The light of eternity

Sat, 12/28/2019 - 9:15am

In this column, we’ve shared some thoughts about seeking the divine in the everyday moments and place of our lives. Let’s conclude by considering the search for God in the light of eternity. The Psalmist writes:

In the eyes of God, A thousand years are like a passing day,

Or as brief as a few hours in the night.

People are swept away like dreams that disappear.

They are like grass that springs up in the morning, but by evening is dried up and gone. Seventy years are given to us! A few more if we are fortunate.

But even the best years…soon disappear, and we fly away.

So teach us to realize the brevity of life, that we may grow in wisdom. — Psalm 90

In mathematics, an infinitesimal is something so small that there is no way to measure it. It’s a number just this side of zero, next to nothing. Any finite number, when contrasted with an infinite number, is a relative infinitesimal. So in comparison with the light of eternity, or the infinite reach of the future, our brief time on this earth is infinitesimally short.

What are the possibilities of a life after this one? Are our souls eternal? Do they endure after this life? Perhaps most important, how does the existence of God matter when considering these questions?

A gambler might say that even if the possibility of eternal life is a long shot, the alternative is a worse bet by far. This was precisely “Pascal's Wager,” the philosophical argument presented by the 17th-century French mystic, mathematician and physicist, Blaise Pascal. 

He posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists, or does not. Pascal argues that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. Pascal argues that his proposition is one of infinite force, when there is the finite to risk, but the infinite to gain. Pascal concludes that this question functions like a coin toss. We must decide whether to live as though God exists, or as though God does not. In Pascal's assessment, we are all participating in this metaphysical bet, either knowingly, or not. He says,

“Yes, you must wager. It is not optional. You are embarked. Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to shun, error and misery. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that God is.”  — Excerpts from Pensées, part III, §233

The prophet Isaiah said: "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.”

My hope and prayer for all of us in the coming year is that we will look for ‘God Sightings’ in our lives each day, and that we will be thrilled, amazed, and changed for the better as we discover the Divine in our midst.