There was once a man who, like all men, lived out his life and died, and went to his eternal reward. The recording angle greeted him as one of the Prophets, and exclaimed for joy at his presence. He was announced by celestial choirs, and led by ecstatic cherubs to a large and imposing mansion, lavishly appointed, of which, he was told, he was the absolute master. The extensive grounds, situated in the suburbs of a magnificent city, fronted rolling grasslands leading to imposing forested mountains, with a breathtaking view of the shore and sea. His servants were many, and it was for him only to breathe the suspicion of a desire for it to be instantly granted.
The city provided every entertainment; the finest of food and drink was his--when he entered a restaurant the Maitre de' greeted him with fawning attention, the cooks altered the menu according to his whim, the waiters doubled themselves over in their desire to please him. Plays, symphonies, cabaret acts, nightclubs, theaters, diversions both licit and lascivious were his to partake to the fullest. He had only to glance at a beautiful woman (and they were numberless) for her to find a way to meet and please him with every artifice at her command. When he tired of her, she would prettily depart, making only a small murmur of unslaked desire, and a short note, leaving her number, should he care to call.
He was the master of every game, every sport, every task, When he played golf, it was eighteen holes-in-one. When he shot pool, the first stroke sent all the balls into all the pockets. He was an Olympic-caliber athlete and, had he cared to compete, would have triumphed at all he attempted. When he entered the ring, he effortlessly defeated all comers without himself suffering so much as a scratch. He never lost at cards, and his gambling winnings were beyond reckoning.
He was never sick, never injured, never in pain, never hung over. His teeth were perfect, his hair full and glossy, his vision clear, his hearing acute, his brow unfurrowed. He slept well and soundly, he ate how and as he pleased and never compromised his perfect athlete's frame. He was eternally youthful, eternally handsome, eternally strong.
After some time (if there is such a thing in eternity) had passed, he went in search of the recording angel, and confessed that he found this existence growing stale. There were no challenges, no disappointments, everything was handed to him on a sliver platter. Life was so easy that he could scarcely bring himself to live it. This Heaven, he complained, had everything Heaven had been advertised as possessing, but it lacked spice. It was dull and getting duller. He thought that if he saw another perfect sunrise; another clear cloudless day; another warm, star-studded night in the arms of a beautiful, unresisting, easily satisfied woman; another sparkling night on the town; another game that he could not lose no matter how hard he tried to do so; another attempt on his own life that proved fruitless; that he would go stark staring mad. He was bored rigid.
At the end of his long complaint, to which his audience of one had listened with unfeigned patience and delight, the angel replied, "Heaven? What makes you think this is Heaven?
(March 5, 2002)
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