Another Piece of Eternity

February 9, 2015

TimeAsk yourself this: is it possible to run out of time? I don’t mean personally and finally —although, even in that case we don’t really run out of time, it’s like time runs us out —kicks us out of its realm. “Bye, bye,” says Time, “you’re no longer relevant.”

No, what I mean is, is there an infinite amount of time or is there a finite amount that will eventually be depleted —say, a hundred billion years, just to pick a number.  For instance, let’s say we add 30 seconds to anytime,  what’s that interval? Hell, if we double it what’s that? Have we added to time?

What I’m driving at is, have you ever had a day that lasts three or one that goes so fast it’s past —instantly? Are those durations short or long, if hours mean anything? Bob Dylan once wrote, “Time passes slowly up here in the mountains.”  I think those of a certain age know what he meant. Why does some time pass slowly and some fast? Is time elastic?

Going the other way, subtract 5 hours from anytime.  Do we really think we’ve minced minutes? As we tick them off are they really not there?  No. There’s a continuum called “now” outside of which is guesswork because our chronometers only work here. Slice it any way you want, it remains still and whole. Our clocks do not affect it.

These are important considerations because some people think eternity is elsewhere. They imagine some other timeless realm, which would be fine if such thinking didn’t diminish the significance of now and its imperatives and obscure the fact that eternity is now.

I’d argue that the eternity we should be paying attention to is the one we’re immersed in now —the now that changes. Yes, in fact, now is never what it was before because things change and will change again, now, not yesterday or tomorrow, it only happens now. Practically and personally speaking now is the only thing we have to work with. Now only knocks now. So the question is, should we be putting all our eggs in some other basket, or should we pay attention now?

Some great teachers advise just this. Yeshua bar Joseph advised, “Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” This is really another way of saying that we should just forget about what happens after we die and pay attention to what’s happening now. 

Or you may prefer something from a more contemporary guy, one who became expert in most of the world’s mythologies: Joseph Campbell. Campbell wrote, “When you realize that eternity is right here now, that it is within your possibility to experience the eternity of your own truth and being, then you grasp the following: That which you are was never born and will never die.”  But, being as finite as we seem to be day to day, I admit that’s a tough nut to swallow, no matter how full of truth it might be.

And, finally, poet Emily Dickenson succinctly pointed out (in case we hadn’t noticed) that, “Forever is composed of nows.” Emily had a way of being concise and weighted with wisdom simultaneously.

The reason I bring now up now (when else could I do it?) is that there’s a lot of off-the-wall rhetoric flying around now that takes our mind off the certainly-now ball and focuses it on the maybe-then-for-eternity ball. In my humble opinion that’s just not a rational approach to the huge planetary problems we’re faced with now. Let any afterlife (any life after now) take care of itself (to paraphrase the wise Yeshua), right now there’s this life, the one we’re living now.

A few examples of irresponsible afterlife responsibility-displacement might help explain why now-thinking is important to those of us who place great importance on the present, while then-thinking is seriously problematic:

During the Reagan administration James Watt, a very religious man, and Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior (the Cabinet head charged with paying attention to the well-being of the environment) said, “We don’t have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand.”  Watt was of course talking about the second coming of the same Yeshua who specifically warned against this kind of thinking.

Then there’s this stunner: Ryan Dobson, son of the more famous James Dobson, again a very religious man said, “Kids today are looking for something to die for… If you give them something to die for, they’ll go to the edge of the earth for you,” —which is exactly the sort of philosophy we see creating terrorist hell worldwide: to die a warrior/martyr and be honored in an eternal afterlife. Maybe if such (again) very religious zealots were encouraged to live a good life in an eternal now, explosive vests would not be such alluring means of transport to an afterlife.

But afterlife philosophies have been around a long time and I doubt they will disappear soon, if ever, so for those of us who want to leverage as much goodness as possible in a very precarious world it might be wise to wake on each of the mornings of now and think…

……………………. here’s this day blaring like a fanfare
……………………. from a new horn crisp as frost on glass
…………………… its brink sharp as the edge of a blade
…………………… slicing off another piece of eternity


by Jim Culleny


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