Beyond time and space

Cloud quilt

Source: Daniel Klein: Every time I find the meaning of life, they change it: Oneworld: 2015

Text: Isaiah 25:6

On this mountain

The Lord All-Powerful

Will prepare for all nations

A feast of the finest foods

Choice wines and the best meats will be served

A pastor used Isaiah 25:6 as the text for one of his sermons.

After the service a member of the congregation asked: “Pastor, is that really all that we can expect: just sitting with everybody on a mountaintop and eating and drinking?”

The pastor answered: “Yes, that is all. A feast for all people, in peace and abundance, with God as host – what more could we ask for?”

The pastor saw the story as a metaphor for life in the Kingdom of God. When we connect with one another and with God, we engage in an act that is unique, unrepeatable and inexpressible.

When we sit around a table with those we love, and experience peace and abundance, it feels like something holy is happening… it is a moment beyond time and space.

Many modern philosophers, and possibly even theologians, would argue that the pastor was stretching a point; you simply cannot use a metaphor from the material, finite world to shed light on a spiritual, infinite world.

There is an unbridgeable disconnect between the finite and the infinite.

However, some scholars think that the Kingdom of God is not something of this world, or even an event of the future.

It is something more abstract, something out there in another dimension, something beyond time and space as we know it.

Blaise Pascal, a 17th century philosopher, thought that there is an eternity that precedes our lives, not just one that comes after our lives.

Yet, most of us never give that idea a thought. Encouraged by, goaded by the evangelicals, we are focused only on the life to follow.

Pascal asked: where did I come from, why do I exist now instead of at some other time, why am I here rather than in some other place?

Is existence here and now predetermined by natural events? By divine design? Or could it be totally arbitrary?

Pascal came down on the side of faith in God as humankind’s best option.

He believed in God and in the teachings of the Scriptures.

The basis for his faith appears to be his considerable astonishment at finding himself arbitrarily existing at a particular time in a particular space.

He wondered whether the very arbitrariness of our existence implies that life is not purposeless, in fact it may be some kind of miracle.

Most of us have had moments when, from out of the blue, we suddenly marvel at the fact that we exist right now.

Wow, how amazing. We pinch ourselves and exclaim “I am here right now!” These moments are fleeting and rare, but they usually remain with us.

They are special moments unconfined by time and space.

The jazz genius, Dave Frishberg, wrote a ballad called Listen Here:

“When you’re still, do you hear

One small voice crystal clear,

Saying “Listen here, my friend, listen here”?

Well, that voice is your own, and it speaks to you alone. “You can count on me,” it says.

“So listen here.”

This is you, this is real

This is truly the way you feel…”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, a 19th century Austrian philosopher, posited the following theory about time and space:

“If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.”

Ludwig did not understand “infinite temporal duration” as time that just keeps going on endlessly, he understood it as something immeasurable. Time can be measured, eternity cannot be measured.

In his way of thinking, we are always in the present. All we really have is the “Eternal Now”. A state that is beyond time and space.

Wittgenstein went on to say that not everyone can experience eternal life in the here and now.

Meaning that only people who practice living in the moment, who are fully present, who are fully aware, who are fully receptive will experience the “Eternal Now”.

There is something holy about living fully in the now… remember the metaphor of the meal on the mountain top?

Wittgenstein says that any experience – ordinary or extraordinary – can become sublime if we are wholly conscious of it, wholly alive to it.

The holy moment is beyond time and space.

Rudyard Harrison is a retired Methodist minister, and a counsellor at the Ruach Centre at the Methodist Church, Coronation Avenue, Somerset West.

This is the first of a monthly column he will be writing, sharing his thoughts and observations about our shared humanity, our state of consciousness, mindfulness as a counterfoil for the challenges we all face on a daily basis, and the silver linings accompanying every cloud.