Death & Beauty
Ever read a book that really rocked your world? You know, one of those books that calls into question ideas you were raised in that you never really thought to examine to see if they were true because they just seemed so basic. Well, I’m reading that kind of book right now. It’s called 'Surprised By Hope' by N.T. Wright. I can’t tell you exactly what the book is about because I actually haven’t read the whole thing yet. I’m just on chapter 4. However, in those first four chapters, it really rocked my world. He begins by pointing out that the modern Christian idea of Heaven as a place “you go to when you die”, like that’s where our real eternal life will be, is really not very Christian at all. It’s more Platonic - Plato believed that all matter is just a pale imitation of the real thing - an ideal. And that got me thinking about how I’ve viewed Heaven all my life, and since I’m a bit of a dabbler in the art of spoken word poetry, I wrote a poem about it, to process it all:
The video game illustration works pretty well to describe Plato’s thought. When a game developer makes a chair in the virtual world, he or she bases it on a real chair that individual has seen or used in the real world. If it’s a good chair, it looks and acts very much like the real thing, but the chair is never actually real. Just replace “real chair” with “ideal” and “video game chair” with “physical chair” and there you go - Plato. I know I’ve had a tendency to look at our world in much the same way. But that has huge implications for redemption and conservation of the planet and pretty much everything else if you think about it. I apply it to two of my personal struggles a bit - I mention my battle with suicidal ideations (courtesy of my clinical depression) and my desire to be physically beautiful too. I was raised to believe that physical beauty isn’t really important because your soul is what goes to Heaven, and God will just give you a new body anyway. Conversely I’ve also been taught that everyone is beautiful because God made us, and that really doesn’t help either. With a proper view of what God wants to do with our little world of matter and energy, suddenly that’s not just important to me, but it’s important to God. That makes a huge difference.
I’m still reading 'Surprised by Hope', and I’m planning on writing something after every section just to process through the implications of what I’m reading. I would love it if you would dialog with me about all this using the comments section below. And, if you wanted to pick up the book and join me in this little literary thought-adventure, I’m sure you can find it wherever theological books are sold. Happy reading!