Axidava

Heaven

I have discovered where heaven is.

Wherever you are, it is somewhere else.

It is the land of the unattainable, the island that has never been discovered, the shore no ship has ever reached.

Who has found that moment, spoken of by Goethe, where one can say, “Let this moment last forever”?

We were sitting on the top of the mountain, on the platform in front of the little inn, Anushka and I, looking far out over the successive ranges of the Sierras that extended wave-like everywhere. The sun was brilliant. The air was warm. Around us was spread a panorama as beautiful as mortal eyes had ever seen. I was about to ask Anushka if she was happy, when she pointed to a spot over the farthest peaks where the clouds touched the mountain-tops and a gleam of sunshine blessed them, and said:

“There! My soul is yonder. Do you see that spot? It is the dwelling-place of light ineffable. All is peace and joy there. I think that must be heaven.”

“You are right,” I answered. “That is heaven—from here. But when you get there you will find it only mist. From here those clouds are white and gold, and angels fly among them. If you could reach them you would find it bleak and cold, with only rocks and snow-drifts and desolation about you.

“Then perhaps you might see, farther on in the distance, another point full of glory. If you flew to that you would find your glory-point just as far away as ever.

“So heaven flies before us. To us heaven is on Venus, or Saturn, or Arcturus; to the inhabitants of those spheres, who knows? Maybe heaven is on Tellus.”

“That,” she said, “seems a bitter view.”

“Not at all,” I returned. “It is the only view that makes happiness eternal. The one everlasting faculty of mankind is anticipation. The one inexhaustible fountain of joy is hope. Those whose happiness is located in the land of hope will always be happy.

“Heaven is in the future, because the future is infinite. Besides, the future is the only time when we can be happy without alloy. The past, even as to the pleasantest moments of it, is always a little sad. So no one’s heaven is in the past. The present is fleeting, sinking every minute into the darkness of the past. So no man’s heaven is in the present. In the future alone is pure, ideal, untainted joy.

“We are born pilgrims and strangers. The birds of the air have nests, and the foxes have holes, but man has not where to lay his head. He is the gypsy of the universe. He is the bird of passage of the world.”

“But I have been happy,” protested Anushka.

“Possibly,” I said. “But what keys you up to live, what stimulates and inspires you, is not the happiness you have had, but the happiness you expect to have.

“The surest, stablest thing in life is heaven. It rests upon the enduring stones of hope. Its pillars are all of the alabaster of anticipation. It is a city of eternity, not of time. Therefore it is that its gates are never shut, night nor day.”

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