A Very Brief History of Eternity by Carlos Eire

By Carlos Eire

What's eternity? Is it whatever except a merely summary proposal, completely unrelated to our lives? an insignificant desire? A frightfully doubtful horizon? Or is it a sure bet, shared by means of priest and scientist alike, and a necessary aspect in all human kin? In a really short historical past of Eternity, Carlos ireland, the historian and nationwide ebook Award-winning writer of looking forward to Snow in Havana, has written an excellent heritage of eternity in Western tradition. Tracing the belief from precedent days to the current, ireland examines the increase and fall of 5 various conceptions of eternity, exploring how they constructed and the way they've got contributed to shaping person and collective self-understanding. A booklet approximately lived ideals and their dating to social and political realities, a truly short historical past of Eternity is usually approximately unbelief, and the tangled and infrequently rancorous relation among religion and cause. Its topic is the most important topic of all, one who has taxed minds nice and small for hundreds of years, and should ceaselessly be of human curiosity, intellectually, spiritually, and viscerally.

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As I see it, a material determinism that excludes ideas is as wrongheaded as that type of intellectual history, now nearly extinct, that traces ideas from mind to mind over the centuries and assigns causality to disembod­ ied thoughts. I speak from experience. Having lived under a doctrinaire Marxist-Leninist totalitarian regime that saw class struggle as the sole determining factor in all of history and sought to eradicate all “intellectuals,” and having lost some of my family to its dungeons and firing squads simply Big Bang, Big Sleep, Big Problem v 17 because they dared to challenge dialectical materialism in public, I am especially sensitive to the dangers of reduction­ ism, and especially of the material determinism that some historians accept unquestioningly.

Oc­ casionally, nature goes berserk and living beings kill them­ selves, be they lemmings, beached whales, or anguished art­ ists, such as Vincent van Gogh, who may or may not have been troubled by his own churlishness. But the vast major­ ity of living organisms go on living and struggling to thrive, even as others die by the thousands, or hundreds of thou­ sands, or even millions. If you doubt this, simply consider that over 150,000 people die every day on planet earth. That is about one per second, or over twice the number killed by the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima 12 v Chapter 1 on August 6, 1945.

In other words, we will not focus so much on the universe itself, which came into existence long before hu­ mans entered the scene and could continue to exist without humans, as on the concept of eternal life for humans. This, 18 v Chapter 1 then, is an existential, anthropocentric history of eternity, a history of how humans in the West have tried to insert themselves into the largest picture of all, and how they have dealt with a formidable conceptual imbalance: namely, that while it is certainly possible to conceive of an eternal universe without human beings, it is utterly impossible to conceive of eternal life for humans without an eternal universe.

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