Friday, December 24, 2010

Remembering Heaven

Yesterday I happened upon an article from World Magazine online by Amy Henry. In it, she tells of a friend named Louise Owen (here's her blog) who has an unusual condition called hyperthymesia.  Basically, hyperthymesia gives the person amazing memory skills.  Louise can remember, accurately and vividly, each day of the past 25 years.  If you give her a date, she can tell you the day of the week, the news of that day, the weather, what she did, wore, ate, and what happened in her life.  More than that, the events bring with them the emotions she felt at the time -- hyperthymesia makes the person relive the event itself.  I imagine it would be emotionally exhausting.  Have you ever thought what a blessing it is to be able to forget?  Or just to have memories and their attending emotions fade, or become gilded?

I've already written here about my husband's synesthesia. Some might call it is a disorder. Certainly synesthesia is unusual, as is hyperthymesia. Most of us ordinary folk look on these special traits or abilities with interest, even awe. A bit freakish? What would it be like to taste lemon each time you saw the color green, or the number 7? What if certain music made you smell particular aromas? We can call it a confusion of the senses, because it seems confusing to us, whose senses are nicely segregated. Or are they -- aren't our taste and smell intimately connected?  What if all our senses were meant to be that way --  Integrated and inter-functioning to enrich the sensory experience?

I'm a musician of sorts, and I've known only two musicians in my life with perfect pitch.  One is the amazing and gifted music director of the church I grew up in, a large Presbyterian church in Mississippi. He can give you an A-flat out of thin air, I think. Perfect pitch. You would know when any soprano was even a tiny bit flat. Would it be agony or ecstasy? And if it's agony, is it only because there is so much bad music, poor music, in this fallen world?  If all music were perfect, would perfect pitch be a pleasure?  My other friend is a vioinist. I sat by her one Christmas as we sang carols.  She played her violin exactly like a voice; it was singing. Always -- always! -- perfectly on pitch.

Perfection is beauty.

[At this point, I'm gonna warn you, I'm about to drift off into speculation.  If you think I'm nuts, that's fine with me. I think if there were no nuts, there would be very little interesting in the world.]

Adam has been sad that his synesthesia seems to be diminishing as he ages.  The colors aren't so vibrant or distinct.  He misses it.  Strange as it always was to him, it was a personal joy, and a beauty to see the numbers that were in his mind. We've both wondered about these traits.  Why do some humans have them? And what would it be like if more humans had them? All?

As a Christian who believes in the Bible rather literally, I know that sin permeates our world. We are thoroughly, irrevocably and totally affected by Adam's fall. He is the federal head of the human race, and by our genetic relationship to him, we are all imperfect. I think every atom in my body is damaged, and I'm not talking just spiritual talk.  Yes, my soul is sinful.  But it's my body that's aging, diseased, aching. Sin is working on my body every minute of every day.

But what if it weren't? We occasionally think of what an unfallen world might be like, or even unfallen souls.  But unfallen bodies? What would they be able to do?  Is it possible that these occasional traits of hyperthymesia, synesthesia, perfect pitch (are there others?), are traits humans are supposed to have, that we would have if we weren't fallen? That we will have again?

It all depends on your view of sin, of course. As the generations spin along, I think man's sinful qualities become more and more pronounced, and the glory and wonder of the garden diminishes in him. Imagine this:  men and women in early history who lived 700, 800, 900 years (as Scripture records it).  What if many of them had hyperthemesia, and could recall with pristine accuracy each day?  What kind of record keeping and oral retellings would you get? We dismiss early records, but perhaps we don't know what kind of people we're dismissing.

These are all just ramblings, of course, but I enjoy them. I enjoy thinking about what the New Earth will be like (as you know). We can imagine perfect health, endless life, being pain-free.  But what about the aspects to that life that we haven't considered? What about human abilities that have been so lost that there's almost no trace of them? All my heavenly days will be glorious; I hope I will recall them all, and never forget one of them.

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