rough notes

heaven, a gateway, a hope

with one comment

This is a meme. It has been years since I played along with a meme. In fact, the last time I played a meme, I got so angry with the internet that it led me to rethink my relationship with it, and i walked away from blogging for almost three years.

But this meme was brought to me by ange ella, whose respect i’m always trying to earn, even if from afar. ange ella subtly pushes people to think about the moment they’re living in terms that extend well beyond the time of day and whether things are good or not good. for that, i owe it to her (and myself) to play along.

some one asked ange ella several questions, and she answered them. I decided to play along, so she asked me several questions. if you want to play along, then contact me and I’ll get back to you with your own set.


1. If heaven exists, what do you want it to be like?

This isn’t a loaded question but it is burdened so much by the Big, Heavy Things. Notwithstanding the weight of faith and religion bearing down on this question, it demands that we consider the entire notion of an afterlife – what its purpose is, what it looks like (as opposed to what it’s likely like), what it does, and if it is even a good thing. Since I over-think questions like this (note my blithering up to now), I try to avoid broaching the topic altogether. But for Ange Ella, I’m willing to give it a go.


The more I think about this, the more I realize I haven’t actually considered the question before. We don’t really have a choice to decide what heaven is like if heaven exists. If we’ve decided that heaven exists, then we’ve more or less decided to ascribe to a faith that explains to us what heaven is. Our understanding of heaven, that is, is often dictated to us by certain facets of a much larger belief system.

But what if we could decide that heaven actually exists and also determine what it will be? Ange Ella’s question is brokering close to After Life in some respects, so I’m both real happy and grieved that she asked me this.) I don’t know if I could figure out what my otherworldy paradise should be like, let alone describe it to others. I can’t really describe scenes so well, so a particular setting is out of the question. But if we might allow heaven to be compared to a moment, to a feeling or a set of feelings one has had, then I may be willing to venture a guess.

Like any good former English major, my mind is drawn to the sublime on this question. What’s so great about the sublime is not the acceptance or recognition of the shock and awe, but the actual confrontation when one is overcome by the terror, the fright, the beauty or the majesty. It is a moment of sheer incomprehension, when the senses are overcome by that which has been perceived. We can perceive the sublime, and we are cognisant that it is occurring, but we can’t comprehend it. Instead we stand there, wondrous and wondering in the shadow of something so much bigger than us.

That moment, when we are overloaded by what we have sensed and can’t comprehend anything except for an awareness of its existence alongside ours – I think that would be a “heaven” for me. (Putting it in those terms shows us why the Romantics were both feared and hailed by the religious. An encounter with the sublime is so close to an encounter with the Almighty that romanticism stood the chance to either describe God or replace religion altogether.)

2: Pertaining to question one – what place on earth have you found to be closest to this, if any?

As I mentioned before, I don’t do well at describing places and settings. Rather, feelings and memories are attuned to moments for me. I think I’ve encountered the sublime a couple times in my life. A moment forever dear to my heart would be a long drive home down the QEW one late night or early morning. Helen and I had finished moving out of our place, and we had a U-Haul truck of Stuff to return to our respective parents. Somewhere past Hamilton, we turned on the radio, and in the midst of an awful rain did we hear Elton John sing Rocket Man to us. We started singing back, and the chorus reverberated loudly in the cab. I especially remember the line “I think it’s going to be a long, long time / Before touchdown brings me ‘round again for them to find…” We both knew, as the pellets of cold December rainshower hit the cab, that it would be a long time before we’d have such fun together again, and that our homes, where our parents were, had not been our homes for quite some time but only spaces to store stuff. And to store ourselves. Soon, the song ended and Helen passed out, and I was left to drive this U-Haul further down the road. The drive was a silent and beautiful coda of sorts, but nonetheless the weight of the world bore down on me like nothing I’d felt in a long while.

Another moment that would be sublime (or I suppose “heavenly” for the sake of this conversation) would be a late, late winter night about ten years ago. The details are few but they are inconsequential to the moment as it occurred. I was living, studying, and working in Toronto. It was a hard life of sorts, but I was getting close to living the pauper-student lifestyle I had longed for, so I didn’t always notice the sadness I surrounded myself in in order to live and eat. At any rate, I lived close to the school, and worked close to the waterfront, which was about a forty minute walk away. One February evening, in the midst of a week that took in more hours at work than hours at in the library, I decided to take in one too many drinks after the shift ended. Soon, the bar closed and my cohorts and I realized we would have to walk home since the transit system had shut down. We all went our merry ways – some east, and some west – and I trudged north through the financial district. It was a beautiful night bereft of wind chills or blizzards. Instead, my walk home was complemented by a slow and subtle snowfall. Looking up to watch the white snowflakes come down against the dark sky and tall buildings was magical to my imbibed state. I don’t know exactly when or where it happened, and I don’t think I could find it now since the location I believe it may have occurred has since transformed from a parking lot to a condo, but at one point on my walk toward Queen St did I fall to the ground to make snow angels. I laid on my back and damned any cold that might come in order to make two snow angels in the fluffy matter that hit the earth. Looking straight up at the snow that fell down on me from the office towers took a lot out of me. I knew I had several drinks in my gullet and that I was tired after a long day of school and work, but I wanted nothing more than to stay in that precise spot for a long, long time. The moment felt like forever. I know it wasn’t since I only made two snow angels, but time still slowed down to a near-stop for me there. There was nothing but me, reinforced concrete, and sparkly snowflakes and lights far away to give the scene a mood. I’d give a lot to get that moment back.

3: What invention do you wish could have been yours?

I’m somewhat arrogant, somewhat pompous, and somewhat pretentious. But I don’t think I’m possessive or resentful (anymore). I’m not sure how to answer this because wanting an invention to be “mine” feels like wanting fame or notoriety. I suppose that a certain satisfaction must have warmed Louis Pasteur when he finally perfected the pasteurization process, or that Alexander Graham Bell was happy to figure out telephony when he did on the shares of the Bras d’Or. And I guess that Marconi was more than happy when he finally got the wireless signal from Ireland to touch base with Nova Scotia, so maybe I am being presumptuous and putting too much weight on the fame/fortune bit on this one.

Nonetheless, things aren’t coming to mind right now. I don’t think I appreciate the inventive process (?) enough to answer this. There are things around me, and I use them and appreciate them. But I don’t really recall what life was like before them.

Maybe, if anything, I wish I could have invented the aluminum, fibreglass, and composite hockey stick shafts. Then I would patent all the designs and processes, and then I would never, ever sell them. I miss the lightweight wooden hockey stick for its simplicity and durability. Also, I really believe that “Modern Technology” is making “Canada’s National Pastime” too expensive for the “Children of Tomorrow”. (That was rather contrite, I know.)

4: What song do you want playing at your funeral?

You’re asking me to pare down the multi-volume Soundtrack of my Life to just one song? Yikes. For a long time, I might have answered with a live boot of Air’s “We Are Electronic Performers”, which often sums up my postmodern feelings about life, technology, duplication, and existence (‘we are the synchronizers’). I’m a little more zen now, though, and so I think it would be one of two songs by Morrissey. If not “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful”, then it would be “Suedehead”.

“We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” is beautiful and uplifting, in spite of the nature of its title. The song has Morrissey, resentful that so many people around him are doing so much better at everything than he can. He’s insecure about his ability to write and sing – and therefore he’s insecure and unsure of his artistry and his way of life. This is not just a simple question of aesthetics and metaphysics, but also about finding a way to keep food on the table and the rent paid on time. But then the middle of the song comes around, where he realizes, “Oh you’ve got loads of songs, so many songs, more songs than they can stand . . . just listen:” and then he finds his sing and laugh again. When I’m sad and I feel I’m not living up to the apparent expectations of those around me (which is really just an maligned, interiorized understanding of the expectations I set for myself), I play this song and I feel better.

As for “Suedehead”, well, listen to that and tell me that you don’t know why this person sings only pop music. Morrissey has a beautiful voice that catches our moments of disarray and regret but hinges them on nostalgia and remembrances rather than guilt and decay. And the song is so ambiguous that even Wilde would approve.

(I think I might have to add one more to the list – I know, this was supposed to be only one song – but I need to bring New Order’s “Temptation” into the conversation. I’ve written about this song before so I won’t say much more except that “Oh you’ve got green eyes, oh you’ve got blue eyes, oh you’ve got grey eyes / and i’ve never seen anyone quite like you before”)

5: If you could only wear one outfit every day for the rest of time (you can have more than one of each piece, but they have to be identical), what would it be?

A finely cut white linen suit (mod, please), a greek sailor’s cap, and maybe a rolled cigarette or two. If you could add sunshine and the mediterranean to the outfit, then I might find solace in the scene.

(are you asking me to describe heaven again in this question?)

Written by mitchellirons

May 24, 2009 at 5:50 pm

One Response

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  1. Hi! Can I have questions please?
    Heart heart.


    May 29, 2009 at 1:03 pm

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