I had the weirdest dream the other night. It involved the seven stages of heaven. It did not, as I later researched, have anything to do with the actual Seven Heavens which is a part of religious cosmology found in many major religions such as Judaism, Hinduism and Islam and in some mystical religions such as Hermeticism and Gnosticism.
And, yes, I copied that straight from the internet.
The stages, they were things, I determined afterwards, which would be present in your own version of heaven. Each person's ideal afterlife would be different.
I liked the idea you could shape it, in a way, setting yourself up for an eternity of things you enjoy, or are challenged by, surrounded by people you love.
So this is what the stages were:
Location: Where would you like to spend eternity? On the beach, in the mountains, in the bush? Perhaps the afterlife isn't a fluffy cloud, but the warmth of the sun on your back, sand between your toes. That's what mine would be, bushland, leading to the water, a place to swim and walk, to be able to listen to the waves each night as I fell off to sleep.
Food: There would have to be food. But we can't be greedy. I like the idea of narrowing it down to one thing - potatoes for me. But throw in fish, butter and greens such as peas and spinach. What simple meal could you eat forever? A diet, light and clean. Perhaps I should be eating like that now. And if we are being greedy, throw in cheese, maybe wine.
Activity: Obviously you can't lay about playing your harp all day. What's the one activity you could do without getting bored? I thought reading for a while, but then I settled on walking. If my heaven is all bushland and ocean, I'll spend my days exploring. Breathing fresh air, getting the heart rate up, feeling the wind on my face, the earth beneath my feet.
People: This one was interesting. It's not about taking people with you, or meeting who's already there. It was more about creating versions of your beloved family and friends and populating your new world. I read a book about this one, can I remember the title of it, no, about a world where you got to take certain memories with you. You couldn't take your children, for example, but you would be able to remember things like when they first walked, or when they snuggled into bed with you, when you all laughed so hard. You could take all the best memories of friends, of nights eating and dancing and deep conversations. You could take memories of lovers, of certain caresses and long kisses, of stolen moments and whispers. Which ones would you pack?
Self: this one was all about spending eternity at the age and stage of your choice. Would you want to 18 again, 30, 49, the age you are now? At 18 you wouldn't know all you do now, but your knees would be great. While it's tempting, I settled on the age I am now, with all my faults and imperfections. I like my 52 year old body, with all its curves, and strength. We've been through a bit and I owe her that, to take her with me to the end.
Nemesis: This was an interesting one. If you had to take one person who challenged you, who called out your worst, who would it be? Perhaps this person is coming along to make you look at yourself in a different way, to remind you that life, even the afterlife, isn't perfect. And that true happiness comes from recognising this and dealing with it. But do I have a nemesis? For me, my nemesis is not a person, but perhaps my own inability to deal, for the best part, with accepting life's imperfections.
Things: What would you pack in the hand luggage you're allowed to take with you? A book, my reading glasses, a Bison bowl to eat out of, my grandmother's cutlery, a Spotify account, toothpaste and hand cream, a sexy pair of knickers, my slippers full of holes.
It was an interesting dream, one that got me thinking about whether I actually believed in heaven or an afterlife of any kind.
But then I realised it was more about creating that place in the here and now. Surround myself with good people, eat well, get outside, do things I enjoy, and as for that nemesis, perhaps we are our own worst enemy for not filling our real lives with heavenly people and things.