I was recently at Stonehenge. Big circle of big rocks doing big things, lining up for moments in time. People put that together. Something was so important about the times being marked, that the people it was important to had to make Stonehenge to do what it does because, quite likely, other methods had failed to do the job. Stonehenge does not smack of a first effort.
The time kept by Stonehenge is not the accrual of hours, days, or years. It serves to track the rhythm of a solar year. Why is that important? When we look at the dots and lines on the backs of animals painted in paleolithic caves, we can figure that they correlate to important times in the annual cycles of the animals: when they migrate into the area, when they mate, when they give birth. All of this in correlation to the advent of Spring in the Vernal Equinox. Knowing the days of solstices provides similar information that can be used to track everything else that happens in a year.
Look at how the Egyptians tracked the flood of the Nile as another one of these annual rhythm approaches to keeping time. And while we put a year on a calendar because we want to keep track of that sort of time, we still have an ordering of days that repeats with each year. We are very much like our nameless ancestors in that regard. We are aware of the passage of time, just as much as we are aware of right and wrong, good and evil.
If there was no time as we experience it, but we instead existed in a frame of reference that was outside of the bounds of time. Our first thought would be perhaps, “Ah! Now I live forever!” Except that would be wrong, as “forever” implies a passage of time. More accurate would be to realize, “Ah! Now I exist timelessly, in a state that has no beginning or end, no now or then.”
In such a frame of reference, all of our time-space existence would be visible. We would be aware of everything that happened, every choice made. Seeing those choices, we would see people as we used to be, very much unaware of what other choices are being made and of what it means to be a human creature. None of us know who we are or what we are doing, to paraphrase what the character Nigel Tufnel said about the people of Stonehenge in the film “This Is Spinal Tap.”
But when we see people who choose to be altruistic, we see people who have made such choices because they have first chosen to see the essence of divinity in their fellow human creatures. They assign dignity to existence and are ready to forgive one and all. And why not forgive, since almost everyone who does something selfish is doing it because they do not know what they are doing? They certainly don’t know who they really are.
We exist with imperfect knowledge and assign the characteristic of perfect knowledge to God, however we view such a construct. For the sake of this essay, I consider God to be real, to be both capable of and interested in the choices I personally make as much as anyone else’s, and that there is a connection of love that exists between us all, should we take time and effort to become aware of it. Others are free to believe what they will, this is not meant to be an argument for or against God’s existence, just a thought experiment about a God that has perfect knowledge.
Perfect knowledge means that God exists without a boundary of time, that God is able to behold the fulness of the universe and comprehend it all. And if we postulate that God is loving and that we are children of God – literally or figuratively, either works for this experiment of thought – then it means we exist in this universe for a purpose.
If there is no time, no before or after, where God exists, then it means choices are eternal things. It means mistakes cannot be repented of – they exist without bounds of time. To be in the presence of God means a commitment to make no mistake. That implies that none of us are ready to be with God, as we still make mistakes. But, by existing in a context with time as a boundary, we are able to learn. In learning, we are able to change our nature to become more Godlike, if we so choose.
Now, how a final reconciliation for what errors existed in past thoughts and deeds in order to be complete enough for entering into the presence of God can be performed is outside the scope of what I want for this essay. It is a matter of belief, and many others have spoken their piece on that subject such that I would only be quoting them to explain my own position. But I do believe such a reconciliation is possible if and only if we have become someone who is motivated by love towards others, realizing the divinity within.
Once we know who we are and what we are doing, then we are ready to work within the bounds of time to help others attain that same knowledge, hopefully allowing them to choose to transform out of the person they used to be into one who is enlightened by a fuller knowledge of light and truth. We still endure the cruelties of choices made by others without that knowledge, but we forgive them. We do not count down to when we stop forgiving and start a path of violence – we forgive and hope and pray that they can see better how to live without violence. We engage in that eternal round of soulful agriculture, tending a garden or flock, as it were.
And that comes back to the time tracked in Stonehenge, Lascaux, and along the Nile. The rounds of agriculture, as it were. The year exists because of the events that mark it, not the other way around. Similarly, it is our choices that stand as reasons the universe exists.