Who Wants to Live Forever?

One of the things I love about the rock group Queen is that they had this crazy way of going back and forth, between the profound and the absurd.  Sometimes, they would sing about “Big Bottomed Girls” or “I Want to Ride my Bicycle.”  Other times, they would work up this profound crescendo around bravery– even bravado– in the face of certain death, like in “The Show Must Go On.”  My favorite, though, is when they found the sublime firmly rooted in the ridiculous: when they mixed them up, like some sort-of smoothie for the mind, made of equal parts silliness and profundity.  Consider, for example, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  The title evokes these high brow ideas and concepts.  Where a lesser song would have a guitar solo, this thing has some sort-of operatic break.  And yet, their is an awareness that is just a just a pop song, at the same time.

More to the point of the things I am thinking about today: “Who Wants to Live Forever?”  This was on the soundtrack to that masterpiece of science fiction cheesiness, “Highlander.”  Highlander is a lot like the band itself: an exquisite balance of pop culture and something so much deeper than pop culture.  It’s an interesting song to be located in a movie about characters who don’t age.  In some sense, they do live forever.  The movie is about their quest for a different kind-of eternity.  Somehow, they all know that they have to fight each other.  When their is only one of them left, that immortal will receive “The Prize.”

highlander

I remember the first time I saw the movie.  I assumed “The Prize” would be some sort-of set of extra super powers.  I don’t know if this is connected to my own silly presuppositions or if the idea is planted in the movie.  I don’t know if this is points to the assumptions I carry around, or the assumptions the screen writers do.  But it doesn’t much matter.

I am thinking today, about living forever.

We Christians spend a lot of time thinking about that.  We wonder what our lives in the afterlife will be like.  We get so focused on the externals: mansions and feasts and all kinds of things that sound great.

I think that would all be great for a year, or a hundred years, or a thousand.  But if it is only about the outside of me that is getting transformed…  Then my heaven?  It would eventually become my own personal hell.  I don’t know about you, but me?  I am kind-of a mess.

No matter how much my circumstances get better, there is a time that I forget how far I come, and I begin to take greatness for granted.  No matter how much my relationships improve, there comes a time when I stop appreciating people.

In short, if you gave me the easy, obvious heaven, if you just extended my life indefinitely, I would be like those guys in Highlander.  I would be a mess.  Not aging, being nearly impossible to kill, having the resources of a fortune at my fingertips: none of it would mean anything.

Who wants to Live Forever?  That suddenly becomes a pretty interesting question.

The lyrics of the song imply that we ought to go after love.  And there is something to that.  (Sometimes we make an idol out of our relationships, especially our romantic ones.  That’s not what I am talking about.  Bare with me.)

When we are at our best, perhaps deeply in love…  Time stops meaning anything.  We also have these moments, I think, when we are doing the things we are great at.  For me, when I am my very best writing.  Or I lose myself in the middle of the nature.  Or I am teaching somebody, maybe something we have been working on for a while, and their eyes light up and they finally get it.

Joseph Campbell told his students to follow their bliss.  I think we know we are following our bliss when time just slips away.  It loses meaning.

When we talk about this kind of idea, we often point out the promise that the kingdom of heaven is already here.  Today, I read something that really struck me.  There is this lawyer, who approaches Jesus.  The lawyer says, “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life.”  Jesus’ answer is the parable of the good samirtain.  His answer?  Love on people, recklessly, unhesitatingly, uncompromsingly.

I think that the lawyer was asking about just extending out his days.  Jesus answer wasn’t a formula for how to get to this eternity.  It pointed the lawyer to the other type of eternity, the other way of conquering time.  I think he was inviting the lawyer to sample eternity right here and now.

If we want to hold onto the idea of a loving God, we almost have to believe in both kinds of eternity.  If he extended time out forever?  Well?  So what?  That’s a little bit like going to a crappy restaurant.  They bring out crapy food.  To make up for the first crappy meal they served, they offer you a lifetime of crappy meals.  More of something crappy does not make it un-crappy.

But on the other hand… if we just get these little tastes of losing ourselves.  If those little droplets of eternities, those two minute, or two hour experiences are the best that there is…  It’s all been a cruel joke, a tease.

The idea that I could spend an eternity in that wonderful state where I have lost all the worst parts of myself?  That is a pretty cool thing.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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