Perhaps the title ought to be more like from now to eternity, but I stole this one from James Jones who wrote the novel with the same title in 1951.
I read the book sometime during my high school years and saw the movie a few years after that. The book and the movie are both in my stack of favorite stuff for their realistic portrayal of life in the Army in the early 1940s and the mix of characters and subplots.
But this is not about the book or the movie or even the characters; it’s about eternity. If there ever was a timeless subject for a column or long discussion, this is it. Yes, the pun is intended.
Eternity has been defined in many ways. One of my favorite is — two people and a whole ham. Another one is the school day on an afternoon in spring. Or you can think about three hours in the dentist’s chair. When you first started dating the person you eventually married, the time between dates often seemed endless.
Right now, I’m thinking that eternity may well be how long it will take me to get through my email inbox. You know email; it was once a novelty. Then it became a convenience that turned into a necessity and now it’s an onerous, ever-growing burden on my heart and mind.
I have more than 500 new emails waiting to be perused and mostly deleted. Just think about that when you decide to forward me your next bit of wit or wisdom.
I don’t think I’ve sent 25 text messages on my phone since I discovered it would actually do that and I don’t think I’ll ever twitter, tweet or twaddle. Yes, I made up that last one. It just seemed to fit.
Have you ever thought about the fact there was probably a time when there was no time? Most of our greatest thinkers, our greatest philosophers and our greatest scientists haven’t done as credible a job as the Bible in explaining what existed before the universe.
Time is an invention of the human mind. It gave him a way of measuring intervals between cycles of the dark and the light, the phases of the moon, the seasons and all the other things our more primitive human ancestors began to note, relate, ponder and catalog.
We did such a good job of that that we are not masters of time but slaves to it — working, playing, studying, eating and sleeping. We don’t have the time to enjoy our spouses, our children, our families or our lives. Maybe it’s time we decide to make some changes to that situation.
When there was a void, there wasn’t anything to measure. And I firmly believe there will come a time when there will be another void in the physical sense of the universe. But the spiritual sense of existence can still be alive and well. I know some of you do not believe in an afterlife. However, to many more of us disbelief in an afterlife is simply untenable and unimaginable — even more unimaginable than eternity.
I challenge you to try to imagine eternity. Eternity really doesn’t have a yesterday or a tomorrow. It can really only be a continuous present. Think of a straight line. Then picture that this line is infinitely long. You could think of this line as time, but in terms of infinity, we can’t totally comprehend it.
Now picture another infinite line that is perpendicular to the first line and think of this line as place. The intersection of these two lines can be thought of as the continuous present.
If geometry wasn’t your forte, at least you might understand this is going to make language a lot easier without any past-perfect, pluperfect, future, conditional, subjunctive and whatever other tenses you care to name.
Of course, we may not even require language to communicate at all.
Once time and the physical world no longer exist, it won’t matter that they ever existed other than as a period of time and place where what we did and to whom or for whom we did it will be the determining factors in the spiritual “place” where we will experience the eternal now.
A quick translation of this is, do good to and for others — or what happens to you may not be so good.
And it’s only the matter of one lifetime — a very short period in relation to eternity — after which we will all know for certain.
Well, that’s what’s been on my mind.