BACK TO THE PEARLY GATES

PEARLY GATES 1

I didn’t even want to get into this at all. It’s all been talked in and out of heaven and hell already .They’re back on the radio talking and tussling about god again. William Crawley is leavening the row on “Talkback” with some well-chosen music that would never usually get an airing in the blandfest that is morning and early afternoon  Radio Ulster, since the death of Gerry Anderson.What stirred up this buzzing hive again….?

Apparently Stephen Fry, the writer,  performer and all-round everygayman, was asked on television , by Gay Byrne , {hypothetically, mind you} ,what he’d do if he arrived at those mystical Pearly Gates  somewhere in the clouds of imagination , what he would say to God? Bearing in mind that Mr. Fry does not believe in God and that  this was only a mental exercise  for him , he basically  answered that  he’d ask God some very hard questions about his mischievous and errant behaviour in his dealings  with us little earthlings and also the many creatures that come into conflict with us. The nub of it is ,why would someone with that kind of power need to get their kicks in that kind of way? Hypothetically …mind you …was it a case of limitless time on his hands and just plain boredom that made him create any of this  at all?….I would say …why  did you bother?.

Of course another way to look at it is to think that god was really a fantasy creation made up by people suffering beyond their mental capacity and  who were willing to take succour from any little crumbs that might fall from an imagined  creator’s massive table.Some tribal elder or a witchdoctor may have started the ball rolling while staring at the stars from his cave entrance.

Many educated and non-educated people have a “faith” in god and believe that without god we’d be lost to savagery ,Well , even with god and religion we are are very capable of  being lost to savagery already, so morality doesn’t appear to  rely on a belief in a creator -being. We’ve just been reminded how delightfully Christian people were compliant in the unholy Holocaust where  millions of their fellow creatures were clinically exterminated. Many argued on the radio that there was nothing to sustain them in suffering without the hope of a “salvation”: one man even lambasted another  , demanding what should he do for succour if there wasn’t a god to believe in , as if that belief would suddenly make everything all right again, whether it was true or not;his idea was that without a god  there would be no point to living and we’d descend into chaos…. but that doesn’t make  god a reality , I was thinking…that’s only something you really want to be true; it is simply part of  a wishlist…..like the list of things you might stack up in your Amazon account for future reference….a hope for the future  that you might be right….a faith, then.

Well ,the debate rattled on with some reasoned contributions ranging across varying viewpoints but it wasn’t long before the floodgates opened up and the Bible -bashers were allowed  full -rein too, to air their views, at which point my eyes glazed over and my ear -filters began to kick in. I knew that soon they’d all be exchanging Biblical quotes of poesy to justify every point of view…like the way we quote Bob Dylan lines like …”the sun’s not yellow…it’s chicken!!”

The way my mind operates , was that I was derailed by my  fascination of the origin of the very  imagery and iconography  of those “Pearly Gates”. it’s a great image , isn’t it? To come up with this imaginative doorway to heaven is quite  a feat of human imagining .The idea, like that old David Niven film by Powell and Pressburger of 1946 , where the World War Two pilot dies and goes on the Stairway to  Heaven….”A Matter of Life and Death”…. that’s it! Well…that kind of thing stirs the imagination .It sticks to the walls of the mind , doesn’t it. Of course you know it’s all done on a film set and there  are special effects at work , but you allow yourself to go along with the creative fantasy.That’s what  we , humans are very good at …the suspension of momentary reality. We watch films and read fiction for that.It’s a special kind of person who can live in that fantasy forever , though, and nothing will ever shake them from it’s grasp.It’s why we can sit through Lord of the Rings , knowingly all the time that it’s only make- believe.

The idea of those lovely “pearly gates” is  a descriptive term  that is common parlance to describe a glistening , light -enhanced gateway to  a Heavenly plane.I imagine that many people actually see that in their mind when there is talk of heaven, just as they see a devil with horns and a forked tail when hell is mentioned .Like i say , this stuff sticks in the mind. All of it comes from references that were written down in a poetic way thousands of years ago.

There is a description ,for example, of the “New Jerusalem” {that’s the one to come..}, in  the Christian Bible’s Revelation 21:21: “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate being made from a single pearl” You might think that the builder of those gates was farming some mighty big oysters to accrue such pearls, before sculpting them into doorways. Then again , maybe we’ll all need to be a  shrunk down lot smaller, to get in …like something out of  a Doctor Who  episode.The popular picture is of wrought-iron gates, possibly painted with glowing gold -leaf or golden Hammerite ..or maybe even glistening white ..to withstand the elements.There are usually clouds about too so there might be some rain about …dampness at least, like when youa re high up in a mountain….and of course there will be an old bearded guy with the Keys to the Kingdom  as gatekeepr .This is usually taken to be Saint Peter and he’ll bode little argument as to who will enter and who will not. If you’re not on his list you’ll not get into this special club.

Okay , most people will understand that as a fantasy , but obviously many haven’t thought too much about it either way.It all sticks around inside the brain though, otherwise Gay Byrne wouldn’t have mentioned it at all….would he?

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