An Up-Trip

Ben H. Swett
Alert Barracks, Pease AFB, NH
26 February 1964

I had an argument with my wife, over the telephone. I forget what it was about, but most likely it had something to do with the fact I was away from home most of the time, while she was stuck in a snow-bound little apartment with two small children. If that wasn't the topic of that particular argument, it was much of the reason behind it--together with the fact I had chosen to stay in the Air Force.

I went to bed feeling misunderstood and more than a little sorry for myself. After all, I had to make a living the best way I could, even if my wife didn't think this was living. She didn't have to make it harder for both of us.

However, from a sense of justice, I tried to see things from her point of view, and that helped. Her arguments were logical, natural, from her perspective.

Next I tried to see both myself and my wife from some other, more objective, third person point of view. Once I did that, we both seemed pretty childish, but basically good and really quite lovely children, for all our failings.

Then quite suddenly, I realized that I could love my wife no matter what she said or did. My love did not depend on her. It only depended on my point of view ... and I could choose my point of view! That insight was a revelation to me:

Love is an action not a reaction. It is a matter of choice!

Somehow, that thought had in it a vast sense of freedom, the lifting of a burden, a release. I cannot describe it. It is a feeling of liberation:

I can love her no matter what she says or does! I can love anyone--just because I chose to! It doesn't depend on anyone but me!

In that new-found feeling of joy ... and freedom ... and peace, I drifted off to sleep.

And suddenly, in the basement of that bomb-shelter alert barracks, with my eyes closed, I saw a night sky filled with stars--a universe of stars--just as though the two reinforced concrete floors above me had been removed and I was looking straight up into a perfect, cloudless night. But it was not the same night sky. There were stars of various magnitudes, in clusters and constellations, but they were not the ones I use for celestial navigation. Strange stars ... but beautiful.

As I lay there admiring the view, I ... rose straight up, into that star-filled night. I felt completely weightless, and accelerated as I rose. It was a breathtaking experience, exhilarating, and more than a little frightening.

I went up toward, and then among, and then through, layer after layer of stars. But then, as I continued to rise, I approached what seemed to be a ceiling or top limit to this universe of stars, a gray area, like a roof.

I rose up into that area where there were no stars ... and came up through the floor of what seemed to be a gigantic hall or courtroom or cathedral, still lying flat on my back.

The whole atmosphere of that place was awash with golden, glowing light--like a luminescent haze or fog. There seemed to be great pillars or columns along both sides and both ends of that spacious room, but I could not see the ceiling. If there was one, it was too high up for me to see in that golden glow.

Then I suddenly realized the room was full of people. I was surrounded by people, and I felt they were there because I was there--that they were gathered because I was expected--and I was embarrassed to be just lying in the aisle, so I stood up.

There were people on both sides, looking at me. They seemed to know me, but I didn't recognize them. There was an aisle between the people, stretching away in front of me as far as I could see.

Someone came to me, gently turned me around so I faced in the other direction, and started walking with me. In the distance, at the far end of the aisle in this direction, was a raised area, and a throne. Everything around the throne looked like pillars or curtains of light, reaching upward out of my range of vision.

There was a man--a king--standing on the raised area in front of the throne. Unlike everything and everyone else in this place, he glowed white--a radiant, penetrating white. I couldn't look directly at him, although I didn't know why.

My friend--because the one walking with me seemed to be a special friend--escorted me to the foot of the raised area. There were two steps. I knelt on the first step because I felt that was what I was supposed to do. The king came toward me, but I couldn't look at him.

He touched me, first on one shoulder and then on the other, with a great, terrible, sharp, two-handed, double-edged sword. I saw it clearly, on my shoulder, and fervently hoped that he wouldn't slip and cut my head off with it.

I don't think anything at all was said. When the king stepped back, I stood up, turned around, and started walking back along the aisle between the people. They all seemed to be smiling at me. And then, as I walked, the aisle became a flight of stairs leading downward, and I walked--or almost marched--down those stairs into the stars ...

... and awoke in my bed in the alert barracks.

I lay there remembering everything that happened, and, although I was not sure it was real, or where I had been, I definitely felt that a king had commissioned me and sent me back down those stairs to do something.

Perhaps more important, I remembered that I can love my neighbor, regardless of anything that he or she may say or do. Of that much I am certain.