This Is Heaven!: A Journey to the Pearly Gates with Chuck Mertz

Note: This is merely a humble recount of a vision and it in no way reflects the *real actions of Chuck Mertz, Jesus Christ or anyone else.

Note: This is a translation of a dream-like state and therefore cannot be fully understood within the constraints of narrative and the naturally alienating medium of reconstruction of experiences through words that cannot fully capture the original feeling. Alas, we are left with only memories, shades of what could have been for another person, in another time. Brother Mertz brings us closest to the radical imagination necessary for empathy. Empathy, or even better democracy, leads to an explosion of new states of mind that enriches the remarkable human mind which is perpetually bound by capital and survival, which both frightens away imagination and leaves no energy or utility for it. A free market relies on competition and fear for creation and therefore can only create more intricate modes of destruction and imprisonment. Rather, Brother Chuck, teach us your ways of looking deep into the soul of another and finding that at least for a moment, one can exit the constraints of the ego, and become radically different, not only in the liberal sense of distance—which is categorical but in the biotic sense that finds the lion lies with the lamb not out of kindness—but rather out of mercy. Find whatever truth in these words from Brother Chuck, and leave the rest.

I passed through what felt like a million tight doors made of gelatin to reach a land that was pure, good and above all, honest. Waiting on the other side, and this really was the other side, was a man who I thought I recognized immediately as radio man Chuck Mertz. Chuck had an uncommon glow surrounding him. In fairness, it may be a feature of the man you just miss on the radio, but upon further examination, I had to conclude that there was something different about this man. Something divine, that is.

Chuck looked like a cross between the same three pictures of Chuck online and the millions of pictures of Jesus Christ. Needless to say, the Chuck was clear, the Jesus, murky. Chuck wore a tattered sweatshirt and was accompanied by a floating microphone. He wore sandals, although seeing there were only pictures of Chuck from the chest up on *Google, much of in between was missing.

Chuck and I found ourselves facing each other in a capacious field. The silence wasn’t deafening, it was absolute. The background sounds and smells so common to our ungodly earth were taken out and I felt no bothers at all. The scene begged for addition, seeing subtraction was impossible. It remained unlikely that I would be the one to bring anything more, fearing to upset the balance that could only be described as seraphic.

I didn’t feel it was right to speak in the presence of such unworldly power so I stayed silent for what seemed like days. It was hard to tell because the sun never set here. Alarmingly I wasn’t thirsty or hungry either. I was never tired, but that may have been because I was dreaming. I never had to use the restroom. Nor did I need to wear anything to protect me from the sun, which was full and radiant.

Chuck seemed at peace with this scenario. I knew he was a chill guy but his calmness now made me restless, or it should have. Could Chuck really stand this long without distressing about late-stage capitalism? This was where I felt the need to assert myself. I took a deep breath and cried out, with a crack in my voice: “Where am I?”

Chuck spoke back with a pace that was as graceful as the finest dancer and it seemed like his words could neither tip the balance one way or the other.

“My brother” he began, and I felt perturbed by this use of direct language, “why does it matter?” I began to think, and having not come up with a reason, for I was perfectly content, said nothing. This time, Chuck did not let the quiet linger and he continued:

“You are in heaven. I know no other word to describe this place. Although even that word does not do it justice.”

“So, I am dead?” I wasn’t ready for his answer, because I hoped I was.

“As you would understand it, yes. Are you uncomfortable?”

I didn’t know what to make of this question. I was perfectly comfortable, in the comforting sense of the word. Why would I care though, about comfort having just found out I was dead? Upon contemplation the question had some wisdom precisely because the comfort was so pristine I truly did not care that I was dead, and I had no desire to be alive again.

“I am comfortable. In fact, I have no desires of any kind.”

“That is because they are all fulfilled. You must be wondering where everyone else is, yes? What the rest of heaven is like? It’s not just me in a field.”

I was wondering that, now that he brought it up. I hadn’t thought of it before. I was overwhelmed by contentment. This alarmed me, but why should it? Sensing me, Chuck went on.

“We can go to see them. Now, or whenever you want.” Before I saw them, I needed a question answered that I had always had about heaven, and it kept, even as all other questions had deserted me in the face of a state that defied improvement.

“Is heaven different for every person?”

“Everything is different, for everyone.” This was true, and my mind rested. Chuck went on, answering my question after his point was proven.

“Heaven is not a place, exactly. You shouldn’t worry. Never worry.” This helped me even less in answering the question, and only helped me in forgetting it.

“Come, my brother” and I followed Chuck. As we began to move my mind became preoccupied with earthly questions. How did everyone in heaven have time to meet with Chuck, if there were billions of people who needed him? How was it possible that everyone had their desires fulfilled when on earth there was always conflict between what each of us wanted? I thought the first question could be answered, and the second question wouldn’t be. So I asked about Chuck’s schedule and he said:

“I am having office hours at Cary’s Lounge. You’re welcome to join, my brother.” Giving up on any answers, I let my mind evaporate into a stupor that was both pleasant and hallow. We came to a single window, that stood on its own, at about the perfect place for breaking it.

“You want to break the window, yes?” Chuck asked. I did. And a rock formed in my hand. I threw the rock and the window shattered. To my amazement, there was not a mess on the ground. I was, as Chuck had taught me, suspicious, but he urged me on:

“Don’t worry. Please, come.” And so I came through the window and we were met by a familiar face. The great Ralph Nader! Ralph looked well, although he was hard to read.

“Mr. Nader here is our driver. He is taking us to heaven.” So we got in the car and it was the smoothest ride imaginable. The car didn’t have seatbelts, and I was almost sure we didn’t need them. Still, I had to wonder what Mr. Nader, who is the reason we have seatbelts in cars now, thought about that.

Chuck told me that this was merely a tour. I could live here soon, but only if I wanted to. I couldn’t imagine not wanting to. I was so stupefied by the entire situation that I didn’t ask what he meant. Chuck told me that we would be passing by all my fulfilled desires. All I needed to do was tell Mr. Nader what they were and he would drive by where they were currently being fulfilled.

So we passed by everything I thought I needed. Lavish homes, beautiful women, pressed clothes and no labor to speak of. Money, I thought to myself, need not spin its evil web here, and money was gone. Children who looked up to me as a hero. A muscular body. A bountiful feast. Even magic powers. Captive friends. Land to protect and cultivate. Creepy paintings. Fast cars. A camera on the savages for entertainment. And, almost as an afterthought, no homeless people (too messy).

On that thought, the car dragged to a halt.

“What’s the matter?” I asked. I was angry. I had forgot about Ralph.

“My brother” Chuck said, “we have reached what Marx called a contradiction. It is here where Ralph stops the car because he does not know which way to go.”

“What do you mean, Chuck?”

“For example, say that you wished that your heaven had no Chuck Mertz.”

“I would never wish that!” I tried to defend myself at what felt like an attack.

“No, I must say this position of Jesus is a rather new one for me. I think your love for me is pure.”

“Pure! Yes, it is all pure!”

“Yes, but you see purity is where we find our contradiction. “

“Go on!” I urged Chuck, for he was pausing again. Seeing the relationship to time was detached, I couldn’t say how long he paused for. Weeks, months, years.

“If you really wanted me to go on, I would already be going on. This is heaven. You make all of the rules. You are only having me pause because you do not want to hear the rest, or are not ready to.”

“Does that mean I am also making up everything you say, Brother Chuck?”

“Remember the Albus Dumbledore quote: “Of course this is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

“So am I merely constructing a recreation of my generation’s Bible? With myself cast as the protagonist?”

“At least this one has a happy ending” Chuck said with a glitter in his bluest eye.

I must have been ready for my original question, as the answer flowed from Chuck’s inner depths, without a prompting.

“Remember back to when you learned about Santa Claus. The first question the child asks is: how does Santa make it to every house? From a young age we are aware of the material limitations of the world. It is at that age that we are more aware than ever of these constraints. At that age, a cookie on top of the countertop is out of reach. Even if we were a baby that was 100 feet tall with arms the size of tree trunks this cookie would be out of reach. It is not the physical and mental restrictions that limit the child, but the place the child is given in society. The child is aware that there are rules because she is always breaking them. Once we gain power in the world this changes. Once we trade in the natural inclinations of our soul and opt instead for society’s acceptance, approval, reward, and most importantly mercy, it is only then that we begin to forget how materially restricted our world is for both the underprivileged and rebellious. As a child we know that Santa could not come to every house in one night because we know that the world has its ecological and physical limits, as we run up against them everyday. It is only when we become old enough to conquer the world that we begin to forget the process of our own fragile and vain existence.”

We were interrupted by the snores of Brother Ralph from the front seat. I began to laugh, but Chuck scolded me.

“You must have thought it was funny to have a man of such importance fall asleep during my speech. A cheap and ageist joke.”

Stunned at this shift in tone from the comic Chuck, I was let off the hook when he continued:

“Although you did want to be scolded for it. Good for you.” Was this heaven after all? I was being complemented for seeking punishment, but it was only years later that I discovered that Chuck was joking here, and may have been joking the whole time, for all I know.

“We’ll keep Ralph snoring. You see the Santa Claus paradox?”

“Yes, I do. Santa Claus cannot exist because it would be materially impossible for him to reach every house.”

“We are living in a world that believes that it can and should fill every material gap. This is a world that stops at nothing to achieve its most ludicrous desires. Even when these desires are fulfilled there remains a longing and we come across a class of elites that will never be satisfied. Every corner of the earth must be drilled and extracted from, every person worked to the bone, for every last drop of fantastical valor. And yet, we judge the poor the most harshly. I am a man of judgment, my brother. Make no mistake.”

“How does Santa then exist in the modern world?”

“He very well may come true, in his own way. Not just through bums hired in malls to play him. Could we not imagine that the world needs a certain fantasy so much that we would be willing to sacrifice all our loved ones and liberties to achieve it? And most horrifying, we wouldn’t even notice what we have lost, except in passing, as just another thought on the bullet train of overstimulation on the road to alienation from the fundamental human condition.”

“Brother Chuck, wasn’t it you who just said that if it happens inside your head, then it must be real?”

“Let me answer that. There is truth that no experience, by any person, in any time, is any more real than another. Each of us is truly as valuable and beautiful as the next. Each of us belongs to the same kingdom of God and each of us at our base have the same soul and essence. So in that sense, the scare about the loss of religion is quite overblown. I would argue that religion never existed as the pure truth we think of. In all its forms it has always been a way to explain the human condition when used sincerely. In this way we could say there has never been a time when we have been closer to God than we are now. This is because we are discovering ourselves in ways that are not bound by historical institutions that attempt, but always fail, to explain God. This is what we remember. If all things earthly are imperfect, then all attempts to find the true religion have failed. The only blasphemy that one can have is to pretend to have found the answer and call your sister lost just because her path is different than yours.”

“But Brother Chuck, weren’t you just saying we have been in a state of moral decay?”

“What we have is the actualization of conquest over the earth in its most severe form to date. And our conquest over each other within the human race is at a notable, although certainly not singular high in many respects, such as wealth inequality. So in that sense, we are destroying ourselves willfully, although not completely knowingly because there remains the distance between the different segments of God’s soul. These different segments occupy different bodies, or even different groups of bodies, but we all are all one. In that sense, I do find the modern subject, so entranced by their own ascetic to be one that is not immoral per se, but simply unknowingly self-destructive precisely because the self is miscalculated within a body that will never reach perfection and a mind that will never find resolve. It is in this way that the singular unit of God’s world must become chaotic as its innards compete for God’s reward of salvation. Which is silly, really. We are all God, we are all saved. The only risk of falling from God’s grace is to become something you are not, for we are all God until we destroy ourselves.”

“What does any of this have to do with heaven?”

“Brother, I am coming. Heaven is much the same way. We have our own desires but they have material limits. To live in heaven, where all one’s desires are achieved, is possible. Anything is possible. However it comes within a context of other actors within the world. The most painful thing for anyone to hear is that their own desires may stomp on someone else’s. This is why we find that heaven remains a mathematical impossibility, although there will always be someone who tries. It is through this process that God wields his justice—and it is only here where he has no mercy. On the poor man, God has mercy. He brings him truth, or at least death. The rich man is abandoned by God—left to live within his own misery and regret.”

“It is worse than that, Chuck. It is anguish. I am living in this heaven, where I have all I want. And yet all I feel is desperation. I want to hurl myself off a bridge and never look back.”

“How would that help you? You are already dead.”

“It will be like this, forever, then?”

“Forever and always. Your only job now is to make sense of it. Your only job is to enjoy it as much as possible.”

“Why? Why can’t it change?”

“Because this is what you want. You asked for all of this, and now you have it. You know that the world slaves for your benefit, you know that the world burns for your energy, and you know that in every crying child, you see yourself. You are yourself. You cannot escape that part of you is crying. Yet to know truly how this child is, you would have to become her. You would have to know that you, like the child, suffers, toils and is never rewarded for it. You would have to know the world has no fair rules and that the sole merit in this life is finding yourself in all its unexpected places. You will never find yourself here. You will never escape your box of glory and excess because you can’t.”

“I want to see. I want to see how this is made. How this world runs and who it runs on.”

“And then what will you do? You will never be happy and the whole world will always be sad.”

“Chuck! Stop this Chuck! Stop it now! I am dying inside. Never has there been a pain this great. Never known to man.”

“I think you should ask your slaves about that.” Chuck knew that would get me but it also made me feel better. Finally an acknowledgement of the real.

“The left leg cannot walk forward the same time as the right leg. We are one body but we are not the same. We are of one spirit but we can never know exactly what the rest of the body is thinking.”

“What is it thinking?”

“The same as you. How can I end this?”

“Why did I choose this? Why couldn’t I have saved them? Wouldn’t we all feel better?”

“Perhaps. And yet you question me now. How can you doubt fate? This is exactly who you are meant to be. You want to help these people? Stop looking back. You left them here. You left them here to die. And you chose to do that. Maybe you felt scared. Maybe you just had the wrong instincts. But look at you now. Look at you learning, growing, thinking.”

“You haven’t told me how I can help them.”

“Become the world again. Return to it and soon this instinct of helping yourself will spread.”

“It is kindness, that you seek, Brother Chuck?”

“Kindness dies in darkness. What I am looking for is wisdom. Wisdom to know that there has never been a happy man who acts against himself. If you know this. If you trust this. Then when the time comes, you will do what you must, and you will feel better.”

“It won’t get better, will it?”

“No. They will suffer. You can’t save them. But it is here where I say you save yourself. You are no good to this heaven a dead man. You may not be worth it. But none of us are. All of us are nothing in God’s kingdom. All you can do is become something.”

“What can I become in a world like this? All the people, enslaved in my name. All the earth, owned in my name. I am all of it already.”

“Are you? Or do you just own it? Let it go. Let it grow. What was once your purity is now your power. Today you let that go. Let the world flourish and you will find to your comfort that it is just as capable of neglect as you are. It remains just as afraid. Just as alone. Life is all a misunderstanding. We all want to do something. We all want to be adjusted. We all want what is right. But none of it makes sense. There are so many contradictions that you will never be satisfied. Therefore you must do what you must.”

“How is this heaven? Why am I such a coward? And why did you put me here? Do you want to punish me?”

“Yes, of course I do. Look what you did to my people. You are being punished. What is a greater curse than perfection? Therefore I suggest you be just a little grateful for your regret and your despair about the conditions you have created. It is the one ounce of humanity I have left for you. If not for this, what would you feel? What would you remember?”

“Will I ever be happy, Chuck? Will I ever recover?”

“Unlikely. How would I know? If this remains your question, you have a long way to go.”

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at