Cosmic Relativity: Time and Intimations of Eternity

[Alternate titles: A Wider Perspective; Zooming In and Out]

Butterfly Nebula NGC6302

 

Some things, many things, hard doctrines and contradictory evidence, we just don’t understand, and won’t in this life. To this end, I offer you this allegory presented by Elder Neal A. Maxwell.

—–

“I should like, if I may, to share with you on this point the fine writing of your own A. Lester Allen, a dean and scientist on this campus. This is what I have come to call the “Allen Analogy” about time. Let me read you these lines, if I may. Their application will be obvious. Dean Allen writes:

‘Suppose, for instance, that we imagine a “being” moving onto our earth whose entire life-span is only 1/100 of a second. Ten thousand “years” for him, generation after generation, would be only one second of our time. Suppose this imaginary being comes up to a quiet pond in the forest where you are seated. You have just tossed in a rock and are watching the ripples. A leaf is fluttering from the sky and a bird is swooping over the water. He would find everything absolutely motionless. Looking at you, he would say: “In all recorded history nothing has changed. My father and his father before him have seen that everything is absolutely still. This creature called man has never had a heartbeat and has never breathed. The water is standing in stationary waves as if someone had thrown a rock into it; it seems frozen. A leaf is suspended in the air, and a bird has stopped right over the middle of the pond. There is no movement. Gravity is suspended.” The concept of time in this imaginary being, so different from ours, would give him an entirely different perspective of what we call reality.

‘On the other hand, picture another imaginary creature for whom one “second” of his time is 10,000 years of our time. What would the pond be like to him? By the time he sat down beside it, taking 15,000 of our years to do so, the pond would have vanished. Individual human beings would be invisible, since our entire life-span would be only 1/100 of one of his “seconds.” The surface of the earth would be undulating as mountains are built up and worn down. The forest would persist but a few minutes and then disappear. His concept of “reality” would be much different than our own.’

“That’s the most clever way I have seen time and intimations of eternity dealt with. It is very important that we not assume the perspective of mortality in making the decisions that bear on eternity! We need the perspectives of the gospel to make decisions in the context of eternity. We need to understand we cannot do the Lord’s work in the world’s way.”

—–

If we think about it, we’ll realize just how much God has actually been able to tell us, whether directly or by inference, about the realm of the gods, a realm that, in this life, we are blind to. On the other hand, there are so many things we do not understand, but is it because God merely likes to be withholding, or is it because the state of existence we’re in now precludes our comprehension?

It is good to have questions. It is even good to have questions that are unanswerable in this world because of our mortal limitations. Think of how it will be when, in the next life, we receive direct answers to those very ponderings! Perhaps we’ll even find that we already know them, that they were veiled with the rest of our memories of our past existence. Whatever the case, at some future day, truth will be known. And until then, we must hold to our faith and the knowledge that we have enough.

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