A Ticket to Heaven

Let go, members of the congregation, of Heaven.

“There is another world, but it is inside this one.”
–Paul Éluard

Joseph awoke one morning from a night of tumultuous, anxious dreaming, during which he found himself unable to do anything to dispel the dreams, but was glad to find himself awake again this next morning. The previous night out had been chaotically composed as one of those nights out that you hear about, and pieces of it lingered with him back home. He carried the pounding bass that night in his throbbing head and sheltered scattered, drunken voices in his ears. As he arose from his bed that next morning he could still hear the faintest shout of some guy dancing gloriously on a table shouting God bless these people, this place! This heavenly place! His restless sleep tried, but his restless sleep failed, to entirely rid his mind of the wild sensations of yesterday, which hung over into this next morning.

Reaching the peak of the rise from his bed, Joseph stepped heavily across his bedroom and lightly down the steep Dutch stairs, tumbling down the steep Dutch stairs, then landed himself in the company of his two roommates who were all too happily conspiring to sizzle bacon on the stove and bring a pot of water to a boil. God knows what for? thought Joseph, who resented his roommates in moments like these for demonstrating their natural abilities to maintain the lively appearance of life on a morning like this–a Sunday morning. Who fucking listens to bossa nova like this and dances in the kitchen on a Sunday morning? Evading the envious smells and rhythmic headaches wafting through the kitchen, slumping onto a couch in the adjacent living room, Joseph all of a sudden became invigorated by the appearance of a mysterious, small piece of fancy paper. As Joseph bounced himself onto a brown, leather cushion, the tiny white business card popped up and danced the flutter down to the floor where it landed golden-etched-letters side up. Squinting his tired eyes didn’t help him make out the blurry, golden forms. God damn it. Joseph found himself forced back into activity, leaning his whole weight forward again to pick the mysterious card up off the ground.

As Joseph raised the glowing white card to his eyes, a cloud suddenly ran away to uncover the beaming sun, the kitchen timer suddenly ring-a-rang-rang-rang and Stacey Kent suddenly sang a joyful, glorious note against a resolving chord as the golden words of that beautiful white ticket shone brightly through Joseph’s eyes: 1x General Admission to Heaven. Joseph dropped the card in his lap, darted his hands up to his aching head, and turned to shout into the kitchen the necessity of that sublime moment: Will you guys turn down the goddamn music?! It’s like my headache is throbbing in fucking swinging triplets! And who listens to bossa nova that loud on a fucking Sunday morning?! Tossing the ticket back into the air above the couch to watch it dance the flutter back down, Joseph established that the ticket was beyond his interest. It did, though, make him curious as to which kind of music this band called “Heaven” played and which of his roommates had failed to invite him to the concert–a question, though, for a Tuesday afternoon or evening.

Driving to church that morning, as his first roommate insisted every Sunday that the entire household of three go, Joseph again had to ask what this unusual congregation called itself–for it was an unusual name that he found difficult to grasp and even more so to remember. The New People’s Democratic Church of God and Community Care his roommate reminded him calmly, even offering to once again explain the origins of the name–naturally, it was quite a good story worth telling. And so on went his roommate, about a new peoples that grew discontent with the archaic churches and about a brave soul that took it upon herself to a found a new church of God and name it something almost entirely different–grasping for words that evoke love but remain pure, untouched, trademark safe, clean of the dirty hands of the archaic churches. Optimally, his roommate laughed, it would simply have been called The Church of God.

Joseph found the retelling of this story again entirely unamusing. He preferred reading billboards out the window over listening to his roommate’s knowledge-ego-trips, but his roommate’s thoughts always seemed to wrestle their way into his mind on these Sunday car rides. It always perplexed Joseph that this religious jargon only spewed from his roommate’s mouth on Sundays, while Monday through Saturday he could be heard mentioning nothing of it. I swear, Joseph thought, I can’t remember a single time hearing him say the word “God” or any of this shit at a party. Resentment reboiled in Joseph as he thought about that and thought about that all the long way until the great white sign shone spectacularly through his window of The New People’s Democratic Church of God and Community Care.

Seated in the row second to front, stationed at the seat closest to the center aisle where one can somehow feel the concentrated energy of religious figureheads walking past, Joseph restlessly awaited the beginning of the sermon–as he had awaited it countless times before. The sermon was always the same anyways, always the same, Joseph had learned, so as he awaited the beginning he was more so already awaiting the end. Always about Heaven or something, always about Heaven he mumbled to himself, still disapproving of these early Sunday mornings and scorning the idea of listening through the same sermon, always the same, always the same, again. But his roommate always insisted, and Joseph didn’t have the kind of heart, couldn’t ever find the right words quickly enough, to say No.

As a preacher wrapped in a black robe started her floating walk to the front lectern, a quietness filled the congregation while Joseph continued to ponder the same old subject that would be the subject again this sermon. His thoughts jumped back to earlier this morning on the couch when he discovered his roommate’s ticket to see “Heaven” live. That’s pretty funny, he thought, What if that was actually, like, a real ticket to Heaven? What would I even have done with it? What are you even supposed to do with a ticket to Heaven? Like, do you just hold it up in the air and scream until an angel swings down to save–

The sermon began–

Welcome, members of the congregation, yet again, to our weekly sermon, or as we prefer to call it, our weekly reminder, here at The New People’s Democratic Church of God and Community Care. Let us begin.

Members of the congregation, the first question that motivates our enquiry here each week is simple: What does Heaven look like? The notion is unfortunately entangled in a deep history of religious and literary symbolism, and thus, to answer the question with a clear mind, an undisturbed eye, is challenging. The glowing wings of Gabriel and the sparkling white pearly gates draw us already to images we must let go of in order to purify our search once again. Let go, members of the congregation, of these images. Let go of the images of Heaven.

Members of the congregation, the second question that furthers our enquiry here each week is simple: When we ask what Heaven looks like, by what impulse do we ask the question? A woman may drink water because she is thirsty or because her doctor tells her to, and we may ask about Heaven because we seek a blueprint by which to build it or because we seek to foresee the future. Neither reason is heavenly, for neither the impulse to build by a blueprint nor the impulse to foresee the future are heavenly impulses. Let go, members of the congregation, of these impulses, and no longer ask about Heaven. Let go of your questions about Heaven.

Members of the congregation, the final question to conclude our enquiry here is simple: Is the word “Heaven” spoken in Heaven itself? Certainly not, for theorizing about Heaven is itself unheavenly. The attempt to develop a knowledge of good and evil was our original sin, and our attempts to develop a knowledge for our salvation from this first sin will eternally be the second. We conclude then, that Heaven is not spoken about in Heaven, and relinquish the notion altogether so that we might find it in this place. Let go of Heaven, members of the congregation, for Heaven is what we seek, as we must remind ourselves again forever, starting next week.

The congregation together chanted–

There I sat,
Wondered what is heavenly
From where the revolution would spring
—what the mechanism would be
But a good philosopher I am
There I asked what ‘mechanism’ means
There I asked what is ‘heavenly’
There I saw,
A revolution unforeseen
All around all of a sudden, yet always
Everyone happy