Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Part III or IV (if you count the frog): Time Past And Time Future Allow But A Little Consciousness

“I am able to make from the springboard the great leap whereby I pass into infinity, my back is like that of a tight-rope dancer,. . . hence I find this easy; with a one-two-three! I can walk about existence on my head.”—S. Kierkegaard—Fear and TremblingProblemata: Preliminary Expectoration

Dear Soren,

Geehaw, this is harder than I thought. I’m just trying to explain in 45 words or less my view of which people get damned to hell and why. How come that is so difficult? Next thing I’ll be talking about angels on the head of a pin, to describe some nuance of the subject.

If only you were here to interpret for us.

But I’ll try to take a pitch at the target, and when I throw, it is always back to you existentialists. Camus says, (The Plague in the voice of Tarrou) “Query: How contrive not to waste one’s time? Answer: By being fully aware of it all the while. Ways in which this can be done: By spending one’s days on an uneasy chair in a dentist’s waiting room; by remaining on one’s balcony all a Sunday afternoon; by listening to lectures in a language one doesn’t know; by traveling by the longest and least convenient train routes, and of course standing all the way; by lining up at the box office of theaters and then not buying a seat; and so forth.”

We really do walk about existence so easily, insentiently, but to springboard to infinity, ah, that is not the same. And Camus’ suggestions, though giving us a little consciousness, don’t quite jettison us out of the temporal.

I want meaning to my time. I want eternity in my time. That is, I believe, not opposable thumbs, what makes me human. That should be in the creeds. “I believe that human moments in time hold eternal significance.”

In Paul Tillich’s cluster of sermons entitled, The Eternal Now, chapter entitled The Good That I Will, I Do Not, he says, “. . . Sin is a picture full of ugliness, suffering and shame, and, at the same time, drama and passion. It is the picture of us as the battleground of powers greater than we. It does not divide men into categories of black and white, or good and evil. It does not appear as the threatening finger of an authority urging us—do not sin! But it is the vision of something infinitely important, that happens on this small planet, in our bodies and minds. It raises [hu]mankind to a level in the universe where decisive things happen in every moment, decisive for the ultimate meaning of all existence. In each of us such decisions occur, in us, and through us. This is our burden. This is our despair. This is our greatness.”

And, could I add, this is our portal to life eternal?

Have you ever used Flash*? Oh, of course not, no computers in the 1800’s. Well, Macromedia Flash is a timeline-driven software. It is harder to learn to use than, say Adobe PhotoShop or Microsoft Word or even AutoCad. It is not just three dimensional, it is four dimensional. It allows for change over time. A circle morphs into a cube. A video plays with music, etc. When constructing a Flash movie, a designer assigns a purpose to each frame, each moment on the timeline. And while working on a project there is a little red slider that can be pulled, now forward, now back, into the Flash future, back to the Flash past, with a flick of the mouse.

Click here

And when we test our projects we watch that red slider glide through the events. If we see a mistake on the stage (that is what the workspace is actually called) we try to catch that slider. STOP. Stop. We want to change that frame. Make it right.

I’ve digressed it seems for a simple point. Would that we all had sliders to catch and draw back our lives to points in time that we regret, that run through our heads over and over. Bad playbacks. Damnable moments. Damned moments. So when I deal with exclusivism, it's not primarily the question, "who is excluded from salvation?" but "am I wholly excluded from damnation?" And my answer is no, I am not.

Is it possible that each of our moments hold the potential for salvation or damnation? We either embrace the grace extended to us or curse it. Am I saved? Is my soul saved? Am I damned? Is my soul damned? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. How can I believe that it is not all so. I know my heart and I know my moments. I believe that God’s grace has saved me, that I have drunk from “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” God has revealed that salvation in eternal moments. But also, "The good that I will, I do not," (Romans 7) And,“Blessed is the [hu]man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, [s]he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) And, “You see that a person is justified by what [s]he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different directions? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Did Rahab have to sign off on a creed before God declared her righteous?) Eternal life, begins in our every day existence. When we refuse the salvation of the Lord in our todays, we refuse it for the eternity that our todays could have been. When we do not love our neighbor today, we close that portal to eternity. When we do not house that spy today, we have entered into a damnation of that which had potential for the eternal. Grace is extended to us, all of us, not just once, at the beginning of a spiritual journey, not just at the crisis of a testimony, but at every turn. We have but to receive it. Likewise, we have but to reject it.

I am a Christian. And I do believe that it is the grace of Jesus Christ I’m talking about here. And I suspect that this grace is very wide indeed, extending at least the breadth of an EOC statement. And I praise God that mercy eternal has been mysteriously extended to me, and consciously so, in the unity and diversity of my soul.

Soren, your thoughts often leave me in the dusky dust. I do not always understand. I am like a rope on the Goodyear blimp. Sometimes it feels like I’m holding on for dear life, just reading your ideas. Yet your thoughts have helped lead me to these thoughts. And it is my thoughts, not yours, that must, in the end, make sense to me. So I’ll continue to read and think and baby step.

*Click here for a very fun presentation of Flash in Flash.


Henry said...

Cool letter, Betsy. Just two points I like to make:

Kierkegaard wouldn't not interpret his works for you, even if he was here. Two things, one. if you look at the title page, it was written by Johannes de Silentio, a psuedonymous author, meaning it is not Kierkegaard's words.
And two, and most important, in his autobiography "The Point of View of my Work as an Author", the task of interpretation, is up to you. He cannot tell you what it means, because his interpretation is true only for him. The words have to come alive for you, not him.

Kierkegaard is not an existentialist. He is a precursor. Just as you can't picture Thomas Aquinas without Aristotle, so too you can't picture Existentialism without Kierkegaard. But just as Aristotle is not a Thomist, Kierkegaard is not an existentialist.

brd said...

Thanks Henry. I think these are two important clarifications.

brd said...

Just a little link to that pursues Henry's info a bit in regard to Kierkegaard as "father of existentialism" and the pseudonyms.

Anonymous said...

Yo--these are incredibly intriguing thoughts, brd...I've no idea how to respond to them, except that I'm going to have trouble sleeping tonight wrestling with temporality. It won't be the first time, nor the last, but I'm pretty sure every time I wish I could figure it out and be done with it...but that would defeat the purpose, eh?

Josh said...

An existentialist's prayer: "Dear Lord, the sea is so wide, and my boat is so small."

I tend to agree with you. In our faith and trust in God as the Savior of our souls, it stands that we should never neglect the terror that a stormy ocean holds or the depths to which we might sink as we cling to our small, small ship. As hard as we might cling to our tiny ship, it means nothing if the sea claims it. But that white-knuckled clinging seems to me to be the thing that brings us to the weight of time--past, present, and future--and that same clinging that reminds us that God is the one in control regardless of our feeble attempts to sway the outcome.

That's my thought on that.

I've been a bit of lurker on your blog, Mrs. Wow. Thank you for your thoughtful writings and making your inner thoughts known. I can understand why Annie D. looks up to you. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little late on the scene, brd, but to answer your challenge: 'burnt norton' - another of my favorites.

as always, your thoughts are clear and finely stated - i don't have much to add - you answered my previous questions expertly, and i look forward to the next movement, if i may appropriate the musical term.

have a wonderful day.
(and to answer your other challenge - i'm working way too hard on a sonnet for the paterson project right'll have to critique it gingerly...)

brd said...

M. Switters: Correct! Well done.

Sometimes Wikipedia is a silly thing, but on the subject of Eliot's Four Quartets and especially this section, I think it is a nice reference saying:
"As all the quartets, Burnt Norton is a deep meditation on the meaning of time and its relationship with human beings and the Christian meaning of Redemption.

The first verses are the best summary of the poem:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

brd said...


Thanks so much for speaking up. I was trying to post to your site earlier today, but needed to set up a username and password, which I did, but haven't posted yet. I loved your Jane Fonda/Gloria Steinem video link.

Thanks for your metaphor here. I relate to the white knuckled clinging.

Please lurk on, but also speak up. I know I can learn from your insights. AND!!!! When you are physically lurking with Ms. D in the Tennessee area, please come and see us. We are looking forward to meeting you!