One of the great contrasts that Wendell Berry makes between “the Road” and “the Wheel” views of life is that of what constitutes “heaven” for each. I think he is working off the differences between a classic Christian sacramental view of this world and the next, and the commonly held heresy of Gnosticism, found throughout much of modern Christendom. If I seek heaven through the Road analogy, I am seeking to leave this world for the next. I am seeking to get “there” by consuming “here” in order to get “there.” This view sees creation as commodity. We have been given this world so that we might get to the next world. This frequently results in seeing the present material world as a barrier to the next. Matter is seen as evil. Enlightenment is found in escaping this world for the next.
But the orthodox understanding of creation has not agreed with this view throughout Christian history. It has asserted that there is a coming Reconciliation of heaven and earth in aspiration toward responsible life. The creation as source and end. The order found in this life (albeit broken by the Fall) is being redeemed by the Gospel and the next life is the recovery of our former life in Eden. This world is a down payment on the next, and as such demands our affection, our proper consideration of it as such.
And all this has much to do with education. Too much of our modern focus on education has been trying to get students from “here” to “there” and not rather helping them become here what they should be both here and there. The ideas already developed of what has come before and what shall come after we depart “the here and now” become even more pointed when we understand that the major goal of education is form a responsible creature. We are to point students toward who they are by showing them from where they have come and to where they are going, and if we get the destination improperly defined, we lose much of the battle.
So how we view heaven determines how we teach our children. Let’s think carefully about such.