There are a few tufts of snow drifting around outside my window this morning.
I live in a neighborhood with old multi-story houses and streets of brick. Despite being in the middle of the city, it has an old, open feeling to it. In the snow it’s somewhere between old London and Narnia. My block is open enough to have trees and closed enough you can’t see many other buildings.
On the corner right next to my house is an old street lamp. At night it creates a halo in which you can see each and every one of the multitude of flakes.
Looking at it adds to the feeling of serene isolation from the surrounding city. Every time I see snow I hope we get enough to recreate that scene. Michaelyn hates the cold, but I think she’d love that corner on a snowy night. It’s just so beautiful.
This is my heaven, and I found it on my own by just walking outside and keeping my eyes open. No need to co-opt it for a god. We know the natural forces that produce individual, complex, and unique snowflakes. We have unraveled the mystery of what makes a tree (to the consternation of Joyce Kilmer). By looking closely we have even seen how the tiniest parts of me were sculpted in a cosmological furnace.
And in this brief moment in an otherwise meaningless universe they all come together on a single street corner where I can miss holding the hand of a particularly lovely collection of particles that I was lucky enough to bump into in my life. This is how I stand square with a purposeless universe; by managing what it cannot and finding my own.
Heaven isn’t eternity. It’s not something that’s been crafted for us that we can buy with time in a pew or by abandoning certain pleasures. Heaven is something we find in this lifetime. It’s something we make for ourselves. It’s a street corner in the snow and people without whom the scene, no matter how wonderful, can still be made happier.
I do not need the empty promises of heaven from religion – I need only the time to explore the one world I’ve got and a mind fixated on present beauty rather than on the wonders promised when this life is done. The elegance and charm in a single street lamp, not to mention the worlds beyond it, dwarfs the whole of scripture and damns it to irrelevance.