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Philosophy

Time is Running Out

Yes, time is running out – for all of us. For each and every one of us, we inexorably inch closer towards our own demise and existential obliteration.

Cheerful? Hardly, but it is a truth rarely acknowledged beyond the feeding frenzy of catastrophically-selfish corporations and political parties at the trough of manifest human insecurity that failure in successfully coping with the inevitability of personal oblivion is a driving force and anxiety that compels humanity en masse, if not also most of the rest of life on Earth in our wake, towards paradoxical self-extinction.

It doesn’t really matter what you believe or feel to be true – the omnipresence of the grim reaper is a fact beyond which none of us is able to escape and, to be brutally honest, the majority of attempts to render organised structure or meaning upon and through this inevitability of personal transience as organised religion tend to reveal themselves as endlessly-insecure tautologies.

Everything we do and say from this side of the veil of death is at best guess and in the security blanket of conventional or cultural assertions of certainty and mythological truth-making, we are free to believe or not as best suits our own temperament. Consider that the manifest anger, aggression and insecurity so often invoked by identifying the problematic core of such assertions of Ultimate certainty is that it is not and can never be a symbol of security or and self-assured confidence in the truth of any particular cultural and/or spiritual tradition, or their bureaucratised versions. If someone was secure in the belief system, like utterly and intractable certain beyond any debate or suggestions of fallibility – why would they assert anger or seek conflict if their system of value was questioned? The only reason would be that they are not secure, that their system of belief does not provide them the deep and everlasting truth they assert, and that their concerns and conflicts are altogether more temporal and worldly than they might ever be willing to acknowledge – perhaps even to themselves.

One melancholy thing that I like to consider is that it is precisely in the transience of our presence in this Cosmos that we derive meaning. An eternal, immortal self would be entirely meaningless – there would be no sense of value or worth in anything as the endless continuity of existence must surely (?) become as meaningless as would any sequence of numbers within an infinite sequence; dwarfed into insignificance by eternity. The value, indeed – the near infinite worth and inestimable wonder and meaning of the brief sparkle of life both we (and let’s face it – our civilisation) represent in those yawning voids of deepest time and cosmological vastness, this value is inversely derived by the manifest and almost instantaneously vanishing presence of this living flame. The less of a thing there is, the more value it acquires and the brief flicker of sentient experience we inhabit as compared to a plausible eternity of non-existence is by this measure rendered priceless, invaluable – beyond all attempts to measure. Notice, also, that by displacing the ultimate and unmeasurable significance of life to another place, another undefinable reality or extradimensional existential continuity, we implicitly devalue the life and world we do inhabit. There is much food for thought here.

I quite like what Woody Allen said of eternity to the effect that it didn’t bother himself so much except that it tended to drag on a bit towards the end. It is a small and modest consolation of philosophy to acknowledge that the intrinsic value of the brief lives we share is a consequence of the unending expanse of time that lies before us, without us.

Personally, I am an agnostic. Not so much as a matter of hedging bets as that, as in Buddhism, the question of the existence of God is quite simply one which does not concern me, it does not arise from with the framework of knowledge and experience I inhabit. If you believe in God – that is great and I am happy that you have such certainty. I personally doubt whether such certainty is possible; it feels altogether too much like attempting to prove a thing be corralling infinity into a definitively finite box of limited human comprehension. I kind of enjoy the notion that, if God is there, or if any other extradimensional existence awaits us after we shuffle off this mortal coil, that it will always be like the unwrapped present that we can never know until it is time to open it. Wistful anticipation is surely better than fear. If I am wrong, I don’t suppose it will matter much to anyone in a million years, or even a hundred.

So, again, yes – time is running out but don’t worry too much, that is just what it always does.

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