In this guest post, novelist Alison Strobel explores the mystery of how our bodies and beliefs affect each other. This theme appears in Alison's latest novel, The Heart of Memory, which also examines the difference between emotional faith and life-giving truth. Read more from Alison on emotion and truth in her guest post ...And Therein Lies the Truth.
About ten years ago, back before I'd even finished writing my first novel, I read an article in People Magazine that made me think, "Now there’s an idea for a book!" It talked about organ transplant recipients who began experiencing strange changes in personal taste (food, music, etc.) and memories of things they knew they'd never actually experienced. One man developed a sudden appreciation for the violin. Another, a craving for beer and chicken wings when she'd never liked either one. Still another found himself moved to tears by a recording artist whose music he'd never liked before. One kept having dreams of blinding lights swinging into his vision, accompanied by a feeling of intense fear.
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Through some detective work they each managed to contact their donors' families—and discovered these new memories and preferences actually came from the donors themselves. One had been a violinist who actually died clutching his instrument. One had been a biker with a steady diet of—you guessed it—beer and chicken wings. One had been a huge fan of the singer Sade. And the dream of blinding lights? They were likely the last thing the donor had seen before a car collided head-on with his in the middle of the night.
When the time came to start my research, I feared I wouldn't find anything else about this phenomenon, because I'd never read of anything else like it outside of that one article. As it turns out, there is very little written on the subject—in fact, much of the medical world dismisses such experiences as bunk. But then I read a book called The Heart's Code. The author, psychologist Paul Pearsall, kicks off the book talking about his own heart attack—and all the signs his body tried to give him beforehand that something was dreadfully wrong. He didn't heed the signs, and it nearly killed him. He posits in his book that our body has more 'intelligence' than we give it credit for, and shares research that supports his theory.
I was skeptical when I started reading The Heart's Code, even though I'd already read numerous, otherwise inexplicable accounts of such "cellular memories." But then I considered how complex our bodies are—the intricacies of each system, the delicate balance between them that keeps us breathing and thinking and feeling and moving—and realized that God has created us not only "fearfully and wonderfully" as the well-known psalm tells us, but has also created us to be incredibly complex. Is it too much to consider that God has created us so integrated that our very organs hold our memories and our tastes? And if they can 'record' those things, why not also record our beliefs?
When I began to consider that possibility, the storyline for The Heart of Memory quickly developed. Does our faith permeate our very cells? When a kidney, a lung, a heart is removed, does it take with it the love—or the hate—one might feel towards God? And if it does, then what does it to do the donor into whom it is transplanted?
These kinds of questions are what drive me as a writer, and I hope that you, as a reader, enjoy following along with me as I explore the possible answers in The Heart of Memory.
About Alison Strobel
Alison Strobel writes novels that explore life, love and faith. She lives in Colorado with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at www.AlisonStrobel.com.