Monday, February 23, 2009

Heavenly harp

Last Friday (20 Feb) I went to Teresa Suen's harp recital. The harp is generally regarded as the musical instrument in heaven. The image of an angel playing harp in the clouds has been for many hundred years the representation of heavenly scene. The characteristic of the sound of harp, with fast scale and arpeggio straddling several octaves, also creates a mystical heavenly effect. Heaven could be like that. But when I was at the recital watching actual harp playing, I fell from heaven back to earth. Playing harp is by no means a easy task. It is an instrument quite difficult to handle, with both hands playing many strings in multi-part harmony and counterpoint. Key shifting is done by several foot pedals. Besides plucking strings, it is also necessary to silence strings. The player is very busy doing all these at the same time. Producing good harp music requires much hard work. One cannot go to heaven to do hard work such as playing harp.

On heavenly reward, I saw a film last year on the jihad. It was about these Muslim suicide bombers who gave their life for religion, for a reward in heaven. The reward was said to be forty virgins to be enjoyed in heaven after the jihad died. The Muslim religious faithful, or some of them who were deceived, had strong faith on such reward. Those who do not believe in religion, or those who believe in other religions, would plainly point out that this is a delusion. Let's not forget that other religions have other rewards in heaven.

It is simple logic that there are no forty virgins in heaven to be enjoyed. The simplest question to ask is why are these virgins in heaven to be enjoyed? Have they done something good, or bad, to deserve this? Come to think of it, there is nothing to be enjoyed in heaven. All the earthly pleasure we know of are provided by someone. We need a cook to provide good food, or a musician to provide good music, or a specialist to provide any specialized enjoyment. These providers should not be providing if they are in heaven. There is therefore no earthly pleasure in heaven. Anything we know of and wish for are for life on earth and will be too lowly to be found in paradise. Although no one ever comes back from heaven and tells the tale, we can safely assume that there is nothing in heaven but eternal happiness.

A few years ago, I led a delegation of overseas VIP on a visit to a methadone clinic to see the drug treatment programme, and had a chat with the doctor in charge. He said that he worked on drug addicts everyday and knew everything about the drug and the addicts. He was conversant with the medical effect, treatment effect, physical and psychological conditions of the addicts, and the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of the methadone programme. He confessed to me that the one thing he did not know was how high the addicts were when they were on drug. He said the description was a heavenly feeling.

A heavenly feeling is good, and is something everyone is wishing for. But drugs are bad for other reasons. It is harmful to health. It is hard to get as it is illegal. Addicts want it so much that they are willing to commit crime to get it. It is so expensive that criminals are running and selling drugs despite the severe penalty, sometimes death. Large amount of resources are wasted to prevent such crime, treat addicts and educate the population. But what if the scientists could improve such drugs and make them not harmful, healthy like orange juice, cheap as water, and commonly available in the market. Then everyone can be in heaven any time we like. I told the doctor that he must be having a good dream.

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