Beauty Beyond All Telling

Every normal person knows what beauty is. Even a little child is attracted to what is beautiful. Beauty is attractive and easy to be recognized. There’s something beautiful in a simple act of kindness or a genuine smile. There is something captivatingly beautiful in remaining selflessly committed to a young handicap husband/wife. It is breathtakingly beautiful to come to understand the sacrificial love Jesus endured on the cross for our salvation. Each one of us has a deep desire to experience or taste that kind of infinite beauty. We long for that infinite beauty and are restless until we find it. We long for beauty and refuse to settle for mediocrity. beauty points us toward the answer to the profound and eternal questions of life. beauty seems to be something like happiness; although we cannot define it, we know how to pinpoint it and it is very recognizable.

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It is interesting that both the sciences and theology, despite the fact they have different focuses and are constantly shooting at each other, proposes beauty as the answer to life’s burning questions. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that beauty must be the standard by which we discover scientific truth. Beauty is the intersection where the sciences and theology meet each other and point to where humanity needs to be headed if they are to reach the height to which they are called. The overwhelming evidence of the beautiful order of the universe points to an orderer. Although that orderer is not necessarily the God of the Bible, it prompts our curiosity to get to know that orderer.

 

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When scientists look at creation, they see order, harmony, proportion, and unity. They all agree that there is something to be known, otherwise why looking?, and that something is out there. That beauty is in the eyes of the beholder is simply absurd, purely arrogant and a result of wanting to be powerful. No one displays relativistic view when it comes to matters of life and death. No one drives a car if he is told that it will explode upon igniting the engine. No one drinks a pill if he is told that it causes cancer. No one receives blood transfusion unless the blood is tested. Clearly, there is something good and beautiful in using a car. It is amazingly beautiful that a pill can make us feeling so well or blood transfusion keeps our engine running. So no one ever says that kind of beautiful powers is in the eye of the driver, receiver. It is ironic that we accept only what we cannot deny it. That should concern us, really. Why do some tend to treat so cavalierly moral and religious matters?

We all have deep admiration for a motivated and determined virtuous person. Even a divorced, unfaithful person admires a married couple who generously sacrifices for each other and for their children, preserve their chastity, and remain together despite thick and thin for the sake of the indissolubility of marriage. Everyone respects a man or a woman who gives up family and career to embrace celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Even an atheist can recognize the beauty behind that virtuous act even if he may see it as a waste of energy.

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There is beauty and gratitude for what Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Dante, the Church Fathers, the medieval thinkers, scholastic thinkers, the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and G. K. Chesterton have accomplished in helping us the value of human life and existence. How can words express the beauty in kindnesses done to complete strangers out of utter anonymity? Is there anything more beautiful than the virtues of saints like mother Teresa who dedicated her whole life to the poorest of the poor, even to the risk of her life in war zone areas? Who can fail to see heroic beauty in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s action who volunteered to die in place of a father of three in the Nazis death camp at Auschwitz? Who does not see beauty in Dorothy day’s heroic action for the homeless in New York City? Who does not accept John Paul II’s leadership as beauty incarnate when he re-energizes young men and women to not let fear be crippled them? No time to mention the beauty of creation which brings tears into our eyes in contemplation; what to make of the beautiful art and music? 

 

Why are the actions paused by those people beautiful, heroic, and praiseworthy? First, they perform heroic action not only in ordinary, but also in unusual circumstances; they acted when many could not comprehend the depth of their action i.e. in a time when their action could have gone unnoticed. Second, they are heroic not only when the situations demand it, but on a daily basis. Third, they act with promptness, joyfulness, and ease. Fourth, despite the magnanimity of their action, they remain honest and humble. That kind of beauty is like the sun darted about in dark places; it is not just in the eyes of the beholder.

On This Suffering: Thanks But No Thanks

Dostoyevsky, the great Russian philosopher and novelist in his novel Notes from Underground, invented a character named the Underground Man to criticize the lifestyle of the people of his epoch. He noticed one unmistakable thing for which every single one has toiled– prosperity. It is in man’s advantage to strive for prosperity. The Underground Man questions this mindset. For him, it is reason that compels people to adopt such an attitude. Reason is viewed as a miraculous pill that can cure every disease. That’s not right. Perhaps, here is the punch line, suffering offers as much benefit as prosperity. Shocked?

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By suffering, he does not merely mean, for instance, pain that an athlete gets from playing a football game; he especially means doubting the conventional wisdom handed on to us as if we must accept it without questioning. In his book called the Gay Science (gay means joyful here), Like the Underground Man, Nietzsche sees in suffering something worth desiring. It is the stimulant that inspires thinkers to think, and opens our window into the field of knowledge. It means going into the deep to find what no one before us has ever found, and finally it means disconnecting ourselves from the world in order to fashion a sharper eye to survey life. The kind of suffering that the Underground Man and Nietzsche are speaking about is not just speculatively, but practically; it is born from their own struggle with suffering. So what can be gained from the kind of suffering that the Underground Man and Nietzsche are advocating?

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They believe that it allows us to think outside the box and so become independent thinkers. During Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche’s time, reason was the clearest path to knowledge. No one dared to criticize what was found by means of pure reason and logic. Dostoyevsky borrows the Underground Man’s voice to reject this convention. For him, one must be able to question, doubt, and even reject what was found through reason. There is nothing that says that reason is infallible. It is just like the ‘Crystal Palace’; it is invented by humans out of their own stupidity. The Crystal Palace represents, among many things, the rejection of rationalism. We must stick out our tongue at it. It’s just inappropriate to accept whatever reason tells us as if we depend solely on it to acquire knowledge. It is inhuman to not even try to engage and challenge reason. There is nothing that says reason always works in our best interest; we must stop treating it as the surest way to know the truth; it must not be seen as the mean to truth; if we surrender ourselves in the hand of suffering, we will find the truth as well. Nietzsche, to bring about the significance of suffering, compares it to a traveler. Just as a resting traveler knows that the clock counting the hours will wake him up at a particular time, the suffering person knows that something will wake him up too in the decisive moment. Suffering, for Nietzsche, is like sleeping while we remain conscious of what is happening around us.

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Suffering is significant and even necessary because it leads to consciousness. It makes us live life actively. It is just impossible to remain passive when suffering is eating our bone. So it reawakens our consciousness to a magnitude that we cannot ignore. Hyper-consciousness distinguishes a great man from the ordinary man and the rest of the world. Although his acute consciousness makes him unable to act, it however makes him stand out. It allows us to immerse ourselves into the ‘sublime and the beautiful’. It allows us to see what no one else can see. Nietzsche does not see eye to eye with the Underground Man on this point about consciousness. It is not consciousness that allows us to stand out, it is instinct. “If the conserving association of the instincts were not much more powerful, and if it did not serve on the whole as a regulator, humanity would have perished of its misjudgments and its fantasies with open eyes, of its lack of thoroughness and its credulity… it would have disappeared”. The latter makes us a noble man and distinguishes us from the common type.

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The unmistakable observation here is a craving for attention. In their view, humans would do anything to be noticed. It is true that they strike a cord that drives the nature of man. We all want to feed our ego. We all want to tell people that we are here and we matter, especially when we feel unneeded. That’s part of human nature and there’s no running away from that fact. However, I doubt whether a lucid, normal, rationally functioning human being would go to such length just to be noticed. We spend all our life avoiding pain; we accept it only when we know it will lead to something greater. For instance, we accept the pain of exercising, or the pain of surgery because it brings good health. We accept painful working condition because it brings financial security. It is true that suffering opens door to see life for what it is; It helps us questions, however suffering is not sought for its own sake. We make the best of it when it comes; we don’t run away from it, but we don’t yearn for it. We know sometimes it comes for our own good, but no one craves for it.

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They offer suffering as an alternative to reason. Unlike what many believed then, reason of course is not the only mean to truth. Faith leads to truth as well. We need reason in the midst of suffering in order to rise above it. Faith is necessary in order to make sense of suffering. There is something we simply cannot arrive at without the gift of faith. Suffering (when it comes) can enable us to find the meaning and purpose of life, but the meaning of life is not found without the use of reason and faith. So although they are up to something, their thoughts are really too restrictive and incomplete to rally the ordinary man to their side.

The Most Important Thing

In a wide-reaching survey, 179 people were asked what is [the] most important thing in life? Their answers ranged from love, health, friendship, happiness, peace, helping others, freedom, women, family, money, I don’t know, respect, the environment, oxygen etc. It is indubitable that all these things are important because they contribute tremendously to our well-being. But something is lacking in this answer for it is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness (Summa Theologiae II, Q 1, art 8), according to Aquinas. The most important thing in life must include something that remains when all is taken away. It must be something sustainable. The most important thing in life must be sufficient unto itself and be beneficial to us. It must provide safety and confidence in the midst of the storms of life. Whatever it is, I believe it must be something that keeps us going against all odds. But none of the answers seems to have those rudimentary elements. So are the aforementioned elements the most important thing in life?

To be fair to the responders however, there was an answer that I found striking. Someone said the most important thing in life is to find our purpose and pursue it. Yes purpose. We are purpose-driven people. We thrive best when we know what we want out of life. We are each created with a purpose and there is no greater sweetness to life than finding that purpose. Without hesitation, purpose is one of the most important things in life. Thus, it is fitting to want to find that purpose and pursue it as if there is no tomorrow. Life truly begins when we find that purpose. Finding our purpose makes us capable of living life with passion; it gives us the desire to wake up even when we are exhausted. It creates that burning drive in our deepest self to keep going even when going is almost impossible. It gives us our raison d’etre. My goal, your goal, your children’s goal, your friends and coworkers’ goal must be to find that purpose and follow it. Without a doubt, a purpose-driven life is a gift with which we need to grace our life, but is it the most important thing in life remains a puzzle yet to be solved?

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If we believe that God exists and has power over life, death, and our destiny, if God knows every single hair in our head, and knows our future before we were in the womb, he has to be the most important thing in life. The most important thing in life has got to be holiness. Since he is the most important, we want to be like him. “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). Holiness means to be intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally set apart for the pursuit of excellence. Unless we actively pursue such a life, life has not really begun. Once we put on that attitude, a new vision of life is created. Family, friends, money, power… are seen for what they are. Even if they are taken away, we will still have something, should I say someone, to rely on. No matter what happens, life remains meaningful. We are able to differentiate lie from truth. No existential neurosis is possible for our eyes are fixed on the proper goal and so we can scale any wall and go through any barrier. Without God as the picture, when we come to see these things for what they are and realize that we cannot cling to them, it may be too late to reach the substantial reality.

Holiness as the most important in life bails us out of this spinning torpedo. It makes us stand out. adoration With holiness, we can endure all things because we are not rooted in the ephemeral. It allows us to see this present life as the wing that carries us to what is eternal. Our inspiration comes from the one who tells that everything works for good for those who believe. If we understand God as the most important thing in life, and choose holiness for his sake, no mountains will ever be too steep to climb. He will always be there to transform the impossible to possible. He will always be a lodestar guiding us during the dark night of the soul. We will know no abandonment because it is against his nature to do so. So no crisis will be insurmountable. Living this is the most important thing in life.

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When you finally understand that holiness is the most important thing in life and embrace it with your whole essence, then you will understand that there is more to life than this. It is a waste to be caught in this corner of yours without embracing this monumental dream that God has in store for you. Embrace holiness, then you will feel like a child feels whether earthquakes, or wars are coming. You will know what it means to experience a genuine laughter. You will know what it means to feel God’s presence guiding you as if his very hands were pointing you on and his voice was whispering in your ears. You will know why some look at the sunset or stand before a painting board and weep. There is more. You are more. Choose more.

Grandeur of Man

Both Aquinas and Augustine have a blueprint that defines man as what he is and what he should be. Working within a Platonic framework, Augustine pictures man as the most important element existing in the universe, but for him that element does not really belong to the universe. Man is of the world, but does not belong to the world. According to Anton Pegis, this description of man gives us an ideal picture of man, or how he ought to be, and needs to live in order to escape this fleeting world of matter and time so as to cling to something permanent and reach his final goal. When Aquinas read the work of Aristotle, he forges a different understanding of man. Without rejecting Augustine’s view of man, Pegis tells us that Aquinas gives us a picture of how man actually is and what he needs to do in order to reach his final goal. For him, the universe and all it contains must be used as means to man’s final destination. Aquinas is telling us that man must use the world’s wings to fly to his beatitude.

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He found in St Augustine’s work something that captures man in his apogee of life, but he was not satisfied with it in its entirety. He viewed it as a building without a foundation, or a garden without a gardener. He removes from it what made it vulnerable, and adds what its base was lacking. In this light, Pegis asserts that Aquinas provides a firmer foundation to Augustine’s work better than Augustine himself could have done.

If Augustine’s view of man is the roof of a house, Aquinas’ is the foundation upon which that house is built. If Augustine is the sower, Aquinas is the one who waters the seed to make it fertile. At Ostia, Augustine and his mother had a vision. As he describes it, he said that he had to step beyond all corporeal objects; he must ascend by internal reflections so as to access the region of being itself and so have a glimpse of heaven (Confessions book ix, 188). Aquinas, on the other hand, does maintain the view that man is born to envision the kind of eternal bliss that Augustine describes, but that’s only possible when he is in complete use of his body because he is a composite being (Summa Theologiae I, Q 75, art 4). Aquinas agrees with Augustine that contemplating God, the summun bonum, is how man finds himself. Indeed, man must understand that he is made for God, and must abide in God. Man must know that he is nothing without God (Confessions book ix, 189).

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Thus, for Augustine, to mentally abide in God, man must turn into himself and detach his mind from worldly allurements. Envisioning God is actually man’s ultimate end, however for Aquinas that is unattainable without man’s complete possession of his body and soul. Pegis asserts that what Aquinas is saying in common language is that man’s soul has a spiritual thirst for the body that only incarnation can give. As Pegis sees it, Aquinas did not reject Augustine’s view altogether, why would he?, he adds what was lacking to it— incarnate spirit. This addition becomes the pillar sustaining the house of the human person that Augustine was constructing. Man is not merely a complete being, but a complete ‘incarnate’ being.

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That vision of man, which is a right and just estimation of man, has huge implications. It is the foundation of every ethical question that has to do with the human person. It sees humans as vacillating between two worlds: the material and the spiritual, the secular and the religious. It is the reason why normal people are against the view of seeing the human person as nothing but an instrument of pleasure. That’s why the dignity of the person needs to be defended. That’s the ground for human rights and freedom. That’s the basis that prostitution, human trafficking, abortion, euthanasia… are wrong. That’s why a person needs to be committed to in marriage. That’s why humans must not be engaged in debased sexual activities because that’s below their dignity. That’s why man needs religion to help him keep his head above the water. I mean he needs religion to help maintain the right balance between the need of the body and the need of the spirit that he possesses.

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We are the only creature who asks why. Only we, when we raise our eyes up in the sky, are amazed by what we see and wonder why. We are the kings and the queens of the cosmos. “Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26). So we are immeasurably more precious than all creation taken together. We must never be treated as if we belong to the realm of this world alone. Unfortunately, many ethicists fail to see the human person as an incarnate spirit. As a result, most of them think that every human can live as he/she sees fit without any control over his person. We are not just body, nor are we a spirit. We are both. Our duty in this life is to strive to harmonize the two. It is dangerous to adore one while neglecting the other.

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You have been warned. So exercise, read, pray, and have friends. That’s the secret of a fulfilled life.

WHY DO GOOD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS?

The human person is fundamentally good, but sometimes he does bad things. That view underlines the works of all philosophers, historians, poets, theologians, scientists, and artists. They all sing, write, or speak about that veracity in one way or another. Their works unanimous point to our fallible nature and they all argue that discipline is the most efficient remedy to that malady; our nature must be ordered according to virtue for it tends to do both the good and the bad.

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           Life is an eternal fight to overcome temptation. Augustine attributes this reality to original sin where life is both a grace and a crippling burden. The latest sociological and psychological developments have given an even darker lecture to this reality: “no one stands taller than the generation in which he lives”, or man is the product of his time. Therefore, a good environment is necessary in order to not spin out of control. In the Republic, Plato presents us with the tripartite soul: The appetitive soul, it includes all our myriad desires for various pleasures, comforts, physical satisfactions, and bodily ease. The spirited part is the part that gets angry when it perceives an injustice being done. That part can maneuver itself to face adversity; it loves victory, winning, challenge, and honor. The rational part is the one that thinks, analyzes, looks ahead, rationally weighs options, and tries to gauge what is best and truest overall. According to Plato, in order to be as flourishing as we can, the rational part must rule over the other parts. Otherwise, there’s disorder. As if St Paul had read Plato, he describes our nature in language not unless Plato’s. The flesh and spirit roar against each other. “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Gal 5:17). If for St. Paul God empowers us to win the battle against the spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, for Plato, only the rarest and the finest i.e. those who don’t give in to the desires of the flesh, are able to live the good life and so win the battle.

Aristotle beat the same drum as his predecessor Plato in his work called the Nichomachean Ethics. He maintains that the human person, given that he is rational, has a natural drive for human society (‘man is a political animal’), for knowledge (Man is a mimetic animal. he loves to use his imagination), for happiness (that’s innate in every human being), and for God (he naturally knows there’s a higher power that transcends him). The good life is a life that fulfills these natural drives, and directs them to their highest end. Therefore, a life animated by a desire to reach excellence must be cultivated.

ImageThus all these thinkers understand that it is necessary to make a masterpiece of ourselves, but that cannot be achieved without discipline, virtue, or grace; we have to be put in the right “framework”. Right framework—that’s education. That’s conversion. Education is the tool that allows a man to discover the flourishing life. Conversion is the discovery that God is the vine and we are just a branch that cannot bear fruit unless stuck on God. There is no conversion unless we encounter Jesus Christ—the man who shows us what it means to be human. That’s a route to follow another time.

Now consider this. According to the Department of Education, 1 in 3 black men, 1 in 6 Hispanics, and 1 in 20 white men will be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Is it because these people are criminal-minded people? Not at all! The reason is because they are not as well educated as everyone else. They are from the poorest neighborhood in the country where they are exposed to “unwishful occurrences”. The public schools in those areas are considered the worst in the country. Parents are not making enough to send their children in the good schools. Although they are working their hearts off, it is not even sufficient to sustain the family. Of course, that leads to broken home. They are very likely to drop out of school because they have little to no parental guidance. Of course, they are more likely to do more bad things. Of course, these people’s fallibility are higher than everyone else. That’s due to the poverty of their educational level. That’s the single greatest factor that almost always influences their behavior. Have you not checked the education level of the prison population? According to the Justice Department, 79% of prisoners do not have a high school diploma, and 19% of them have never been to school. I am convinced that with proper education, and with the right focus on the family and just employments, our society would be more peaceful; crime rates would plummet, everyone would be safer, and the economy would grow faster.

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We are all fallible. We all do bad things, but when we are given the right education, we get to focus on things other than violence. We get to focus on how to materialize that knowledge boiling in the depth of our soul. No other institution understands this better than Manhattan College. They run a program where they allow inmates to take classes in their college. That brilliant idea closes prisons’ doors. The result of their program is unspeakable. Not only does the inmates, upon their release, get to prove to society that they were simply fallible and so not fundamentally bad, but it also benefits society as a whole. The more educated a prisoner is the less likely he is to recidivate after incarceration. Lawmakers should reconsider their motivation to serve the common good. Instead of spending billions to build and maintain prisons, they should instead fight to keep men and women from being imprisoned, and to better insert them to society after prison. That’s only possible through better schools in the poor neighborhoods, and educating the incarcerated. We all enjoy peaceful time. We are all appalled by violence. We all need to stand together to put an end to it. The most efficient way to do this is to empower the family, which decreases the level of fallibility.

WHEN LOVE BEGINS

One of the great achievements of the sciences in the last decades is the discovery that we are free to determine who we become. We are autonomous. While this is true, the aphorism that no man is an island remains true today as it’s always been. We flourish best when we rely on others, especially on God. So in this vein, the human person is most flourishing when he or she is in a relationship with others. God recognized that man should not be alone, and so remedy his situation by providing for him a suitable partner. It is in this partner that he finds his identify. It is in his mate that he discovers that he is meant to live in a relationship. It is this partner that allowed the man to break the silence for the first time. “ This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). Man furthers realizes that his relationship flourishes when he is living in a communion of persons. It is when he gives himself as a total, selfless, free, and reciprocal gift that transcends his very being that he finds happiness.

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This picture fits man best before the original fall. With the fall, man’s mind and body were opened to disorder. A kind of hiatus is created between he and his creator. It throws a veil before his eyes. He no longer sees the other as companion, but rather as objects to be used. He no longer sees the other as a gift for he can now “see”. He doubts the goodness of the creator and begins to see God as a rival who limits his freedom. He no longer sees his or her human nature as a gift received from the creator. “His communion with the other is transformed into a relationship of domination over the other”. That’s never been the plan however.

What does all this tell us? There was indeed a time when we were autonomous because we were in harmony with God. That was before the fall. Then we did not see as if in a mirror. Now we must understand that we are not capable of sound choices anymore because we failed. Yes, we are free to determine whatever we want to become, but the fall conditions that becoming. We cannot become something that left its mark on the hearts of others without God. We are free as long as we live and move and have our being in the law of God. So, to truly love in a way that live a scar in the soul, we must be monitored by the author of love himself.

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Though the tendency to see the other as an object to be used–erotic love is a reality, but if our lives are monitored by the law established by God, that love will be transformed into agapic love. If struggle there is, if consistency is a challenge, that’s no reason to give up; we must not settle for the basics; greatness is our destiny. To make our life a masterpiece is the goal. That’s achievable not on our effort alone. The man Jesus Christ is our advocate and lodestar showing us how to get there. We need to rely heavily on his grace who epitomizes how we were meant to be and live. He redeemed us from the curse of the fall. We are not autonomous outside of that redeemer. Our self-determination will always be filled with frustration unless we understand that there is no freedom outside of the bubble, so to speak, created by God for us after the fall.

TIME, GOD, AND WE

Christians maintain that the God who sustains the universe into being once became man. That God underwent human emotion and even failed to recognize who touched him once. In becoming man, how did the whole universe keep going while he was a man, or when sleeping, how did he keep a watchful eye over all? Imagine that it is 9:30:38:31am right now. There’s someone undergoing a heart transplant, which needs to be transferred in a split second. Otherwise, …you guess it! Still at 9:30:38, a train driver carrying 255 passengers lost control. A boat in the middle of the sea transporting chemicals is about to hit an iceberg. Millions of cases like that need God’s attention at this very second. How did he care for all these that needed his attention at once as a man? Raising these kinds of questions simply exposes the depth of our temporality and how that restrains our views. If we truly understand where we stand in relationship to God when it comes to time, no such concern would occupy our mind.

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God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).  God sees today what will happen tomorrow. He knows now what will happen in a thousand years. He sees the past, the present, and the future now. That’s so because he is timelessness. He is outside of time. There is no such thing as years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. They are our way of making sense of the whole shtick. These timelines are just not part of God’s vocabularies.

That’s for our advantage

The idea that God is not in time is actually beneficial to us. Because he is not in time, he can take care of the surgery, the train, and the boat all at once. Because he is timelessness, he could come in time to teach us how to deal with our troubles in this valley of tears while continually sustaining ALL into existence. So the fact that he can be both in and outside of time is to our expediency. He is like us looking at Google Earth. He sees the whole at once; he can even see the dresser in our bedroom, he can be in somewhere in Africa and able to see the clothes in our wardrobe, however he does not act on it. While he knows what he will do from time to time, he lets us make our choice freely. And He knows us through and through. C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “God does not hurry along this time stream of the universe; he has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. Each of us is much alone with him as if we were the only being he has ever created. When Christ died, he dies for you individually as if you had been the only person in the whole world”. That is possible because he is not in time.

Time, Prophecy, Time measurement

Now what do we mean by time? Augustine is our lodestar here. He argues that time is not past because it no longer exists nor the future because it is not yet here. So time is the present and only that exists. If time is past and no longer is, and the future is yet to be, what do we mean when we refer to past and future? According to Augustine, the memory is the mean by which we refer to them. So history does not exist per se because it has already passed; it only exists through the memory. It is by recollecting that we can refer to something non-existent. When we speak about things to come, that has no existence in itself. It only exists in the mind. “Unless something is being realized, it is not” (xi, xviii (24)). Augustine notices that although future does not exist, prophets are able to predict the future very accurately. He admits that’s a puzzle he cannot decipher. Furthermore, he notes that perhaps there are three types of times: a present of things past, a present of time present, and a present of things to come. The first exists insofar there is memory. The second insofar there’s immediate awareness, and the last is insofar there is expectation and that too only exists in the mind (xi, xx (26)). Lastly, time cannot be measured because it is always passing. That passing makes it impossible to measure. Present is only this very moment, this very nanosecond. Time is not movement of the heavenly bodies— meaning, time is not measured by the sun, moon, or the days (xi, xxiii (30)). Neither is time the movement of a physical entity because these physical entities are in time. So time cannot be these (xi, xxiv (31)). The best definition of time for Augustine is “distension of the mind” (xi, xxvi (33)). It is always stretching forward unceasingly. So if we measure any time, it is only the past as we picture it in our mind. If we measure future, we measure what we expect it to be (xi, xxvii (34)).

This issue of time can lead to a lot of moral questions, but let’s choose something that concerns us more directly. Since happiness is the leading causes of why we do anything, let’s talk about how we should live and order our lives with respect to time so as to avoid the aforementioned fleeting questions.

The Gift of the Present Moment

The key that opens the door to interior peace and happiness is the ability to live in the present moment. Truth be told: we have absolutely no hold of the past and the future. It takes almost nothing to alter our promises, foresight, and plans about the future. We only possess the present moment. The present moment is full of opportunity and rich in grace, but it is up to us to take advantage of it. There is something liberating and exciting knowing that the present moment is ours. This person you are talking to right now is your opportunity to make the present counts. This job you are doing right now, be it cleaning bathroom or being a medical doctor, is your present moment; make it unforgettable. Live it as if it were your last chance; live it as if it were your only chance. As it is said, “sufficient for a day is its own trouble; let tomorrow take care of itself (Mat 6: 31)”. 

ImageImageDon’t let the mistakes of the past creep you down. Sincerely ask God to forgive you and live as if you had never done anything wrong. Life is to short too postpone living it to later. The past is the past; there’s almost nothing you can do to change it. The future is too unreliable to plan on it. So the present moment is our best alternative. That alternative elevates us to godliness. It makes us live like God. It is because God is living in the “now” that he can take care of everything all at once. It is when we living in the now that we can reach the being that we were meant to be i.e. happy, focused on what is, peaceful, and free. The present moment gives us serenity in the midst of the storm. It gives hope despite suffering; it allows us to be reminded of the past and prepare the future, but simultaneously being able to remove ourselves from them for we understand that they are simply means that accompany us to our ultimate end. So time prepares us for timelessness– heaven.