“If Ban could restore himself to what he had been—withdrawing every atom of himself from any other time but the present— the crack in the cosmos would heal itself, like a force-bubble across a door or window. But it was impossible. He could not do it. There was only one thing he could do, which would have the same effect. He could repair the fabric of reality by not ever having been…
“Ban raged. It is not too bad a thing to die. All men face it sooner or later, and there is a secret knowledge which comes to every man at such moments. The knowledge is that it is not the end. But Ban was required to make a greater sacrifice than death. It was demanded of him that he surrender ever having been. He was required to embrace extinction…
“He remembered innumerable things, and now not one of them would ever have been real. Because he would never have been, and Urmuz would not teach him soldier-craft, nor his companions ever sing or drink with him, nor his father try to hide his pride in a swaggering son who would be Warden after him. These things would be worse than forgotten. They would never be thought of. They would go into that limbo of possible things from which so few ever emerge to become actual.”
– Murray Leinster, from Isaac Asimov’s 15 Short Stories
I just finished reading an anthology of short stories by Isaac Asimov. I was a huge Asimov fan in high school, but haven’t read him much since then – it was really fun to connect with his writings again. The last story in the collection was written by Asimov and four other science fiction writers. The quote I copied above came from Murray Leinster’s contribution to the story.
His passage got me thinking.
I am at an age where I’m not as springy or light as I once was. Sometimes I think back nostalgically to the person I was in my physical prime – quick and strong and confident in my abilities to get up mountains and out of adventures gone awry. Sometimes I wish I had that body again.
But after I read Leinster’s passage in 15 Short Stories I had this moment of – whoaaah. If I could wish myself back in time to, say, the age of 24 or 25 – that would mean I would never meet my husband, and my sons would never be born. And if I wished myself back to, say, 40 and stayed there – my sons would never have the opportunity to grow up into the amazing young men they are. If I had the power to stay at one age in one time forever – and never know my husband or sons or all the friends I’ve made afterwards – that would really stink.
And then it occurred to me (as I was still pretending I had the power to make time stand still) that by allowing ourselves to grow older we’re actually sacrificing our youth for our children – as they will sacrifice their youth for their children, and so on.
Of course, this is all from a strictly mortal, human perspective – and a science fiction one at that. We as humans don’t (yet) have control over time.
Here’s how the founder of Christian Science defines “time” in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
TIME. Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge; matter; error; that which begins before, and continues after, what is termed death, until the mortal disappears and spiritual perfection appears.
Eddy writes: “One moment of divine consciousness, or the spiritual understanding of Life and Love, is a foretaste of eternity. This exalted view, obtained and retained when the Science of being is understood, would bridge over with life discerned spiritually the interval of death, and man would be in the full consciousness of his immortality and eternal harmony, where sin, sickness, and death are unknown. Time is a mortal thought, the divisor of which is the solar year. Eternity is God’s measurement of Soul-filled years.”
Whoah. I know. Cosmic, right?
Eternity in contrast to time. Now in contrast to past and future. One infinite moment filled with everything good in contrast to a ray with a starting point, moving one direction, divided into segments. There is a lot to think about there. 🙂 And I’m really hoping I have eternity to figure it out.
I climb, with joy, the heights of Mind,
To soar o’er time and space;
I yet shall know as I am known
And see Thee face to face.
Till time and space and fear are naught
My quest shall never cease,
Thy presence ever goes with me
And Thou dost give me peace.
– Violet Hay, Christian Science Hymnal
(photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)