Heaven - Anyone else having a hard time with the concept of Heaven

Hello all. I am in my late sixties and the older we get, the closer we get to the afterlife and wondering exactly what it might be like. I am Catholic and I suppose like many of us, I probably share a similar image of what I think Heaven might be like with the angels, the singing, the beautiful gardens… On the surface it all sounds wonderful at least for a short period of time. What’s a short period of time, a couple of days, months, years, decades. It doesn’t really matter as any of them are a drop in the bucket when compared with eternity.

I have two real problems and I hope it’s not sacrilegious to say them. Firstly, I cannot imagine what Heaven might really be like. Many of the best things on Earth have come from struggling to attain or accomplish something and none of that has meaning without the possibility of failure or pain. What will we do for eternity, how we will occupy our time? Mark Twain actually wrote some very interesting stuff on this very topic, and though his works were meant mostly to be sarcastic, they are also thought provoking as he brings up a lot of questions about Heaven I don’t have answers for.

The second issue is will we remember our loved ones and our time on Earth. The easy answer is no because if the answer is yes then all sorts of difficulties arise. For example, parents who lost a child at a young age, what might be Heaven for them might be to get that opportunity to raise that child again. How could that possibly work? What about the man who lost his loving wife to cancer that remarried years later and loved deeply again. What about literally a million other difficult scenarios that we all could come up with. Could each of us have their own personal Heaven tailored just for them, that doesn’t sound right either. That’s why I said that not remembering our life on Earth was the easy answer, but unfortunately that also sounds pretty awful to me, kind of like an eternal lobotomy and not much like a paradise at all.

Of course perhaps the most troubling question is how can Heaven be a paradise if some of our loved ones are suffering for eternity in Hell. I spoke to a priest about this and his answer was that God wants us all in Heaven, but people have to want Heaven and choose it for themselves while they are alive. Many people will not. While I agree with that on one level, it does not alleviate the issue for me. If my son goes to jail because he stole some money, he deserves to go to jail, but my heart still breaks for him. How much worse would it be for me if he is in Hell for eternity.

A friend who I recently met told me about his Dad. His father was a wonderful caring family man and he loved him deeply. In his father’s later years he was a widower and in terminal health and in a lot of pain. As citizens of Canada it is legal to choose assisted death and much to my friend’s dismay that is what his father chose to do. Now my friend asks me if that means his father is doomed to go to Hell and if so how could Heaven ever be a paradise for him knowing his father was in Hell. I wish I had a good answer that I believed as so many of us have a similar question.

I hope fervently that Heaven is truly the paradise we hope it to be and that our human minds are just not capable of envisioning the reality of it all, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t keep me up nights wondering about it. Thanks for listening. If you have any thoughts on the subject I’d love to hear them.

  • You may or may not want to go there when you find out that the only biblical reference for getting there that I can find is the Transfiguration of Jesus, witnessed by Peter, James, and John
    • Moses and Elijah showed up with Jesus.
      • The death of Moses is ambiguous legend, I think. But the death of Elijah was witnessed by Elisha. And Jesus had not yet been crucified. The three disciples saw all three, however, I suspect that they didn’t know who Moses and Elijah were until Jesus told them. After all, newspapers didn’t carry photos of the event; and there weren’t any newspapers at that time, anyway.
      • One thing seems clear to me: I’m not taking my flesh or blood with me. I think the closest we get to a short explanation, is when Paul says, IN 1 Corinthians 15:
        35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[f]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we[g] bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
  • Here’s a story that I can tell. I knew everyone in the story:
    • I knew an autistic kid, who was about 8 or 9 at the time that this story occurred: The kid’s grandmother and my mother-in-law were “comadres”, i.e. mutual god-parents, neighbors, and both loved gardening, next door to each other. The women’s husbands were responsible for watering their separate yards. My father-in-law was the most willing. Mr. Garcia watered his yard and flowers more and more haphazardly the older he became. Mr. Garcia’s watering annoyed the be-jeezus out of my mother-in-law because he flooded both sides of the fence and, because our yard is lower than the Garcia’s, plants and dirt ran down our driveway.
      Eventually, the Garcias and my in-laws began to die: first, Ms. Garcia and then my father-in-law. Then Christmas 2009, my mother-in-law died and was buried. Sometime later, Mr. Garcia’s daughter and grandson visited him; and while his daughter did light chores in her father’s house, her son played in the yard. When the daughter took a break or finished her chores, she joined her father and son in the backyard. And while they sat under the jacaranda tree, the autistic kid told his mother that "the old woman next door had appeared and asked him to tell his grandfather that she was sorry for giving him a hard time over his haphazard watering and flooding her plants and the driveway. Shocked by her son’s story, she told her father what my mother-in-law had said. And years of annoyance and grievance just washed down our driveway, leaving only this story and me to tell it here. And the daughter told my wife and me the story, so that we would know that my mother-in-law is alive and well and that we’ll see her again in the next world, if not sooner in this world.
  • Another story about people I’ve known:
    • Alva and Bernice Reneau were a Senior Deaf couple who were members of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, in San Francisco, during my father’s ministry there. Some years after their retirement, they sold their home in San Francisco and moved to a retirement community in Redlands, California, east of Los Angeles toward Riverside. They tried, unsuccessfully, to get my parents to move there. And my wife, Esther, and I were enlisted to visit them and their retirement community and perhaps to persuade Mom and Dad to move there.
    • It was such a long drive to their place, and Esther never learned sign language, so it wasn’t long before our contact with them faded away.
      Bernice died at the age of 85 in May of 1995. Alva lived for another 10 years, and died at the age of 91.
    • My memory of them when I read a letter in my possession written by Alva to Mom and Dad very shortly after Bernice died. Bernice died on the 13th of May. The letter was written on the 23rd.
      • Dear Marlin & Florence:
        Yes, Bernice has gone & the Good Lord has taken her home. She was under heavy pain in arms and legs, besides feet. She had the progressive degenerative neurological disease (pseudo-bulbar palsy) hypertension and anemia. Still had good mind. Though lost her voice, wouldn’t talk, but wrote or signed. Stayed at home with me instead of moving to health facility until death. Had to take a small amount of morphine every 5 hours for two weeks. We signed the papers “Right to die” about 8 years ago so they could not feed her through nostril or stomach. In her sleep the last 2 days she said: “Angels around touching me.” The last day she signed “Hurry up”, then a while later signed “Bye.” A few hours later she had 2 small gasps for air then slept silently. 3 days before, she was very alert and made me promise not to cry. But now how can I not cry, it’s hard for me, so bye for now.
        Love in Christ,
  • Personally, I subscribe to the belief that, after death, there is only Heaven, but Heaven is gonna be Hell if you don’t want to be there. That’s why I tell my kith and kin, “Heads up. I’m 75 and don’t have many years in this world left. But I want you to know, enjoy this world when and while can, but get used to the idea that you’re gonna see me again, so clean up your act and be nice to me while you can.” :laughing:

This is one of the reasons that some of the church Fathers believed that eventually everyone will be saved, though it could take immense amounts of time to achieve that.

There is an interesting podcast interview on “What do we get wrong about heaven” on the Holy Post episode 586. I have not read the book referenced, but it may be of help as well:
What if Jesus Was Serious About Heaven? By Skye Jethani

I remember them voicing some of the same thoughts, like “Isn’t it going to get a little tiresome, sitting around singing praises for eternity?” It is a reasonable concern, and a mystery.

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I struggle with the same issues. I just think heaven is radically beyond our understanding. It must have a stronger spiritual dimension and different material physics. We see in part. I trust God that heaven is a place I want to go.

I don’t believe in eternal torment for finite crimes. It also makes little sense to me in terms of Grace but I see how that can be a problem for those that do. How can it be heaven for example, if you knew your wife/mother/child was being eternally tormented? It couldn’t be. I don’t give most Christian conceptions of hell a second thought anymore.


Well, it’s been a while, and I didn’t remember that it was a whole thread, but I did remember making a comment about hiking:

And regarding ECT, eternal conscious torment, I’m inclined to favor the interpretation of ‘conditional immortality’ (aka ‘annihilationism’) where there is a second death and death itself gets destroyed.

Oh, and back to C.S. Lewis, if you haven’t read it yet, you might enjoy The Great Divorce, about a bus ride from hell to the foothills of heaven.

Paul also tells us it is beyond our imagination in 2 Corinthians 12, so I wouldn’t lose any more sleep over it!


Hi and what a great question. I have wondered about heaven and in particular the idea of our partners…would they remain our partners in heaven.

I love my wife with all my heart and I cannot imagine I could go on in life without her…obviously we each know that we must go on…

Jesus has actually answers your above question and I will be honest, I don’t like the answer at all given my own feeling for my wife…

The Sadducees and the Resurrection
(Mark 12:18–27; Luke 20:27–40)

23That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and questioned Him. 24“Teacher,” they said, “Moses declared that if a man dies without having children, his brother is to marry the widow and raise up offspring for him.b 25Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died without having children. So he left his wife to his brother. 26The same thing happened to the second and third brothers, down to the seventh. 27And last of all, the woman died. 28In the resurrection, then, whose wife will she be of the seven? For all of them were married to her.”

29Jesus answered, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30In the resurrection, people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Instead, they will be like the angelsc in heaven. 31But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what God said to you: 32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’d? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

33When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

I would like to hear what others think about Christs statement to the Sadducees regarding heavenly marriage.

death of Elijah???

The bible narrative I think intends to convey that neither Enoch or Elijah died. Why do you claim death exactly? (biblical references for this claim please)

I used to wonder as a young person about the idea that we would sit on clouds and play harps for all eternity. Funny how that seemed inspiring as a young child, however, as I grew older I began to realise the boredom that would also go with it.

I am glad that my parents eventually became Christian after that time…I now know that the bible paints a very different picture to that mythical story.

We now know that the restoration that Christ has died on the cross for, is a restoration to a life that God originally intended for all humanity. I think its rather simple to visualise, one need only read the story of the garden of Eden to get some idea of what life will be like on the new earth. As for the heavenly part before that time, the book of Revelation I think gives us quite a deal of insight into what heaven will be like…the most important things are there will be no more tears, no more sickness, no more death, people will live in harmony and be happy and instead of looking up at the stars, we can actually go visit them.

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Hi, @vexxler. Welcome! I like the way you’ve jumped in with both feet to share a concern that’s uppermost in your mind. I think a lot of people share your concerns and questions about heaven.

I’m a smidge younger than you – I’m only in my mid-60’s! – and I’m an Anglican these days, though for a while I hung out in the United Church of Canada until it became (in my view) too focussed on secular crusades and not interested enough in talking about the soul and how to understand our relationship with God.

I think about Heaven a lot, not because I’m fearful but because I’m a cataphatic Christian mystic (in the theological sense of being able to feel God’s presence on an ongoing basis, an experience which has changed the way I live and how I understand our relationship with Mother Father God).

From my own experience (which I don’t ask anyone else to pay any attention to unless he or she is interested), I can contribute some thoughts about Heaven which you may or may not find helpful.

I think this is an excellent question. So many of us spend our much time wondering if we’ll actually get to Heaven that we don’t stop to wonder what we’ll be doing once we get there. But this one I can talk about. What I’ve sensed over and over again about life on the Other Side is that we, as children of God and persons-of-soul, are actually very busy with ongoing Service so that we may share in a daily way in Mother Father’s Love for all things in Creation. As persons-of-soul, we aren’t created in a cookie-cutter way, all looking the same and acting the same, but instead we are unique individuals, unique consciousnesses, unique children of God. As such, we have our own set of talents – just the way we, as human beings, have our own unique combinations of talents. Part of the reason God allows us, as souls, to walk the many painful pathways of life on Planet Earth is to give us the chance to develop some of those talents.

Needless to say, the physics which govern our lives as persons-of-soul are much more expansive than the laws of physics and chemistry and biology that shape our lives as biological creatures on Planet Earth. I’ve struggled for years to get a small grasp of what the laws of physics are for the vast percentage of the universe that lies outside the laws of baryonic matter (the stuff our current physical bodies are made of), but I’m afraid I’ll have to humbly confess that the mystery of it is beyond the capacity of the human brain to comprehend. Fortunately, I know that when I die as a human being and return Home to the Other Side, there will be many opportunities for me (and anyone else who’s interested) to enroll in physics classes :upside_down_face:

Another excellent question! I think this question is actually harder than the first one because it involves all the relationships we’ve built during our time here on Earth. These relationships are real and they change us, both as human beings and as souls. The relationships, in fact, lie at the very core of why we’re here at all on Planet Earth.

Again, I’ll speak to this from my personal experience because that’s how each of us learns – through personal experiences of love, forgiveness, trust, healing, courage, hope, and faith.

When people ask me how many children I have, I say I have two sons – one who is about to turn 40 and one who is with God. My younger son died of leukemia when he was 3, and to say I was bereaved beyond any words that can be described would be an eternal understatement.

Many years later, after I’d got used to living with the pain, though not understanding it, I set out on a long, convoluted spiritual journey that led eventually to my calling as a cataphatic mystic (a calling which was totally unexpected for me based on my childhood and early adulthood as a very unmystical sort of person raised in a vaguely Christian Canadian household where science and art ruled all important decision-making, not religion or faith or spirituality).

Over the years, I’ve developed the natural talent I was born with so I could step into my calling as a mystic. (Spoiler alert: like any other natural talent, you can only grow the fruits of your inborn talent by committing to a path of hard work, ongoing learning, self-discipline, daily practice, and trust in God). As a result of my work, I can occasionally sense that I’m in the presence of a person-of-soul who is not God and is not my personal guardian angel. The feeling is a sense of warmth, a sense of relationship, as if I’m in the room beside someone I love, close enough to hear their “voice” but not actually in the same room they’re in (because they’re on the Other Side). On a very small number of occasions not initiated by me (because that would be stepping across the line of respectful boundaries that all practising mystics must learn to abide by), I’ve sensed the presence of my younger son.

It’s through these brief but intensely tearful experiences that I can say a few things about Heaven: (1) the Love we feel during our time as human beings never dies; (2) the painful experiences we share as human beings only bring us closer to Mother Father God’s Heart and allows us to better know them and better know ourselves; and (3) the remembering from our life on Earth absolutely stays with us because it’s the remembering that changes us in ways that allow us to be of greater service to God (thereby returning to your first question, Mario). If we didn’t remember, there wouldn’t be any point to our lives as human beings. God allows pain, but not wasted exercises in pain – as Jesus poignantly teaches us.

So the short answer is . . . God’s Love is greater than anything we can possibly imagine, and it’s God’s Love that shows us the great mysteries of all Creation – including the reason why there is no Hell and why there never will be.

That’s my two cents worth, anyway.

God bless,

P.S. sorry for all the extra edits. For reasons known only to God, I can only see my typos after I press “post.” Even then, I usually miss a few.

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I can’t help but be ‘infected’ by fleeting visions or speculative descriptions that come through in some writings where the main feature is the bliss of restoration and reconciliation (and certainly a fair bit of bitter repentance that would have to happen first to make all the latter even possible.) Scenes like the reconciliation with the estranged father (“The Shack”) or what George MacDonald imagines as the bliss of broken relationship restored, and good relationship made infintiely better - such themes saturate all his writings.

So when Jesus responds that “no one is given in marriage in heaven”, I gather that this is just a response to the attempted “gotcha” posturing the Sadducees were trying to trip him up with. Their view of marriage in its present physical state, and typically with reproduction in mind, - so maybe that isn’t present in the same way in the new creation. But the whole concept of marriage - as in the deepest communion one can possibly have with another, and indeed what Christ himself expects to have with the church (his bride!) - not only will that be gloriously present, but will be the main feature! I rejoice to think that all good relationships (spouse, family, friends, - former enemies) will end up drawn together in Christ so that the best parts of every one of those things is not only preserved - but ‘upgraded’ if you will, to a level of intimacy that we right now might only associate with marriage - and only the best parts of that! I’ll dare to think of the new Creation as the fulfillment of marriage - relationship as it was meant to be. Only among all of us - and with no envy or fear or exclusivity or attempted ownership or hoarding of each other against an evil world out there. Our relationships down here (including our marriages - or the good ones anyway - and only the good parts of good marriages since no marriage in our current world will be perfect) are only a shadow or foretaste of that - and once we enter into that level of communion, any so-called visions of gardens or rivers of life or golden streets … what have you … will be as nothing in comparison. All life-seasoned people already in this world know how we thirst and hunger after good and deep and lasting relationship. And when we have it, the world and all its troubles are as nothing to us … and when we don’t, the world and all its so-called “blisses” are also reduced to nothing for us. (and this doesn’t just apply to what we call ‘marriage’ down here, but any deep relationships we have with others.) That communion is our all-in-all. I beleive it’s what Christ wants with us and for us - and in Him we’ll have it with each other - indeed seeing Christ’s glory in each other.

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I personally don’t have a hard time with it because I’ve already accepted that no one has experienced it and can tell is about it and that the Bible gives us different views of it. There is no way to perfectly harmonize everything it says. So since I realized it’s beyond comprehension, the Bible is unclear about it and no one can give their testimony about it I’ve decided to just not worry about it and it’s now something I’m not really interested in and it plays no role in faith and most stories people come up with how it will be just sounds boring. For a fact, more often than not I find myself rather to just be dead as if asleep without dreams forever than the ways they describe their heaven.

Hell is not an actual place. It’s an event. It’s been discussed many times here and I’m just not interested in that debate. But if someone wants to know more the best I can do is direct you towards the podcast hosted by Christ Date titled “ rethinking hell “ and the books by Edward Fudge such as “ the fire that consumes “ and look up stuff like conditional immortality.

Heaven seems to be something that overlaps with earth and in a restored place. However, Isaiah 65 mentions death and having kids then and then the New Testament says the opposite

But lots of it comes from revelation where people use a lot of symbolism.

Also Tim Mackie of “The Bible Project” did a series on Heaven and Earth and another in Revelation. Goes pretty good into it. I read “Surprised by Hope” and just got very little out of it.

And then there is Paul who wrote in 2 Corinthians:
12 No doubt it is not seemly for me to boast. Nevertheless, I will come to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ about fourteen years ago (whether he was in the body I cannot tell, or whether he was out of the body I cannot tell, God knows) who was taken up into the third heaven. 3 And I know the same man (whether in the body or out of the body I cannot tell, God knows), 4 how he was taken up into Paradise and heard words not to be spoken, which no man can utter.


Seems like it was a vision to me most likely. Same as how revelation was also a vision which including horsemen, dragons and so on. Symbolism through dreams.

On the one hand I can agree with this. But on the other: so if someone gave you a beautiful mansion, or whatever it is that your heart desire, would you not appreciate it and be grateful for it.
and before anyone says this is unlikely, most of privilege in this world is unearned, but that’s entirely different topic.

This doesn’t really worry me. Just think: all the books to read, art to enjoy, movies to watch, games to play, tournaments, just chilling, exploring all the places you couldn’t in this life.
There must be interests and hobbies you have, imagine having unlimited time and resources to enjoy those.

I’m afraid I’m not familiar with those particular works, but I came across several times atheists writing sarcastic comments about the idea of Heaven. One that was circulating online and social media was a story about a guy who went to heaven and was playing golf from dusk to down, then go to his mansion for servants to cook delicious meal and enjoy company of several beautiful women… Only to get bored out of his mind after few years and end up asking to be “eliminated” forever. There are some very obvious problems with this story.

Do you care to bring up specific issues that you have with Mark Twain’s works?

I have to admit I have no answer for this one. You do hear stories of people being in love with more than one person. It seems immoral from earthly perspective, but in Heaven?
And sometimes a dying spouse wants the surviving one to find happiness in this world again, so go figure!

Why doesn’t it? But in this case we have to be very careful what we wish for

So perhaps Heaven won’t be about easy options then? I’m ok with that.
And yes, not remembering sounds not only awful, but it makes this life completely pointless.

Unlike a lot of people here, I do believe in Hell.
But I also don’t believe you end up there for silly stuff.
So unless your loved ones committed acts of genocide, then IMO you have nothing to worry about.

It’s not worth loosing your sleep over it! Have trust in God and remember that in late 60’s you still have a lot of life to live.

Adam, I believe there already was a whole thread about it, but anyway, Merv has already said this was an answer to a gotcha question, and if anything it was a right one! Can you imagine Jesus answering that the several husbands would either have to share, or take their turns?!?
What you need to remember here is that marriage wasn’t seen as romantic endeavour untill about 19th century. Before it was all about transfer of money, land and power, girls were sometimes referred as “talking property deeds”.
When seen in this light, I am glad of this. Prospect of “dating” in this world feels me with dread, never mind in next!

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Assuming that heaven is connected to a transformed Earth, I figure I could spend half a million years just exploring this planet – and stopping along the way to learn everything there is about something that looks interesting would probably stretch that to ten million.

And that’s just the one planet . . .

Then there are all the books ever written to study, and all the different music ever written not just to listen to but to learn to play every instrument in the orchestra or band for every one . . .


Nothing I haven’t heard/read before so perhaps I’m more familiar with MT than I thought!

Apart from MT, I have come across other atheists writing abou Heaven, making various claims, example: we won’t really be ourselves, whatever that means, so there’s really no point (Sadly I forgot the title of that particular book, so unfortunately you can’t look it up :upside_down_face:)
What baffles me slightly is that an atheist should be so sure about Heaven, whilst Christians and other theists barely dare to speculate.

But @vexxler perhaps you could give specifics from Mark Twain’s works, so we could discuss.
And of course, feel free to PM if you prefer.


There was a collection of essays he wrote. Many of them can be found in the book “The Bible According to Mark Twain”. My favorite is “Letters from the Earth” where an angel who was talking bad about God gets banned from Heaven for a day as punishment, but outside of Heaven that turns out to be 1000 years and the angel passes the time by visiting Earth and writing letters back to his friends in Heaven.

I also enjoyed “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”, which details the voyage from Earth to Heaven when Captain Stormfield passes away. I also enjoyed the diaries, one from Adam, one from Eve and one from Methuselah.

Just a warning, the content is light hearted but irreverent. That being said I thoroughly enjoyed all of them and would recommend the readings to anyone.


As a sometimes sculptor and engineer (the former oftimes involving the latter), musician and chorale member, I’m delighted by the prospect to pursue such things especially with others and especially without time constraints. In A Servere Mercy Sheldon Vanauken’s imagining running into C.S. Lewis when Sheldon was on his way to meet Davy, spending time with Lewis and then not being late to meeting Davy, is kind of a fun speculation about an altered state of time’s passage.

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