Monday, May 05, 2008

Book- "the five people you meet in heaven"

Mitch Albom's "the five people you meet in heaven" is a small novel that is pretty quick and easy to read. It is an interpretation of how heaven looks like through the eyes of the main character Eddie. On the basis of five different encounters, Eddie learns the lessons of life, sacrifice, anger, love and forgiveness. The book begins with the end, a popular literary novelty. After detailing the last moments of Eddie's death, Albom then lists out how heaven looks like through Eddie's conversations with five persons: Captain, Ruby, his father, Marguerite (his wife) and a little girl by the name of Tala. From each of these characters, Eddie learned something in his death what he could not have understood in life.

1) BLUE MAN: The general lesson is that any one story can be viewed from two different angles. For example, stories can be viewed either from a sad or happy angle.
"No life is a waste. The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone." (Blue Man, 50)

2) CAPTAIN: That's what heaven is. You get to make sense of your yesterdays. This is reflection. Eddie learned that the Captain sacrificed his life to save Eddie and the other men.
"Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be. It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to. Little sacrifices. Big sacrifices. A mother works so her son can go to school. A daughter moves home to take care of her sick father." (Captain, 93)

"Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just simply passing it on to someone else." (Captain, 94)

3) RUBY: In his conversation with Ruby, Eddie was urged to forgive his dad. "No one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed of it. But now, here, in order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did, and why you no longer need to feel it." While in life, Eddie felt that his dad is the reason for his "loss of freedom, loss of career, the loss of hope." (142)
Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from the inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.

4) MARGUERITE: Eddie learned that his wife died while trying to make up to him, after feeling guilty about her unkind words to Eddie who was at the races at that time. Unfortunately, Eddie only found out the circumstances surrounding her accident only in heaven.
"Love, like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive." (164)

"Lost love is still love, Eddie. It takes a different form, that's all. You can't see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory. Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.........Life has to end, love doesn't."

5) TALA: Eddie learned that his actions during the war in the Philippines, has inflicted serious burns inflicted on this innocent girl. If forgiveness is difficult for Eddie, it comes naturally to this girl. The contrast in willingness to forgive is dramatic and stark. Little did Eddie know that this is the same girl he tried to save just before his death at the amusement park Freddy's Free Fall ride. Only then, does Eddie eventually goes 'home.'

My Comments
Albom's view of heaven is existentialist in nature. He teaches a form of appreciating what we have in life, and to learn to see with eyes of love, forgiveness and sacrifice. In order to be truly 'home,' one will need to traverse the journeys of life, sacrifice, forgiveness and love. He claims that the secrets of heaven is a form of "each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one." In terms of helping us to put together broken lives, this idea is redemptive, in the sense that there is ultimate meaning in life. I will make three general observations about Albom's interpretation of heaven and the purpose of life. Firstly, Albom believes that there is a way that people can connect broken pieces of their lives together into one integrated meaning. This is optimistic, but like the Blue Man, it can also turn the other way. I question what is actually its fundamental premise for such a presupposition. Secondly, heaven is more like a resolution of questions rather than anything else. It will tend to paint heaven like a giant encyclopedia of "1001 answers to all the questions you ever have." That makes heaven too encyclopedic for my comfort. Thirdly, the book is more 'moral' in nature rather than 'spiritual.' There is nothing wrong with it, except that it treats heaven more like a moral device than a place for eternal living. In the Bible, the idea of heaven is more than simply resolving questions. It is more than simply a place of bliss and angelic songs. It is essentially a place where God is, and in the presence of God, nothing else truly matters. Hebrews 4 gives us a glimpse of such a condition.

"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." (Heb 4:9-10)

If Christians want to learn about heaven, the Scriptures must be one source they should never exclude. Heaven is that eternal sabbatical rest, not alone but with God in his kingdom of beings declared righteous in Christ. Otherwise, without Scripture as an anchor, there is a tendency described by John Milton, the 17th century English poet as:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven."


Anonymous said...

Great review! I just read it & loved it. I agree with your review.

YAPdates said...



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