Figures of history have gripped my imagination and retained my wonder since I was a little girl. A character didn’t have to do much to interest me. The very fact that people remember them piqued my curiosity. People like Abraham Lincoln, the Pharohs, Annie Oakley. People who existed before modern postal systems, let alone the Google age of information sharing. Yet somehow, there was something about each of them, that over the decades, centuries, millennia between when they stopped walking this earth and I began to, people have found a need to not only preserve their memory but pass it to the next generation.
So I majored in history in college, to learn more about these people and why we remember them. Maybe the hidden motivation of my heart was to find out how to make sure history remembers me too.
This week I bought a book at Barnes and Noble, The Sabbath, by Abraham Joshua Heschel. A friend recommended the author, the topic always interests me, and I was looking for a distraction from Tort Law. It’s the perfect distraction. Easy to read yet profound, I often find myself picking it up instead of my textbooks, to read just a chapter to rest my mind for a bit.
In the book I recently read an allegory of a rabbi critical of the Roman rule of Israel, not just because they were oppressive rulers, but because of their very approach to life. Emphasis on space, on grandour. As Heschel analyzed the rabbi, compared him and his philosophy for living to the Roman approach, he indicated that there are two concepts of eternity competing with each other illustrated here.
The first is the Roman perspective. To live eternally is to live on in history, to live your life in such a way that you will be remembered for eternity, even after you die. That was the only Roman concept of the afterlife.
The second is the rabbi’s perspective. To live as one aspiring for eternal life.
Two completely different lifestyles pursue these perspectives. Both perspectives require intentionality on the part of the actor. They way you view eternity determines the way you live your life. If you are living your life to be remembered for eternity, you may be disqualifying yourself from living eternally.
Which makes me examine my own life. Am I living my life simply to be remembered for eternity but not to live eternally? Because if that is the case, I have little hope. This earth will only last so long, and even as long as it does, the Bible is clear. “For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 2:16.
Yet, I can’t help but think that there’s nothing wrong with the desire to live a life that is remembered by history. “…Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart…” Ecclesiastes 3:11. “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him.” Ecclesiastes 3:14.
Because we are created in the image of God, and what God makes lasts forever, it only seems natural as His children that we have the hope and expectation that what we do, what we make, what we say, will have an impact and be remembered.
I think it goes back to the CS Lewis quote from my last post. Aim at heaven, you get the earth thrown in. Aim at the earth, and you get neither. Aim at the history books, and you may not even make it in there. Aim for that relationship with God, where He gives eternal life, and He will make your life one that will impact others, maybe one that will even make the history books.
I don’t just want to be remembered by history. I want to live for eternity.