“In what place and during what historical era would you like to live?”
This is a question that very likely most of us have been asked at least once. My answer has always been quite straightforward “Here and now”. Very good Christians would say “During the time of Jesus in Israel”. Historians probably would say “During the Roman Empire in Rome”, or “During the Victorian Age in the UK”. Very true Bible lovers would probably say “In Eden, at the creation”. Lazy, comfy, but very wise people (I include myself in this category) would say “Here and now”.
I mean, in what other époque would you be able to stream on your TV a football game (or TV Series), while eating the pizza that has been delivered to your door, ordered by tapping the screen on your phone just before you get a warm shower, after you sweat because you worked seven hours on your laptop from home? And yes, as a professional lazy person, you are eating on your couch and the tomato sauce spills on your cosy jammies. Your whole world is smartly packed in four walls. Last important note: If you have a sore tummy, you can receive a diagnosis without necessarily going to visit the doctor.
Yet, I’ve always been fascinated by time travelling. The idea of the ability of going “Back to the Future” is special, although I’d use a Fiat Panda instead of a DeLorean. Every age has its own attraction. Whether it is characterised by eminent people to meet, or places to visit in the fullness of their golden age. For example, it would be interesting to shake the hand of Leonardo da Vinci in Florence; or to ask Isaac Newton how come the apple never falls far from the tree, while sipping tea in Cambridge University.
Time is as fascinating as it is scary, and we are consistently obsessed by it. Even the distance between two places is not measured anymore with time. The measurement has changed to “How far is from here to there?” to “How long does it take from here to there?” In fact, we don’t handle unexpected events that well, like the old man driving the Fiat panda at 25 mph on a 50 mph road, for the simple reason that we want to make the best of our time. We are always in a hurry. In fact, a fairly recent TV Series called “Dark” the importance of time is underlined as it follows:
“In short, the god mankind has prayed to for thousands of years, the god that everything is bound with, this god exists as nothing other than time itself. Not a thinking, acting entity. A physical principle with which you can no more negotiate than you could with your own fate. God is time. And time is not compassionate.”
Leaving aside the atheist claim of these words, I think that the author of the series really grasps the centrality of time in our society. We consider the time to be as a god. Probably for some people time is actually The God, just like the character in Dark, called Adam, was underlining. He continues, saying
“The instant we’re born our lives start to trickle away like the sand in an hourglass”.
Out of this monologue, which I consider a fair consideration of modern day’s society about time, we could take three main points. First, time could really be at the centre of our lives with all our daily plans moving around the 24 hours we have, which will make it a god. Second, time is not compassionate. No one will give you back the hour and half you spent watching a rubbish movie, or the time you have been waiting for the old man to press on the accelerator of his car. That time is gone. Forever. Finally, the hardest of the three, is that every second that passes, is one second closer to our end on this earth. In other words, we are closer to death. Sorry for troubling your day. Don’t stop your reading here though, carry on reading as, I’d like to think through these three points with you, and hopefully to give you a different perspective about time.
Although I find Dark’s perspective about time considerably strong, it lacks one essential element: Hope.
There is no hope in what Adam says. Life is just rushing about, looking for the next thing, hoping that no one and nothing will be on your way from A to B. Otherwise, that time is lost. Even the meaning of life is lost in the tentacles of this god-monster called Time, because life is solely the timespan you have been given to live, and that’s it. Once you are gone, or your time is finished, that’s you. It doesn’t matter what you do with your time. Your life will always be consistently lived with the fear that time is never enough.
In Ecclesiastes, a book in the Old Testament, the theme of time is widely tackled. The “Teacher” (the author of the book) says throughout his book. Paraphrased, “I’ve analysed everything going on under the sun, and everything is meaningless” literally “a chasing after the wind”. (Eccl. 1:14) Then, the author goes on, taking in consideration a similar approach to life as Adam’s one. A life scanned by the simple flow of time makes everything meaningless. Wisdom, pleasures, folly, riches, sorrows, time, and ultimately — using Adam’s words — fate or death itself, are all meaningless. A life where time is a/the god can easily fall into the desperation of meaninglessness, crashed by the oppression of its weight.
Secondly, Adam considers time to not be compassionate, which is true. The Ecclesiastes view on time is that, although time never stops, it never changes in terms of essence. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”. (Eccl. 1:9) Generations are renewed, but there is nothing new. However, where the TV series character says that life is a trip on the “time rollercoaster’’ toward death, the Ecclesiastes begins to sprinkle hope on this journey. Although there is nothing new, it doesn’t mean that time is necessarily against you. Chapter 3 verses 1–8 of this book, by contrasts, shows how time can bring different intakes to our lives. “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4–5) Therefore, even if it is true that time is not compassionate, every different stage, or timespan, in our lives can teach us something.
How? The third point that we took in consideration is that, according to Adam, every second that passes is a step closer to death. That’s it. Science is not sure when time came to existence, and surely it is not the purpose of this blog to discuss that. However, while atheism describes some sort of energy as the cause of the creation of the universe/time, the Bible tells us that God is the creator. And this belief is perpetuated by the Ecclesiastes as well, who says “He [God] made everything beautiful in its time”. (Eccl 3:11) For the Ecclesiastes, although everything is meaningless, death is not the last of the journey. Life may be a rollercoaster, but the hope is to be set in the Creator of time, who is God. Repeatedly, the author says “Remember your Creator”, because God is the hope that has always been and will always be.
“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Psalm 116:5
Time may not be compassionate. But time is not God nor a god. Don’t treat it as it is. Every time you feel the anxiety of the time trickling through your fingers, every time that you are stuck in a traffic jam because of the old guy; remember that God, in any age of history, he is compassionate and merciful. And he is the one who gives you hope for your life in the person of Jesus, as he is the one who is not bound by the sand in an hourglass.
Matteo Garofano, Christchurch Xscape