What language will we speak in heaven? A curious question perhaps, but one that might be profitably meditated. How will we communicate with each other in heaven? How, there, will we reach across the innumerable barriers of language, culture, and background experience which, here, so separate us?
If we can believe the saints, in heaven there will be no words needed, no distance between us that needs bridging through spoken words, through explanation, through assertion, through conscious self-expression, or through anything else. A single glance will tell all. Heaven will not be a place of silence exactly, but it will not be a place of spoken words either. Everyone will be singing and dancing and perfectly understood and understanding in an ecstatic, wordless embrace. Spoken words will be superfluous. The language of heaven, the language of peaceful embrace, is beyond spoken words.
In one way, all of us have already had this, in our mothers’ wombs. There we were at peace, held in an embrace that satisfied. As Karl Jung once put it, in the mother’s womb we are in heaven, except we are not conscious of it.
When we do become conscious that memory of heaven stays with us, as a longing, as a final daydream we nurse. When we are little children, we want to be held, especially by our mothers. Words mean less to us then than being held. We want to be held, precisely, so that we do not have to speak, explain ourselves, and take away our own loneliness and tiredness. What every child wants is to be picked up and held in such a way that he or she can be quiet, safe, understood, and yet part of the mother’s life and body. Ultimately that is the basic longing, daydream, of every child.
This does not go away as we get older, it only takes on other appearances. Through adolescence and adulthood, the basic daydream remains the same. At the end of the day, we want to be held, embraced, in such a way that we can be, as a child at its mother’s breast, quiet, safe, understood, and yet part of the life and body of someone (Someone) whom we love.
At a conscious level, this is not always so obvious. Our longing takes many forms and, as we go through life, different things will appear to us as offering the mother’s breast, the final peace of heaven. The fantasy takes many forms. At times, it might focus on a particular person and the daydream will be: If that person would just fall in love with me, if that person held me in honour, affection, and sexual embrace, then I would be in heaven. Or, at other times, it might be the desire: If I found the right person to fall in love with then I would be at peace.
There are times that the dream might focus on some kind of achievement, success, or experience: If I achieve such or such a goal, finish this or that degree, publish this work of art or literature, make this professional team or land that particular job, or simply have that long dreamed about vacation, then I will be happy. At still other times, the daydream might focus on material comfort, on buying this or that kind of house or material item, or on freedom, on freeing ourselves from a bad marriage or a bad situation. Whatever. Always, save for those times when we are in a clinical depression, we are driven by a dream, the dream of an embrace that will bring us quiet peace.
There are many lessons to be learned by getting in touch with the roots of our daydreams. The more we get in touch with what drives us, irrespective of how non-holy, irreverent, or sex crazed, that may be seem, the more we will begin to understand, and hopefully live by, Augustine’s dictum: You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you. Better understanding our longings might too teach us the wisdom of a Karl Rahner who once said: In the torment of the insufficiency of everything attainable we come to realize that here in this life all symphonies remain unfinished.
But at a deeper level still, better understanding what our longings mean might begin to teach us the language of heaven. What is that language?
It is the language of the silent embrace, the one we once spoke in our mother’s arms, a language that has no need for self-assertion, self-explanation, self-justification, achievements that impression anyone, or sexual seduction, but one in which all is given, understood, and accepted in a wordless, peaceful contact which connects more powerfully than any words. In true embrace we experience both the silence and the peace of heaven.