The Back Page – Time

The Back Page


Time frazzles physicists and philosophers. What is it? How is time interwoven with space? Why do
some hours zip by, while others drag on and on? How can we best use our time?
Some people live in the past, pining for the good old days. “Long ago it must be, I have a
photograph; preserve your memories—they’re all that’s left you.” Such people forget that the good old
days might not have been as idyllic as imagined—often we edit out the evil. We can never go back. Such
people forget Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than these?’ For
it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
Some people, often religious types, focus wholly on the future. As one jihadist said, “You value life,
we consider worldly existence a transition.” For him, taking and losing present life is inconsequential,
because only future paradise matters. Christians sometimes adopt this mindset, considering earthly
existence merely a vale of tears, with little or no value in itself.
Others live only for the present. They don’t care about anyone or anything or any idea more than five
minutes old, or any consequence that might ensue five minutes after the pleasure they seek right now.
Such insistence on immediate gratification often characterizes the young, but unfortunately infects many
who are older.
The wise embrace all three times, each in its appropriate way. We contemplate and learn from the
past. “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us … I shall remember the deeds of
Yahweh; surely I will remember your wonders of old.” We anticipate and make plans for the future. “Our
citizenship is in heaven … Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy
… The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it.” But we live
very much in the present moment, for that is all we have. “Seek [right now] God’s kingdom and his
righteousness … do not worry about tomorrow … Now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of
salvation … We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no
one can work.”
That is the key: we learn from the past, and lay up treasure for the future by living wisely and
enthusiastically in the present.

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