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Friday, August 29, 2014

Are There Tuesdays In Heaven?

I never had to physically view the bodies, but I've imagined the death scenes many times, my mother slumped forward in a recliner, my brother in pieces on an Arizona highway.

I faced their autopsy reports. The medical examiner got the color of my mother's eyes wrong. They were green, not brown, but by the time her body was found, and because of all the retching, blood had obscured the true color.

My brother's body was no longer recognizable. There were extruded brain fragments on his t-shirt, almost every bone broken, his once handsome face and muscular body distorted. The human I grew up in the same house with, played cowboys and Indians with, listened to the Beatles' Blue Album with, was reduced to lifeless pulp.

Just like that. We fall off the planet.

It was these autopsy reports in particular that brought my agnosticism into sharp relief. Nothing could be further from the "Jesus Saves" and "God Listens" bumper stickers than the very real and grisly images of my loved ones in death. It was how they died, and when they died, and why they died. Not death itself. Death is part of life, but not torture, murder, or the irony of someone chronically suicidal finally succeeding by accidentally choking on a ham sandwich. God can't possibly be that ironic. Paradoxical, maybe, but not ironic. That's just cruel.

Any confusion about life after death can be summed up in this burning question: Are there Tuesdays in Heaven? I'll come back to this later.

For a instant this morning, everything made sense. I had an epiphany after glancing at a book on my kitchen counter, Hyperbole And A Half. It's a creation of part web comic, part blog, by Allie Brosh. The comic is drawn in Paintbrush and is described as "intentionally artistically crude." It's about everything from intellectually disabled dogs to debilitating depression. The colorful pages are inspiring, and the humor, even when it addresses all that isn't funny, makes one take life less seriously. I mean, what else is humor for?

So I decided right then and there in the kitchen that creation is an infinite explosion of colorful confetti.  All this, our lives and what we've put into the world, is an amazing gorgeous blast of paper bits -- every flower, poem, song, star, laugh. We argue over where the confetti originally came from, when it came into being. We war when we can't agree on the answers.

It's everybody's confetti, but that's just not enough for some. And confetti alone doesn't satisfy. We have to paste and glue it, dye it, drown it, own it. We turn it into money, churches, walls and dungeons. That's just how we roll.

We've ruined everything. But that explains a lot.

Jesus saves. Saves us from what? Certainly not ham sandwiches, monstrous murderers and heavy vans that kill best friends (a death I left out). What's that I hear way in the back row? Hell? He saves us from hell? No, I'm afraid not. He might hold your hand, apologize profusely, but there are no surefire hell preventions. The best Christians I know have frequent flyer passes to hell. All they have to do is close their eyes, and there they are.

God listens. Hear that? Hear the warmth of being heard? That's all the warmth you're gonna get, because after God listens you're on your own to deal. He never promised bad things would never happen, that you'd never get cancer, that you'd live a long happy life and end up with a condo next to his.

Here's the hardest thing to face, which I've almost mastered: It's not meant to make sense. Sometimes it seems to, in a wonderful My Little Pony for Christmas kind of way, but other times it's just ugly black confetti everywhere. And it doesn't always clean up well.

Are there Tuesdays in Heaven? No, love. There aren't. There aren't Mondays, Mays, Groundhog Days or s'mores. But here, in a wondrous world that won't last forever, there's confetti, lots and lots of it.  Life is intentionally, artistically crude, which is usually a pretty good thing.

Try and celebrate it.

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