Monday, June 5, 2017

Eternity is Now

I was raised as a Christian to believe that humans lived with God (in a spiritual sense) before we took on a corporeal form on earth.  Then we had just this lifetime to "prove to God" that we could be worthy to return to him and live with him for eternity.  Eternal salvation depended on this minute moment on the eternal timeline.  Therefore the concept of eternity, for me, was in the future as it were - post Judgement Day.

Then a couple of passages I read from Pierre Hadot's The Inner Citadel began to change my perspective.

The first passage from page 135: "When we view things from the perspective of death, it is impossible to let a single one of life's instants pass by lightly.  If, like Marcus and the Stoics, we believe that the only good thing is moral action and a perfectly good and pure intent, then we must transform our way of thinking and of acting in this very instant.  The thought of death confers seriousness, infinite value, and splendor to every present instant of life.  'To perform each of life's actions as if it were the last' means to live the present instant with such intensity and such love that, in a sense, an entire lifetime is contained and completed within it."

"Most people are not alive, because they do not live in the present, but are always outside of themselves, alienated, and dragged backwards and forwards by the past and by the present.  They do not know that the present is the only point at which they are truly themselves and free.  The present is the only point which, thanks to our action and our consciousness, gives us access to the totality of the world."

The second passage, Hadot quotes Wittgenstein on page 147: "If we understand by 'eternity' not an infinite temporal duration, but a lack of temporality, then he who lives within the present lives eternally."

To me, this all simply means that I need to be mindful and focus on ensuring my attitude and actions are directed at good moral intent.  If I can shove all my thoughts and actions through that filter and strive constantly to "chasten" and "clean" my thoughts (see Meditations 3:8) with that perspective and ensure I do it now, then I am living eternally now - I have lived up to the potential of my design.

Below are various people (I've only heard of two of them before today) who seem to grasp this concept of the eternal now.

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