Who's asking: Ashton LeBourgeois, Washington, DC
I'm staying with Ashton, so he gets to ask the questions, but this is one I too would like the answer to. In the absence of a HeavenCam, all we can do is speculate.
My own theory is that Jerry Falwell's last thought as he approached that white light was, "I was wrong." In the face of that recognition -- with, I hope, the accompanying instantaneous remorse -- the infinite mercy of God laughed, took him in, and said, "I'd like you to meet my friends Oscar (Wilde) and Gertrude (Stein). Maybe later, you can get a glass of wine with the Apostle Paul."
The God I believe in -- omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite in mercy and love but ultimately unknowable to us on Earth -- is so far beyond the scope of any human religion that I can only think God must find it all kind of endearing, like a parent watching kids play cops and robbers. "It's not good, what you did," I can imagine God saying. "You didn't get it. But everyone ends up with me in the end anyway, so now that you're here, we'll just move on. Do you get it now?"
Some folks, I imagine, don't get it. And if they don't, they have to stay separate and alone forever. Flames and brimstone are nothing compared to an eternity trapped alone inside one's own mind.
Five Random Songs
Dwight Yoakam, "If There Was a Way." As close to perfect as a country song can get -- a diffident, sad plea for the singer's love to take him back. "I was just wondering/If there was a way..."
Billy Bragg, "Love Gets Dangerous." Sometimes I wonder whether romantic love is just a handy excuse for bad behavior. As an excuse, it's right up there with religion.
The Beatles, "The Long and Winding Road." This song is a river of chocolate, and Paul McCartney's voice is the candy boat that rides it. (Sorry, was that too much? But it's true, just listen.)
Enya, "Marble Halls." This song -- not Enya's version, but the song itself -- features prominently in "Clay," from James Joyce's Dubliners, when a group of people at a party must stop and pay attention to a spinster whose feelings they had never regarded. This version of it is on the "Age of Innocence" soundtrack. "I also dreamt, which charmed me most/That you loved me still the same."
Mary Chapin Carpenter, "A Keeper for Every Flame." Wow, it's Unrequited Love Day on the iPod Shuffle. But as Lily Tomlin says in Shadows & Fog, "Unrequited love is the only love that lasts." Flame on.