Monday, July 18, 2011

no balloons go to heaven

At the local concert in the park last night I ate popcorn that had been soaked in too much homemade caramel. I sat in a camp chair and listened to a band playing rock and blues music while the sun set and the air cooled. The experience was pleasant for me to the point of what some might call heavenly.

Behind the stage were merchants. A real estate agent was giving away balloons and every five minutes or so another one would escape into the air. A keen eye could watch it contrasted against the sky until it disappeared. In my relaxed state I could sit back and ponder the absurd but romantic issue: Do all balloons go to heaven?

Well I know part of the answer to that and at least on the surface it isn’t that romantic. I used to survey in an area of Southern Riverside County where wind currents crossed. We worked in a valley where the ground would get hot during the day and then, even in the summer, significantly cool as soon as the sun was down. We traipsed through mostly untouched wilderness all day. But once in a while I would see a flattened Mylar balloon on the ground. I think that something about the air currants and the dry cooling at night made this area a graveyard for them. Its string would be tangled in the shrubbery and a coat of dirt concealing whatever design had once attracted the owner. Someone took a liking to this balloon and paid for it. Now it was ruined and almost unrecognizable. It was always a little sad to see them.

Now if you take some of today’s thinking that came from Eastern philosophy what happens to these balloons would be exactly what happens to people. They are released from their confines where their empty shell falls to earth. What was inside them that gave them lift and shape escapes and joins the existing substance that holds the world together. I could take this further and say that if the balloon was good its air is breathed in by a meadow of flowers in Tibet. If it’s bad then it’s bottled up in a cheap beer only to turn into flatulence.

There is argument that when we die our spirit joins up with a collective consciousness. But when the balloon’s air escapes into the atmosphere it is scattered. It would lose any individuality it had. If our souls left our bodies and joined some spiritual commune I wonder this: Would that mean all that made us who we are would blend into it? Maybe that is supposed to be blissful. But to me losing what you were created as sounds like death plain and simple.

If we are not God’s creations then there is no reason for social justice or human rights or anything that reflects the love of our creator. Because being good does not make our soul shiny enough to be pulled into something good once its host is no longer working. The air currents over Southern California don’t judge. When a balloon is let go then it belongs to the air. The good news is that God keeps is from this current by never letting us go. What is heartbreaking is that so many of us think that we ought to be free. We think this grip on us is constricting. And then we cut our own string. He’s left there without something He bought and paid for.

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