now.

Heaven is the silence on the other side, shared with others, whispering “This links us. Even though we are nothing like each other.”

Heaven is stinging wounds, throbbing aches, broken hearts. The steady pulse signal repeating over and over again: alive alive alive.

Families that aren’t yours, art that isn’t yours, triumphs that aren’t yours. Alone in the dark, “Dance, drink, screw, laugh. Nothing will hurt you on my watch.”

Heaven is all these things swirling and mixing and resonating, until you realize that life is made up. That this, THIS is who you are, this composite. That there is no calling, no one thing you were meant for.

And you realize that being ready to die doesn’t mean you have to want to.

And that the divines were only half on target: right that there is a heaven, but wrong about how you get there.

That you can leave death for the dead, because heaven is everything else.

And you were there all along.


Author Myke Cole

Myke Cole is an American writer of history and fantasy who leverages a lifetime in military, law enforcement and intelligence service to take you to battlefields, real and imagined.

More posts by Myke Cole

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Heaven is standing in a freezing tower, watching the daylight slowly bring the town outside the walls into bas relief, knowing that the FOB got its sleep because you post postponed yours.

    This is a helluva list, sir.

  • Amazing and beautiful. Thank you for making me think about what heaven is to me. And a thousand times thank you for standing watch.

  • JenN says:

    I have heard you. You made me feel something. thank you.

  • Michael Brudenell says:

    Outstanding, Myke. Your reaction is golden.

  • David Fields says:

    No, heaven is being with God himself…and we can’t even begin to imagine how precious and awesome that will be. Yes, we get rewarded for how we live our lives, but only if you accept Christ as your savior. And life is not “something to get through”…it’s a gift with which God entrusts each of us and allows us the free will to live as we choose. And war/disease/disability/suffering aren’t results of God being malevolent, but come from his allowing us to exercise our free will, which we often use to stray from his instructions for how to live our lives. The story of Job is a very good, powerful one indeed, if you care enough to learn its lessons. And if you think war and autism are bad, you can’t even imagine the horribleness of hell…which is basically eternal separation from God after being exposed to his presence (AKA sheer agony) but entirely avoidable. Suffering/tribulation/heartache/pain is a part of life, just part of being human…sure, sometimes we can avoid it, and a lot of it we bring upon ourselves…but the true measure of a life is not in how much adversity you avoid, but how you deal with it when you can’t. Spoiler alert: dealing with it is ultimately impossible without God. If you really ant to call God “to account” (how must he view that challenge to his authority?), then try cracking open his book once in a while and see what you can learn. Of course, our human minds will never be able to come close to fully understanding the ways and thinking of God…but if he can create everything that exists, I think he can handle your questions!

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