One of the questions about afterlife which I frequently hear from people is that which deals about recognition or the status of our memory in the afterlife. “Will we remember our past life in heaven?” This question too resurfaced in my thoughts after watching the movie THE GIVER. It’s the story of a nation who underwent mental reconstruction thereby resetting their collective memory. The past evil, cruelty and brutality which they experienced made them adamant in their resolve to erase these memories from their minds and create a generation who do not recognize and are oblivious to evil. It’s not that they were able to totally erase it in their existence; they were only successful in eliminating it from their memory. To conceal the evil of death, they used the term “release,”; other evils too were assigned their correct terms. Now, I wonder if that is a foretaste of heaven – a place where there are no more tears, where evil is erased and where we experience nothing else but everlasting bliss. But if that is what heaven is – it surely is a lonely heaven.
I believe that our emotions are at work only when we have recognition of the events around us. These events not only concern about the present but more so of the past. We feel happiness not only because of what is happening to us in the present but also of what happened to us in the past. We love a person not only because he/she is doing something which merits our affection in the present, but also because he/she has done something lovable to us in the past. I love my parents not only because they take good care of me now but more so because they had taken good care of me when I was young. To love them only by virtue of the present is an injustice on their part. Our capacity to love and be happy is embedded in our memory, without it we are like robots. Robots do not work on memory (although their data storage is named as such), they work on programming. No wonder why in the film, people cannot recognize pain and when one character was punched, he’s unaware of what happened. In the film too, people are incapable of loving, they do not know what a kiss is and they are at loss in recognizing that warm, tickling feeling inside their hearts, that feeling of wanting, of longing for someone’s presence, that smile which forces itself whenever she passes by; we do recognize it however as love.
But in heaven, there is happiness, there is love and I believe there is memory. I just don’t know exactly to what extent since I also believe there will be healing of our memories. So will we all get amnesia in heaven? I don’t think so, but there our memory will be like our future bodies – glorified and sanctified. We will be a brand new creature, “…the old things have passed away behold all things have become new…” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We will be healed creatures. We will be partakers of God’s divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4). In heaven, we will have more knowledge than what we have now.
But while we long for heaven, we should understand that we are still here on earth. We are still treading its floors. And while here, we should pray for the strength to confront evil with divine understanding; to face the world with all its beauty and ugliness, to accept the good and not be cowed by the bad. The world is a place where we should learn; we therefore should engage the world, not escape from it. In the end, our dealing with this world will determine our worthiness of heaven – there our true home awaits.