I recall an episode of The Twilight Zone TV series where a man of suspicious character is killed and suddenly finds himself regaining consciousness in the hereafter. He is greeted by a host, who has been given the special responsibility to see that all the dead man’s needs are taken care of. Everything works out perfectly—too perfectly. The dead man wins at everything he does.
After awhile, having everything go his way actually starts driving him crazy. He begs his host not to have everything rigged so that he always wins. Finally, he tells his host that he doesn’t deserve to be in such a perfect world and pleads to be taken to that “other” place. It is then, that he is informed that he is in that other place.
I am not implying that in hell one is waited on hand and foot, just that happiness cannot be obtained from such a one-sided scenario. Heavenly happiness must be something else.
We rarely contemplate what eternal happiness might actually consist of. Heaven is certainly the continuation of life in a more perfect realm. But how is life perfected and what constitutes living in blessedness to eternity? The answer to that question is in plain sight to all of us and simply involves a little reflection on what the dynamics of life already reveals. If we contemplate the bio-complexity of our anatomy, it becomes quite apparent that it is ordered and arranged according to mutual interrelatedness and interdependence. Organic unity (relational holism) comes from the harmony of shared utility. Individual cells serve the needs of the entire body and the body serves all the needs of the cells.
The same dynamics hold true for human society. The “glue” and quality of a nation, region, city, or small community is based on the quality of services and talents that are shared among its individuals. So the same divine patterning principle is being expressed by both bio-diversity and human diversity. Life is service. Life cannot be separated from duty.
This is why we often hear stories about people who die soon after retirement. These deaths often seem premature to us and puzzling. But staying engaged and useful to others seems to have real health benefits. The human mind falls apart if its energies are not engaged in challenging new activity (the devil’s workshop). So if life essentially consists of reciprocal utility, happiness in heaven must allow for such a sharing of talents to increase, intensify, and perfect itself through eternity. This is the exaltation of love.
Ironically, what makes hell a hell is work, and, what makes heaven a heaven is also work. But those in heaven do so for the love of serving others, while those in hell—who for selfish reasons will not work unless there is immediate personal profit—end up only being able to perform lowly menial tasks within God’s economic system of love.
Happiness is not one-sided or self-centered. In fact, our individuality finds itself the more we are in useful service to others. And this increases in heaven because our inner potentials are locked up in our spirit. The spirit is not material and therefore not limited within the constraints of space and time. So, our spirit’s inner potential can be continuously opened throughout eternity, as we strive towards greater usefulness. How else would a God of love create the universe?