“I believe the future is only the past, entered through another gate.”
Arthur Wing Pinero, 1893

Susy is a rather new-fangled monstrous time machine located beneath the shopping centers outside Geneva Switzerland. What caught my attention was a reference to a book titled ‘Science is Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ by Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist who has come to know Susy.
I have always tried to find a way to comprehend and preach about heaven but I came to believe the philosopher Aeschylus, a playwright around 456 BC, may have had it right when he declared that “The future you shall know when it has come; before then, forget it.”

But I can’t seem to forget the essence and meaning of heaven. I ducked preaching about it throughout my tenure. A decent preacher should at least have given it a shot. So, now in my retirement I am a little braver about such matters. What can they do to me?

I can’t quite grasp how I might live near my mother in the afterlife who died early when my step mother will be on the scene. And what about those who have had numerous divorces? Will they be in the same neighborhood with their families? That’s got to be rather thorny. Who will help us on those matters? Maybe there will be angelic therapists who provide sessions

When I spoke about heaven at a men’s retreat a gentleman in his early eighties approached me and said he was newly married. He told his wife we would be talking about heaven. He happily announced “And we will be together in heaven!”

“Oh no,” she replied “I will be with my first husband there.”

The dejected gentleman said “OK, Reverend, what do I do when I get there?”

“Well, maybe they will invite you to dinner.”

He had a great sense of humor and said to me the next morning “I guess I’ll accept the invitation if it pops up.” It can be complicated over there.

There may be other convoluted concerns when it comes to landing in heaven. In this life our kids and grandkids can grow up and move out of state or country and we may have little contact with them. What if heaven has the same afterlife mode of living?

Who, indeed, will be knocking on heaven’s door, or better yet who is on the other side of that gate and where are they headed? Will the Higgs and Susy particles blow right through heaven and on to another stratosphere out there?

I’ve been thinking about particles being generated and emitted by our mid-brain Insula urges, deep emotions that may converge beyond this life with the dense cosmic elements that have allowed for our existence. But here’s the hitch and it’s a major one, our Insula particles may be destined to unite with the atoms of those unfamiliar to us. We might be connecting with unacquainted particles in a vast universe.

What if we are built to bond with as many strangers on this earth as possible and we have not bothered to do so in our lifetimes? What if our lovely bonding particles are launched into the stratosphere after this life and we won’t know beans about how to connect with those passing us by? That’s got to be embarrassing.

A book by Alexander McCall Smith titled “Trains and Lovers” features four strangers bonding deeply over a four-hour stretch. The last words by one of the passengers when they left each other mused “Loving others is the good thing we do in our lives.”

Lisa Randall, who researches atoms with a fine tooth comb, admits that “Scientists can observe material mechanistic phenomena in the brain associated with thoughts and feelings, even if they can’t put it together to see how it works.” OK, too much intellectual info, but what she seems to be stating is, our deepest emotions have not been examined enough to see how our brain particles work.

Ah, but we have faith on our side. So why not assume heaven’s doors swing in and out?



“What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: we contemplate the future … and that sets us apart from other animals.” -Martin E.P. Seligman and John Tierney.

Some scientists are questioning the discovery but I’m sticking with Selgman and Tierney on this one.

One day while sitting at my desk in my office I had the urge to take a look at the church archives. I wish I hadn’t. The worship bulletins and newsletters from seventy years ago were no different than what I was putting forth weekly. I was a bit repressed wondering why I hadn’t up-dated the latest materials. I was determined after that to do something about it.

I decided to try preaching on the theme of coming up with a vision for the church. The following week a young eager member barged into my office and said he liked my sermon. I was pleased but he didn’t stop there. He was so excited he couldn’t hold back.

“You know what we ought to do, Reverend?”

Before I could reply he blurted out “We should provide a place in our church for seniors in need in the community. We could use that big room that has a street exit and we might hire a part-time social worker and a half-time nurse to offer services. I woke up at 2 am this morning and it hit me like sledgehammer. What do you think of that, Pastor?”

I was stunned. All I could think about was that ‘big room’ to which he alluded had been the choir rehearsal room for over 50 years. The idea hit me like a giant mallet, and aside from that, the church was dead broke. Three other members urged me to go for the senior center. Obviously, the young fire brand who came in first must have pushed for the concept onto others.

I figured I could wear a flak jacket and present the idea to the church counsel. I invited the members to consider revising our bulletins and perhaps coming up with a vision for the church. Big mistake. Several lay persons thought I was a heretic by messing with the bulletins and an irate gentleman bellowed “Why in the hell do we need a vision when we haven’t had one since the church was founded a hundred years ago!” I thought he had a good point but were they the animals that don’t have much to offer by way of projecting ahead?

I continued on nervously and pitched for the senior center. We happened to be in the immense room where the choir had been rehearsing for eons. The new member who volunteered to chair the finance committee turned white. He gritted his teeth but managed to mouth the words “We’re broke and I’m out of here!” He left through the exit door to the street that is seldom used and never came back to the church.

The choir director was a highly regarded and lovable staff person who was in her 24th year. She ran out of the sanctified room. I let the finance guy go and raced after her. I thought that was a smart move. When she got to her car, I can’t tell you what she thought of me in that moment.

The project was passed and it turned out to be a highly successful community center that was adopted later by an interfaith organization and still exists after forty years. And we turned a corner on finances and attendance. My talented choir director took a few weeks off and returned to her music ministry.

OK now, who were the animals in that venture and who were the visionaries? Frankly, I don’t want to know!


“All wars are boyish and are fought by boys.”
Herman Melville, Battlepieces and Aspects of War, 1941

In 1985, I went to Nicaragua with several clergy and lay persons during the Sandinista and Contra battles to learn about the superb ecumenical organization that was a crucial help to those caught in the war.

We got relatively close to the combat zones and met a 13-year-old baby-face boy in a military uniform cradling an AKA weapon. After we came to know him we asked how he lost one of his fingers. He said it was shot off but he was happy it wasn’t his trigger finger. He began training when he was 12 years old.

There may not be many 13-year-old baby-faced Muslim militants on the Mid-East battle fields but if so, have our GI’s had to kill youngsters face-to-face, kids who signed on due to religious commitments or loyalty to their country? Do we want to know? We were horrified to learn about the babies who were gassed in Syria but what if a few of those man-child militants were pulverized by drones? How many of them were slain during the strafing of the airfield by a recent assault? Many of those young teenagers are only a few years older than those precious babies.

Have we owned up to the numbers of fatalities of tweens over the 16 years we have invaded Mid-East states? I have never had to engage with face-to-face battles while serving as a naval reservist for a number of years. We sailors hardly knew where our gun mounts were located.

So, why am I questioning how we fight our enemies? I guess it has a lot to do with having five grandkids in their early to mid- teens, and a couple of them are baby-faced.


It struck me that I left out in my last post the mean-spirited attitudes Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, learned when he got responses to his readers from both sides of our divided citizens.

He states “When I write about people struggling with addictions or homeless, liberals exude sympathy while conservatives respond with snarling hostility to losers who make ‘bad choices.’

“When I write about voters who supported President Trump, it’s the reverse: Now it’s liberals who respond with venom, hoping that Trump voters suffer for their bad choice.

“’I absolutely despise these people,’ one woman tweeted at me after I interviewed Trump voters. ‘Truly the worst of humanity. To hell with every one of them.” (NY Times 4/6/17).

Getting into the fear and anger among highly polarized political party members may call for one-on-one bonding. Shouting and judging from a distance seldom brings hyper beings together. I have four racquetball partners with whom I’ve played for twenty years. They voted for Trump but I didn’t. We stopped talking politics during our coffee times after our games. The only way I found to continue to stay with them was to run deep with our ire and anxieties, one at a time. We’re tribal peoples, whether we belong to congregations, social clubs, sports teams, co-workers or extended families, we are unlikely to divulge what we truly feel about our politics during this time.


“The last function of reason is to recognize that there are an infinity of things
which surpass it.”
Pascal, Pensees, 1670
We’re living now within a split society that may need some awesome new institutions to humanize our citizens that will call for empathy on a grand scale. There is anger and hate on both sides with hardly any help to address those feelings.

Nicholas Kristof ends his New York Times column by stating that “The humanities do not immunize a society from cruelty and overreaction; early-20th-century Germany proves that. But in balance, the arts humanize us and promote empathy. We need that now more than ever.”

The google team claims “Humanities are academic disciples that study human culture, using primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, and having a significant historical element and include languages, religion and philosophy.”

That means our humanity courses are mainly based on learning through reasoning, an intellectual process that leaves out a whole lot of what humans experience in their lives. I had graduate and post graduate courses in language, sociology and philosophy, and found little if any deep feelings within those courses. Why not? Would it water down the intellectuals sitting next to us? Did the Greeks, who modeled for us our intellectual prowess, manage to overlook our subterranean sentiments?

There was one earthy occasion in my seminary class when my brilliant philosophy professor asked me to give a brief synopsis of the book “Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History” by Eric Erikson. I said “Well, for starters we learn that young Luther wrote most of his 90 theses he nailed to that door while close to a toilet because he suffered from chronic constipation. So he might have claimed ‘Here I sit I can do no other’ rather than ‘Here I stand; I can do no other.’”

Dead silence in class at that point. The professor held back a grin and told me to step out of class for a while. That to me was the real world of human learning. Perhaps it was a smart aleck gesture but it felt good to know in those moments that Martin Luther was one of us when it came to surviving.

What if the humanities courses were to allow for students to reveal deeply with their fear, anger, compassion and sex? We learn about those sentiments but we don’t experience them in classrooms. Why not? Perhaps it can complete the fullness of human beings.

While teaching at a university the Dean of Academics declared that clergy can only teach about religions but not promote them. In the last week of a course a student asked if she could wash the feet of her classmates on the last day. She was not religious but she thought it might be kind of fun and provide some bonding with a send-off, and make it a surprise. I was a little nervous about the gesture but we did it.

She stepped out after our session and came in with a towel around her waist and a small tub of water. “How would you like to get your feet washed?” She was very attractive so the guys put up their hands immediately. Everyone seemed to be for it. When she got to the last student he said he could not do it. I figured he was a deeply committed faith member.

He asked if he could reveal why he did not want to participate. I said “Of course you can.”

“My new wife and I wash our feet occasionally as a tender gesture in our marriage.” He paused and relented, “OK, please wash my feet here.”

I often think about that event and I learned from a few students in recent years who claimed it was the best part of the class. I was bummed out on that response but got over it.


“As more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must… be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life.” Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, 1859.

Recently I watched a Turner Classic movie filmed in Aleppo Syria in the 1940s. It began with a scene of bustling travelers at a train station that looked like any other urban setting but then I flashed on recent images of a devastated Syrian city that has been virtually leveled.

The next day I listened to an NP Radio segment of an interview with a neurosurgeon who fled with his family from Aleppo to Turkey to live temporarily with several hundred thousands of Syrians in a makeshift camp. He was asked what he misses most while living in the encampment. He admitted he misses his home, his neighbors, his colleagues and friends.

My take on his response may seem rather presumptuous but I do believe there is some merit in risking to bond deeply one-on-one with the surgeon’s present ‘neighbors.’ This may also seem too bold, given I have never been confined in such a way, but a few of my close friends live out of state or country. I seldom bond with my neighbors and never run deep with them; rarely meet with extended family members or colleagues; enjoy my church friends but we don’t reveal what’s inside us.

In-depth single encounters with strangers may be the balm the neurosurgeon needs during his provisional stay. He might have assumed the only profound empathy he experienced with his long-time friends and co-workers back home developed over time. But what if two strangers can enter into a full-blown level of affection within an hour or so? There is scientific evidence that mortals are gifted with instant trust with unfamiliar persons but they seldom trust it.

We may be headed for a period of struggling for existence in dealing with the anger and hate we are experiencing in our divided country and realize we may be living in temporary encampments. We have not paid enough attention to our own feelings of ire and hatred. We may tend to conceal our full-blown road rage and domestic wrath. What if we have to live differently and risk more in our contacts with strangers or anyone, to overcome the meanness that seems so pervasive? It will take one-on-one bonding and that is difficult to do, always has been and always will be.

There are other ways, of course, to run deep in our struggle for existence and that has to do with risking being silly. Those moments can break through the harshest times in our lives. When I served as a youth director eons ago I asked the high-schoolers if they would like to go to lunch together. They jumped for it. We went to a restaurant called ‘The Penguin Inn.’

When we stood outside the restaurant I lied and told them we had to walk in like a penguin or they wouldn’t serve us. “Follow me!” I wallowed into the place with my weird brood behind me and we got service. A number of those youth who are in their old age now have sent me notes in recent years stating how meaningful it meant to them that day. They’ve not commented on the great programs we had or sermons I preached in those youth meetings but they made my day.

Several FB messages popped up from those ancient penguin kids soon after Mr. Trump won the election. Ah but, the struggle for existence will still call for risking bonding with perhaps the harshest peoples we know.


“The more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is.”
G.B Shaw, Man and Superman, 1905

OSLO – “Skam,” a racy emotionally intense true-to-life Norwegian web and television series, follows a group of Oslo teenagers as they navigate sex, school, drinking, depression, rape, religion, coming out and the pains of status anxiety, in real life and online.” NY Times, Rachel Donadio, 12/13/2016
The creative writer and director travels around her country interviewing countless teenagers. After she writes the script she gets feedback from the actors and viewers.

Whenever I come across a reference to a Norwegian news piece I always tell my Viking spouse about it. If it is a great article I like to find it first. It’s just me I guess.

The series will be picked up by American and Canadian entertainment entrepreneurs and call it “Shame.” Hey, why can’t adults be whipped up to participate in such a gut level form of frankness? Do citizens have enough buried sentiments to warrant an adult TV series?

Here’s for starters: work stress, sex, porn, drinking, rape, depression, domestic violence, family battles, finances, gay life, illnesses, aging, dementia, politics, religion, and death and dying, And let’s not leave out road rage, by guys mostly, which may be the source of a lot of those anxieties that remain suppressed.

How did the sociologists miss detecting the depth of anger and rage within our culture that has to have begun a few decades ago? How much are we aware of needing to have our ethnic race in the majority? We can add those questions to the above behaviors.

How much of our emotional chaos has to do with the way we function? We don’t bond with our neighbors nor do we relate deeply with co-workers or extended families for that matter. I thought when I was a kid my treasured cousins would be in my life forever.

Given our citizens are at odds with each other maybe it would be helpful for both sides to reveal their ‘pains of status anxiety’to a clever writer. We are also at odds with lots of Russian peoples so why not have them disclose their deepest sentiments for a TV series in such groups?

What if family, faith communities and other social clusters have not generated enough empathy to sustain us on this planet? OK, here’s the audacious perspective I have come to imagine. We will have to risk one-on-one bonding with strangers across our country and the globe. My hunch is aliens may already know how to produce personalized intimacy in the galaxy. We’re just behind times. So, let’s risk joining the “Shame” project when it comes around.