By Carlos Eire
What's eternity? Is it whatever except a basically summary thought, absolutely unrelated to our lives? a trifling wish? A frightfully doubtful horizon? Or is it a sure bet, shared through priest and scientist alike, and an important point in all human family? In a truly short historical past of Eternity, Carlos ireland, the historian and nationwide ebook Award-winning writer of looking forward to Snow in Havana, has written a super heritage of eternity in Western tradition. Tracing the belief from precedent days to the current, ireland examines the increase and fall of 5 diverse conceptions of eternity, exploring how they built and the way they've got assisted in shaping person and collective self-understanding. A ebook approximately lived ideals and their courting to social and political realities, a really short historical past of Eternity is additionally approximately unbelief, and the tangled and infrequently rancorous relation among religion and cause. Its topic is the biggest topic of all, person who has taxed minds nice and small for hundreds of years, and may eternally be of human curiosity, intellectually, spiritually, and viscerally.
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Additional resources for A Very Brief History of Eternity
Poets and mys tics, especially, make their rounds of eternity with embar rassing frequency. 15 At an opposite extreme, even a great skeptic such as Ber trand Russell, philosopher and mathematician, could find an odd sort of comfort in believing that our existential quandary could give meaning to life, and sustain all our thinking and striving. “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark,” Russell was proud to admit. Yet this was no reason for despair.
25 Each of the chapters, then, traces one of four distinct periods, from ancient times to the present, each of which is distinguished by a different dominant paradigm, or concep tion of eternity. The periods covered by each chapter are not of equal length, but the chapters tend to focus equal atten tion on each period, more or less. Chronological symmetry has never been a pattern in the development of civilization (one need think only of the technology developed in the past Big Bang, Big Sleep, Big Problem v 23 century alone), but we historians are nonetheless compelled to impose a certain degree of symmetry on our summaries of the past so it can make more sense, much like cartographers who stretch and bend real landscapes in order to make intel ligible maps of complex subway systems.
What is a billion years but a fraction of an infinite number, or of something much greater, beyond number? Or, even worse, just a fraction with a beginning and an end, something sandwiched at both ends by nonexistence? Any history of eternity, then, no matter how long or short, is ridicu lously brief when measured against eternity itself. Another way of putting this is to say that the only definitive history of eternity would be an eternal one, without beginning or end. And that would be as useless as a life-size map of the earth.