A free outdoor lecture presented in collaboration with the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference.
This free lecture will be outdoors on the Library’s Donaldson Robb Family Green on 4th Street. Attendees are invited to bring their own low-back chairs or blankets, spread out on the lawn, and enjoy the evening.
What do we think of when we think about heaven? What might it look like? Who or what might be there? Since humans began to huddle together for protection thousands of years ago, these questions have been part of how civilizations and cultures define heaven, the good place beyond this one. From Christianity to Islam to Hinduism and beyond, from the brush of Michelangelo to the pen of Dante, people across millennia have tried to explain and describe heaven in ways that are distinctive and analogous, unique and universal.
In this engrossing cultural history of heaven, Catherine Wolff delves into how people and cultures have defined heaven over the centuries. She describes how different faiths and religions have framed it, how the sense of heaven has evolved, and how nonreligious influences have affected it, from the Enlightenment to the increasingly nonreligious views of heaven today. Wolff looks deep into the accounts of heaven to discover what’s common among them and what makes each conception distinct and memorable. The result is Beyond, an engaging, thoughtful exploration of an idea that is central to our humanity and our desire to define an existence beyond death.
Catherine Wolff is a therapist, writer and the former director of the Arrupe Center for Community-Based Learning at Santa Clara University. She edited the collection Not Less Than Everything: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience. She is married to author Tobias Wolff. They have three grown children and three grandchildren and live in Stanford, California.