Hell, said Nietzche, is other people. And you can what he was getting at. When we consider history – in the twentieth century alone, two World Wars, the dropping of atom bombs on two Japanese cities, the lethal lie that was the Vietnam War, the decades of discrimination and gerrymander in our tight-twisted NE corner followed by the savagery of our decades of Troubles – it’s not hard to share Nietzsche, ’s thinking and despair of ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’.
The tricky part comes when we have to admit that heaven is also other people. It is in the joy of love for another that we find the world transformed. When you’ve a song in your heart, everything and everybody shimmers with the light of love. When we think of the many medical people on – I was almost going to say ‘on the front-line’, but that is misleading – on twenty-four hour duty in our hospitals and homes, caring for and bringing ease to those who are suffering or even struggling for their lives: what else can you call such self-sacrifice but heaven? And it filters down to community and street level – people checking on neighbours, the able bringing food and human contact to those under house-arrest. There is the unmistakeable glint of heaven about their heroism.
And what do oldies like myself and other house-arrestees miss most in this time of lock-down/lock-up? Other people.
Maybe that stiff-necked old puritan John Milton said it best:
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
But for now, throw off your thinking cap, sit back and enjoy an isolated man singing for us all.