B: We mused a bit about what God might be doing up there in that heaven of His. Heaven, paradise, call it what you will, it’s usually synonymous with an ideal of ultimate happiness, and thought of as the reward for those who do well in this life. What do you suppose heaven would be like for us?
A: OK, how about…junk food, football games all day, 3D movies – and I mean REAL 3D…
B: Let’s please not indulge in a bunch of silly fantasies, shall we? You don’t really think heaven is like that, do you?
A: Sure! Why not!
B: Let’s see. The idea, it seems to me, is basically that you get whatever it is you want at any time. Isn’t that the fool’s notion of what happiness is? Isn’t that what people have been trying to pursue ever since the dawn of history, to have the power to get what they want? And what has that gotten them, or society in general? Were they really happy? Were they really satisfied? Think particularly about what kind of an existence that would be. What would be its purpose? Would it do anybody any more good than, say, a rock floating out in the middle of space does?
A: Heh! Well, I’d be havin’ it good, and that’s all that matters.
B: Well, yeah, if that’s what you really want, you might get it. Although I’m not sure it’s available. In any case, a purposeless existence like that isn’t what God had in mind when He created you.
I wonder how many people think that heaven is simply a place where we get whatever it is we want to satisfy any craving we may have, and that the purpose of this life is to endure a bit of suffering, just so we can get that reward? To such people, the idea of heaven is more about having; that is, having this or that material possession, or power to do or get certain things. As I was just insinuating, this has been the basic dream of innumerable hosts of people since time immemorial, and some have come close to it, or at least to its Earthly counterpart. Those who have come the closest have been royalty, dictators, and otherwise extremely wealthy people. Again – are these the kind of people whose lives we’d like to emulate? Were these people truly happy? What purpose did their lives serve?
We can’t keep any material thing we are given in this life anyway, so it appears, even our own bodies, since one can’t take it with him when he dies. But might we, or whatever of us remains – some think of this as a spirit or “soul” – retain some of our individual characteristics? Consider the idea of heaven that is more about being: meaning that the happiness inherent with the heavenly existence we enjoy is due to the kind of beings that we are, instead of the things we have. Heaven is “good” for such people because their desires are good – that is, they want to serve others and make others happy. When they see that they are helping others be happy, they are happy themselves, because of the love that they have for those they are serving. Not only does this kind of happiness beget more of its own kind, but it gives purpose to the existences of those who have it.
One could define happiness however he likes, and end up doing whatever he wants. If a person just existed to please himself, he may as well be a veritable vegetable, and as far as the Universe or anything in it are concerned, may as well not exist at all. But if he strives to serve at least one other being in the Universe, he has begun to fulfill a purpose, as we defined before. And this is at the core of what it means to have “purpose,” that we serve others, and it may very well be that having purpose is at the core of God’s happiness. And what does it mean to “serve?” To help others enjoy God’s happiness, that is, to fulfill their purpose, and to help them help others fulfill their purposes. We all serve each other, helping to enjoy God’s happiness.
B: No, because we’re talking about different purposes for different people. What’s my purpose? To be happy. How to be happy? By serving others. What does it mean to serve others? To help them fulfill their purpose. But their purposes are not necessarily, precisely, or specifically, the same as my purpose.
God being perfectly loving, He wants to give us the utmost happiness, which, if happiness is a matter of being, would entail being like Him. If He was able to make Himself so happy, why could He not help us become as happy? Why wouldn’t He, if we really showed Him and ourselves that we wanted it? Otherwise, wouldn’t He eternally be holding Himself above us? How could He love us perfectly, if He would eternally withhold a greater amount of happiness from us?
God loves us as though we were His own children. In fact, many believe that He literally is our Father – that is, of our spirits, which is the part of us that continues on into the next life after we die. Count me as one espousing this belief.