Is there art in heaven?


What do you say? Is there art in heaven? What would it be like? What would it be for? Of course, these questions depends on what we mean by art, but if we understand it as a kind of mediation, then I suspect (or maybe even hope) that there will be no need for it: ‘For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face’ (1 Cor.13.12)

Music may be a different matter – indeed, music is often described as ‘heavenly’, while I can’t recall art being described as such (unless it’s supposed to be some kind of representation of heaven – but what would be the point of a picture of a place when you’re in it? I know we have lots of those now – representations of this world – but I think that’s because ‘we see in a mirror dimly…’)

Anyway, I firmly believe and trust that they will be playing Studio One in heaven 🙂

And just now I am imagining they will play ‘Les Jolis Matous’ – the song in the video above – when my cat Millie arrives. I love the way that the last (most joyful ie heavenly) notes of the chorus don’t come in til half way through the song.

Actually, that’s really what I’m thinking about right now – not art, or even music, but the fact that our little cat Millie is dying. She is truly the sweetest cat in the world. It is a strangely upsetting experience. Firstly because she has been a part of our family for many years, and secondly because every death that touches us reminds us of all the other ones that have done still do. The loss of a loved one is hard to bear, and while we live, we never really forget. Although of course, our time will also come – and maybe that is also part of what upsets us about death.

No one really knows what happens when we die. Or rather, some people profess they do – for example, materialists believe that when you die, consciousness ends, and you cease to exist. (Although this still begs the question as to the nature of consciousness while we are alive – and if we don’t know the answer to that, how can we know what happens to it when we die?) Alternatively, some religious people (including some Christians) maintain a similarly dogmatic position, on the basis of fixed definitions of heaven and hell (which are themselves based on particular interpretations of certain texts). But most people, religious or otherwise, accept an element of uncertainty.

This does not preclude faith, or judgement. Personally, I believe in the promise of eternal life in Christ. Of him I am certain. And that’s why I take seriously his commandment ‘do not judge‘. This does not mean that there will not be a judgement, but we are not to be the judges. And so in that respect I am uncertain. But still I can hope.

But is it sentimental to hope that Millie will go to heaven? Well, again, I remember the words of Jesus: ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.’ (Luke 12.6)

‘Not one of them is forgotten’ means ‘they are all remembered’. And to be remembered by God is not like being remembered by us – with a tombstone and an obituary, eventually to be forgotten except in the most famous of cases (and even then, who remembers Ozymandias as a person?) We remember by the repetition of words and images; we keep things alive by their re-presentation – although that very process confirms the absence of that which is represented – ie that which is lost.

But to be remembered by God is not to be lost, but to be kept forever. And that means kept alive – for as Jesus said of the resurrection, ‘he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ (Luke 20.38)

(ps The title of the song ‘Les Jolis Matous’ translates as ‘The Pretty Kitties’ but if any of you French speakers out there can translate the rest of the lyrics for me that would be magnifique).

UPDATE Wed 17 July: Millie took her last breath this morning, still the most beautiful cat ever.