So, I pinched the ‘wee scoops’ idea from TS Eliot. It turns out he and I weren’t the only ones thinking about “measuring” life.
I was reorganising a bookcase today and was blowing the dust from a lot of old books, and this one leapt out at me.
Smacked on the nose by the concept of eternity, I considered reading it. Then I thought it would probably just irritate me. I prejudicially suspected that it would be a smug holier-than-how-to. With a flash of irony, I thought I would smugly just guess what was in it, if I were writing it.
First thought is along the lines of:
“All men are like grass and their glory is that of the flowers in the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall – but the Word of the Lord stands for ever.” – from Isaiah, I think.
If we measure our lives, we can measure them as a notional three-score-years and ten, give or take several decades… in some directions… We can decide what a short life is, what a long life is, what a good life is, what a bad life is. If we measure our lives, even if we live to be 100, against the history of time up until now, we can see Isaiah’s point about being “like grass”. If we take time and look beyond that into eternity, our lives seem shorter and shorter.
But they aren’t of course. They are the same length. It’s all perspective.
With smallness, on a grand scale, we start getting neurotic about significance. So, the next bible bit that floats to mind is about the sparrows –
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”
Matther 10: 29-31
Despite the whole fleeting, grass thing, life is significant and valuable.
The next bit is about the businessman in the parable – who thinks he will get up the next day and go somewhere and do things – but then, he wakes up dead (metaphorically), to find his soul had been required of him in the night – the take-home point being that we don’t know anything – we do not own tomorrow – all we have is now.
Hebrews 13 vs 8
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever
So, we are in time, we are changing or dead – in flux and with consequences.
In “Back to the Future”, “Sliding Doors” and many other movies, I am sure, we see what would happen had different decisions been made – we see parallel possible futures. But in real life, we have Frost’s road diverging – and roads less travelled and all that. We only have the present and the present has an effect on the future. There is no ‘control’ experiment in life, there is only what happened. We change things just by being here and any change can be major.
I was watching that “Who do you think you are?” show and the person had been born in England. Centuries before their ancestor had been going from Poland to America or something – but there was a storm and they ended up unable to cross tha Atlantic. If there hadn’t been the storm, the ancestors’ genes would never have resulted in that person being born. Just like me – if a certain soldier hadn’t been killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill, his widow would never have married my ancestor and … there would be no me! Unthinkable!… kind of…
So, I’m back to feeling like grass –
I feel some Whitman coming on – where he tries to come up with an answer to misery and futility:
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse
So, even though we are like grass, we get a bite at the cherry, we get to contribute a verse.
And the verse I now have to contribute is putting the children to bed.
Which will be eternally significant.
Whether I think so or not.