Most of us tend to think of the afterlife as a place that we visit after we die. Perhaps you imagine heaven as a beautiful city in the sky. Or, maybe, like many of our ancestors, you picture a void, a place of dark shadows and endless wandering.

The problem, of course, is that life after death, in a literal sense, is a matter of faith. Other than living a good life, as defined by our chosen religion, there is little that we can do to prepare for the afterlife.

So, today, I want to talk about another way to look at life after death. I want to argue that how we are remembered is just as important as what happens to our souls when we die… and why, ironically, focusing on how we will live on in the memories of others may be one of the best ways to secure our place in heaven, in whatever form it takes.

Is Life After Death Located in the Memories of Others?

We cannot know what happens to our consciousness after we die, but, we can be sure that, for better or for worse, our deeds will echo through the ages.

Humans are not like other animals. We do not need to wait for evolution to pass down our collective wisdom to our progeny. Every conversation puts our stamp on the universe. Every interaction with another person sends ripples through time and space. Every good deed is an investment in a better future.

So, I can’t help but wonder, would the world be a better place if we stopped worrying so much about our immortality and started worrying more about our legacy? What would happen if we started to look as the afterlife as a place that existed in the hearts and minds of others? Would we be better people? And, would the world be a better place for our generosity?

This reminds me of a quote by the Roman statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero. He said:

The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero Life After Death Quote

This is a beautifully stoic idea and one that each of us should take a moment to consider.

Could Focusing on Our Life After Death in this World Help Us Prepare for the Next?

Of course, making a difference in the lives of others is valuable for its own sake. But, I can’t help but wonder if this perspective could also be a key to getting into heaven in a more literal sense.

Think about it for a second. Seeking out the afterlife directly is a purely selfish pursuit. When we sift through scripture, looking for keys to unlock the gates of heaven, we are playing a game with the universe. We are hoping that our deeds are more important than the contents of our hearts.

What if we stopped worrying so much about the afterlife and started focusing more on helping others. What if we spend less time worrying about our aging souls and more time helping young people to reach their potential?

What if we abandoned our pursuit of heaven and tried to create an ecological paradise here on Earth? What if we internalized the idea that we are stewards of this planet instead of seeking immortality among the stars?

While no-one knows exactly what it takes to get into heaven, I think that most religious leaders would agree that a person who lifts people up, creates beauty, protects the environment, inspires children and commits themselves to learning and growing every day is more likely to find paradise than someone who sees salvation as the finish line at the end of a cosmic board game.

So, today, let’s all try not to worry so much about what happens to our souls when we die. Instead, let’s commit ourselves to finding immortality in the hearts and minds of others.

What have you done today to make an impact in someone else’s life? How do you want to make the world a better place in the time that you have left? Let’s have a conversation!