Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A reverie on time, death and faith : what Robert Burns and the summer solstice brought to mind

On the summer solstice it seems we deny our nemesis when we call it "the longest day of the year." This mathematically and linguistically confusing declaration implies that we can stretch time. However absurd a suggestion it may be, it remains a notion set to please an optimistic imagination.

So it is sad human are  governed by their capacity and need to be rational - even though they can never sustain rationality  -  that they cannot allow fancy to reign and so be imprisoned by time. I suppose this is what Robert Burns was saying to "the wee sleekit, cowerin', tim'rous beastie" when he declared “moosie thou art  blest compared wi’ me, the present only touches thee.” For the poet’s wee moose time has no meaning, but human beings not only look back "on prospects drear," but are also impelled, even if they can't see the future, to exercise their facility to imagine what lies ahead for them as well as knowing and often dreading the inevitability of  they fate.

Some human beings can however feel “blest” in other ways and through their religious faith can sustain the notion that time can be conquered. Those who have such beliefs tell us time and death holds no fear if they have led a good life and have kept their faith. They are comforted by the certainty of their eternal souls.

In some ways I regret I cannot sustain the idea of such a triumph over time and death.  For me, limited –  or trapped, as those with religious beliefs might claim  -  by what I understand to be my finite nature,  faith in eternal life can appear but a sad, and tragi-comic quixotic gesture ;  a futile railing against a certainty.  It may be courageous to declare, " Now you listen to me TIME, you may frighten others but I've learned to believe in a future upon which you have no influence."  For me this is a flimsy bravado all too easily swept away by Marvell's "winged chariot hurrying by."

In my reverie over these matters a short title for an essay comes to mind, : "Is time a good thing? : discuss."
Another might be, " Is death a good thing?"  and a third, “Is faith a good thing ?” I need to think about these matters further. I wonder if I will have the time. 


John Stein observes " I too, am fascinated by time and by the inability of many to grasp its immensity.  Perhaps that's the wrong word.  It seems our perspective is limited to about 100 years--roughly our lifetimes or perhaps our hoped for lifetimes, or maybe a couple or three thousand years, back to Biblical times.  We can't quite grasp a milllion years, let alone 4.5 billion, the age of the earth, or even
more--the age of the universe.  We envision a heaven where our loved ones are looking down on us, even though we've been up there and seen no signs of it.  We've been pretty deep in the earth and have seen no sign of hell, either..."

Alex Russon writes "I'm fascinated by 'time' too, particularly when related to pre-destination. If our time on earth is pre-destined, why put the effort in? Should we just mark time for three score years and ten then shuffle off again? But I have a belief in a God whose power is beyond our understanding and who has sovereignty over even 'time' itself, this means I can use the brain I was born with to make decisions after all rather than be a puppet on his string. I believe in eternal life. We have a very short period here on earth to make the most of before an eternal life in heaven or elsewhere, for my part I plan to spend as much of it on the golf course as possible!"
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