Friday 4 January 2013

The Bubblegum Time Machine

Somebody once said that, “Time exists to stop everything happening at once”. Taken from this point of view, time appears not as a torrential downpour or an unbridled explosion of events and history but something else.  Rather, it seems to say that time is very much a control mechanism that allows events to occur sequentially, one bit at time, a bit like the mechanism of a bubblegum machine, those bubble gum machines which as every child knows appears as a kaleidoscope of colour bursting with the promise of a flavoured, chewy-sweet pleasure. 

The bubble gum machine seems designed to suggest (subliminally) a mega-hit of not one piece of bubble gum but a thousand! forget the psychedelia of the 1960’s! The ecstasy would be almost unbearable. Of course, the bubble gum machine is regulated to drop only one ball of gum at a time, a bubblegum time machine regulating the events of our lives. The penny drops, the machine clicks with a turn and out drops another day.  We live each day as it comes: a red day, a blue day, a yellow day or even a black day. We experience life like this: a series of random events like the selected lottery balls that can make you an instant millionaire - or not. Perhaps the patterns of our lives might appear more coherent when viewed from further back, using the wide-angle lens, in the wide sweep of history but we cannot predict the future with any certainty.

Nor can we be clinical analysts knowing and observing through a plate glass screen.  As St Paul puts it, “we see through the mirror darkly”.  This is because we are part of the process that is unfolding, life and death coming into and going out of existence.  In that beautiful letter to the Corinthians there is a warning against the conceit of knowledge and of intellectual prowess, “If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but I do not have love I am nothing.”  This is Paul at his poetic best, freely handing out the profoundest truth, the essential truth that no scientific discovery will ever exceed.  For God’s love is the truth that permeates the universe, a love that is beyond time itself.  As St Paul says, “Now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror: then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part: then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

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