Saturday, August 26, 2006
I apologize for being religious two blog entries in a row, but I promise that this will be brief.
I've been reading a novel just now where a real figure's last words, or last-ish words, were reported as being that she would go to find the origin of all things. That rang a note of unison with a respected friend, also a German, who, nearing his death, said that he was beginning to sense eternity.
The thing about eternity is that, as David Byrne joked, nothing ever happens. In eternity, all time is present at once, and so all things are always at beginning and ending, and there is simply being. There is no becoming. Therefore, in the eternal, one is in a continual gesture, alive in all moments that ever could have been or can ever be. That is why God needs no beginning: He is beyond time, and "begin" and "end" only make sense if there is a clock.
That's terribly philosophical, though, and the other idea, that you're going to find out, that you're going to the undiscovered country, is attractive. It's also not any less philosophically sound. After all, saying that God's being beyond time means that there is no becoming leads us to the dead-end of Plato, where the perfect God never creates a thing because creation implies need, which implies imperfection. It could also lead to the engineer God who creates as a part of His nature but could never take part in petitionery prayers. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism demand that God be perfect and yet alive, and living implies some desire, some motive, some engagement inside of time, even if God is beyond time. Christianity says that Plato is imposing human dichotomies on the supernatural.
Besides, it's possible that time is part of eternity, that becoming is what eternity is.
I've thought very little about the after life. This is more out of despair than hope, though. I don't think I'm in line for a great reward, and I try not to think of anyone in line for death, but this is because I've decided that it is something I simply cannot know until I have to know it, and anything I think or say about it until then is bound to be wrong and could very well be distracting. You serve God because you love God, and not because you're going to get a two car garage in your heavenly mansion or because a foul beast waits to rend your flesh if you don't.
I can't say, though, that I'm comfortable with either the undiscovered country or the eternal being. I think I like the latter better than the former, but I have sour ideas of what the former would mean for me, individually. I would find out, most likely, that in my autobiography I was merely a minor character. I might be told the secret and have to say, "Ah! I see now, that if I had only done that one thing, or recognized that one message, it all would have been well, and I would have accomplished something to the glory of God!" To me, these would seem punishments. If I were to go to find out, I would want to find out that my meaning was the fullest meaning I could offer, that I had increased the vineyard, or that my nothing was as much as could have been. That would be comfort, if comfort is part of what we properly seek.
I can't even decide that a reward would be comfort. It may be better to ram my fingers more firmly into my ears and hum as loudly as I can, as the present moment is more than enough for me to worry about.