If you’re reading this, the world still exists.
Or perhaps you’re reading this online in heaven, where I bet they have excellent Wi-Fi. (No dropped calls either.) Anyway, the End of the World has been scheduled, most recently, for Oct. 21, 2011, with a tip from Harold Camping. Don’t get me started on how a few Christians keep predicting the end of the world when Jesus said we couldn’t predict it. So it’s on for Oct. 21. (Mayan rain date: Dec. 21, 2012).
Frankly, I’ll be sorry to see the End of the World, even though it means (assuming I’m forgiven for my sins) that I’ll be welcomed into the heavenly banquet, in company with the saints, and all the rest who made it into God’s presence. But even with the promise of eternal bliss, I’ll miss my time on earth.
Especially the following five things:
1.) Hamburgers. There’s this burger joint right across the street from where I live in New York (which I think is actually called “The Burger Joint”) that makes great, flame-broiled burgers. The buns are perfect, too. All for $6.50. I’ll miss those. Then again, if it’s heaven I’ll bet I can probably get an even better burger without standing in line, which at that burger joint during lunch hour is ridiculous. On the other hand, there will probably billions of people in heaven and so the lines may be even worse. I hope God has figured this out.
2.) Snow. Will they have winter in heaven? I doubt it. Think about it: Most of the people who make it to heaven will probably opt for warm weather. And if we’re all going to be together we can’t have our own individual heavens, so I’m anticipating that it’ll be sunny all the time. Plenty of beaches and hammocks seem to be most people’s idea of paradise, so I’m resigning myself to long walks on the beach for a good while. Lanai. Malibu. Negril. Something like that. That’s not so bad, but I’ll miss snowflakes and snowdrifts. They were pretty.
3.) TV. Having television in heaven seems somewhat déclassé. Do you really want to watch TV when you can be gazing on the Face of God? And even if you do, you’d be too embarrassed to admit it, especially if you’re talking to a saint. “Do you want to gaze on the Face of God?” “Um, no, I need to see another ‘Law & Order’.” Like you’re going to say that to St. Francis of Assisi? So: no TV. I’ll miss “30 Rock.”
4.) Sleep. Given that we’ll have perfect, eternal, glorified bodies, we won’t need sleep. Too bad, I say. I always liked a good nap. In college, my friend Jackie told me that 20 minutes was the optimal naptime: any longer you get groggy; any shorter and it doesn’t work. I’ll thank Jackie in heaven. On the beach.
5.) Work. While not a workaholic, I like to put in a good day’s work. Feels satisfying. But there won’t be much work to do in heaven, since everything’s, well, perfect. On the other hand, no more strategic planning meetings.
Here are five things I won’t miss (besides strategic planning meetings):
1.)Mosquitoes. One of the first things I’m going to ask God is this: Did you add some sort of mosquito catnip to my blood before I was born? Because my former earthly body seemed to attract every mosquito within several states. Then when I was bitten, I got these huge red welts. I understand birds needed to eat mosquitoes, but couldn’t you have made similarly nutritious bugs that didn’t suck out blood from people and cause them to itch? Plus, malaria.
2.)Throwing up. Just gross, okay? And unnecessary. I would rather just feel vaguely unwell for a few weeks.
3.)People who never say “Thank you.” There are many such people in New York, by the way. Did God put them all there on purpose? And why do they all work at the Duane Reade store on my block? It’s a mystery, I guess.
4.)Migraines. Really? I can’t just get a headache; I have to get impaired vision, slurred speech and “auras”? I’ve only had them a few times, but a simple headache would have gotten the message across. I get it: I’m stressed. I won’t miss them at all.
5.)Polyester clerical shirts. While on earth, I really enjoyed being a priest, except for those ridiculous black polyester shirts we had to wear. Who came up with that idea? (By contrast, Jesus’s clothes looked very comfortable.) I tried the all-cotton black ones, but after a few washes they faded so it looked like you were wearing a gray shirt and making some sort of “statement.” They were incredibly hot, even in the winter. And don’t get me started on those white plastic collars. Hellish.
Maybe I was too hasty when I said I’ll miss earth. Because, come to think of it, I’m looking forward to heaven. I really do want to meet Jesus (of course), Mary (again, of course) and all my family and friends who have gone on before me. I’m looking forward to that.
But I sometimes wonder what we’ll do for eternity. Will we talk to our friends and family forever? (And about what?) Stare at God from now until…whenever? (I was going to say “Kingdom come,” but it will have come.) Hang out and be happy day after day? Some of those activities sound like they could get dull after a while, but I’ll bet when we get there--maybe today, maybe later on--we’ll be really happy.
God will have figured out how to make us happy forever. After all, God’s pretty smart. Except for the mosquitoes.
James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest and author of Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.