Mindlessly thumbing through my news feed, I came across an article. The title captivated me: The Church, Eternity, and The Signs of the Times. Every single word in that subject roused my curiosity.
“Politics, education, and both high and low culture tell us that there is no transcendent dimension to human life. Ultimate things are to be considered a private hobby that shouldn’t distract us from the practical realities that really matter. And they need to be kept out of social interactions for fear they will lead to non-negotiable disputes.”
This little excerpt, or the entire article (if you read it), can leave you with more questions than answers. Most folks I know might consider these questions a nuisance; I know I sometimes do. Yet, what if the questions raised are important? What if - as so many ancient philosophies maintain - it’s not simply about receiving answers, but asking the ‘right’ question?
What constitutes ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture? What evidence remains of a transcendent dimension? How do we experience it? What are ultimate things? Has our culture ventured so deeply into the corridor of pragmatism, that we have diminished something more fundamental about ourselves? If so, what is that something?
While writing this post, my children asked if they could watch a show. I said that they could, so long as they put on an ‘educational’ t.v. show; something that might reinforce their learning for school, like counting to one hundred.
My son protested, not pleased with my request. “Dad, we would like to learn something more useful than counting to one hundred, we would like to learn how to train dragons!”
I didn’t give in, but I acknowledged that ‘training dragons’ could very well be more useful than counting to one hundred.
My son and daughter decided not to watch t.v. and instead picked up their swords, proceeding to train the ‘dragons’ that had suddenly occupied their room.
This begs a couple of questions: are ‘ultimate things’ (if they exist) actually useful? If so, what does ‘useful’ mean?
It’s important to note that the focus (in my mind) is not on ‘time’ in the chronological sense - a series of events that happen, one right after the other - but on that dimension where we experience deep and profound beauty, grief, goodness, joy and love. Through this lens, the journey toward eternity is a romantic one, entrenched in deep loss and even greater fulfillment.
Thoughts about eternity nudge our focus beyond the ‘times’; guiding us to different places, where learning to ‘train dragons’ may ultimately be more useful than counting to one hundred.