a book about eternity

eternitycarlos eire’s “a very brief history of eternity” (2010) is not a light read but what do you expect from a contemplation of a complex idea?

it surprised me that a twelve year old upon seeing the title of the book commented that reading it would be “sad” & something she would not like to think about at the moment / and that she can imagine time without end but not time without a beginning \ the melancholy association she made with eternity is obviously death <and informed by how catholics link death with an afterlife in heaven with a god who is eternal> / i also thought the book was a history of how humans have dealt with the inevitability of death \ it was more illuminating than that

pondering eternity <time without a beginning or an end> can drive one mad / fortunately over the ages philosophers & theologians have done most of the ruminating & challenging of this complex idea for us \ and eire has condensed its history in a highly readable book | from its origination & flowering:  plato & aristotle * st. augustine * dreschel & nieremberg * christianity | to its challenges & demotion brought about by: protestant reformation * enlightenment * industrial revolution * secularization / its rise & fall is reflected not only in how people thought & behaved but also in symbols, art, architecture and ruins as shown in the picture above

my main takeaway from this book which the author stressed from the beginning is that ideas do matter & that they have an impact on social & political realities and human behavior / it is interesting how this concept of something otherworldly, personal yet beyond oneself could have had such a profound effect on the collective | how it is a lens through which one can view social & political history | how one, based upon the changing value of eternity, can trace the ascendance of the all-powerful church at a time when religion & politics co-mingled to its diminished role with the rise of nations, the enlightenment & science and an ever secularized world \ from eternity being carrot & stick in the public sphere to a personal, private belief along the same lines as fairies & unicorns <and personally for me, a cogent explanation of the irrelevance of organized|public religion>

towards the end of the book, polls cited indicate that belief in an eternal afterlife remains strong in the united states <average percent believing in: heaven, 77% | hell, 64%> it would probably be worrisome if it were not so

i heard about this book in an npr interview of carlos eire

3 thoughts on “a book about eternity”

  1. A book about eternity? How about anything written by ayn rand. Reading any of her books felt like an eternity (or at least a lifetime…a boring lifetime)


    1. talking head,
      i am long finished with ayn rand, played my head games with that & closed the chapter like a lifetime ago…thought you would like this, same idea as infinity, doesn’t it drive you crazy thinking about something that goes on forever? there’s asymptotes too ?! never touches the limit! god!


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