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Like a Perfectly Thrown Football

It’s New Year’s Day 2011, and I should be saying something pithy about that, but I already have, sort of, yesterday, and today want to continue my thoughts on time.

Time has fascinated us, well, since we were first aware of the concept. So many stories in our literature dream of moving at will, back and forth through time. The oldest I can recall are how some of the Arthurian legends describe Merlin moving backward through time, becoming younger, and his memory moved backwards, which is how he knew others’ future, because it was his past. Even the idea of prophecy has exhilarated us because of the glimpses of another time it offers.

Most of physics and even chemistry is heavily dependent on time in their fundamental theorems and formulas. Yet, while most of science views time as something in constant motion, Einstein peskily showed it doesn’t. This of course is not a surprise to most humans, who have long been aware of time’s apparent inconstancy. Einstein even quipped about it, “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.”

It is further interesting that the West as a whole views time as linear (Creation to Apocalypse), whereas the East tends to think of it as cyclical (the Yin and Yang, death and rebirth). As I pondered these ideas in high school or college, I remembered the story of the blind men and the elephant. Five blind men were brought to a zoo and allowed to explore an elephant. The first, feeling the ears, perceived the animal as a large fan. The second, feeling the leg, believed it to be a tree trunk. And so on. Afterward, they fell to arguing about the nature of the elephant because each only had a limited experience with an elephant and not with the whole critter. Was time similar?

It occurred to me that perhaps time in a sense moves in a spiral—some cyclical aspects, but not truly repeating, and that we do move linearly through time, but not in a straight line—like we are traveling along a coil of spring or a football in a perfect spiral.

Do I have proof? No. But isn’t it just like God to give some of the information to some folks, and a different set to other folks, with the idea that we should bring our knowledge together and mutually encourage and edify each other, thus bringing greater glory to Himself? And, isn’t it just like us to start bashing each other over the head because we believe we have complete understanding and therefore, anyone who thinks differently is automatically wrong?

There is his story, her story, and, somewhere in between, the truth.

PS—Is this a subtle form of universalism? Stay tuned true believers…


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