Friday, April 08, 2016

THERE IS NO GETTING AWAY FROM IT!

FUNERAL OF POPE SAINT JOHN PAUL II
Try as you may, there IS no getting away from it.


But, undaunted, the Greek Philosopher Epicurus ( 341 B.C. to 270.B.C.) took a pot shot at the phenomenon and tried to get people to avoid any undue panic. here is his take on the situation :

"Death is nothing in us,
  since when we are,
  death has not come,
  and when death has come,
  we are not."

Neatly stated. 

Some 2,200 years later the Austrian - British Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein ( 1889- 1951) thought he would have a shot at expanding consideration of the point :

" Death is not an event in life:
   we do not live to experience death.
   
   If we take Eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but
   timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the   
   present.

   Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits."

In typical Wittgensteinian fashion he has succeeded in  wrecking the elegance of the original proposition, whilst introducing new elements for examination in a pretentious manner which has all the sharpness of a bullet head after being fired at armor -plated steel. None.

It is interesting to look at his technique.  He derails the original consideration by using the idea that we do not " live to experience death"  - but this is a straw man - no-one has ever suggested we do. But the real point is - and Wittgenstein avoids it - we cannot in our lives  avoid the event of death.      
    
He does do something useful by introducing the idea of Eternity and at least mentioning it , in contrast to time, but, rather than considering it he abandons it to leap to a flawed conclusion :"...eternal life belongs to those who live in the present." This is totally self-contradictory. To be "in the present" is to be in time, to be in time is by definition to be outside the eternal.  It follows then that when he jumps to his intended "profound" assertion that our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits, we are being presented with empty posturing. Our visual field always has limits set both by the eye and the scene. The event of death clearly brings an end to our life in the present, in time.

Eternal life is promised to us Catholics in its proper place - in Eternity.

But thank you Mr Wittgenstein for raising the subject of Eternity.

I suspect that very many, if not most people think of Eternity as " a very, very, very long time. We can even see hints of this type of thinking in the poetic license of parts of Sacred Scripture  : "  For a day in your courts , is better than a thousand elsewhere"(Psalm 84:10)

But Eternity is NOT a long time, not even a very, very, very long time.  NO , Eternity is no time. literally no time - it has nothing to do with time.  This is hard for us to come to terms with since we really only know time. But if we are to make our feeble efforts toward thinking about the incomprehensible God , it is helpful to try to consider the reality of Eternity.

How else can we really begin to appreciate the awesome marvel of the Incarnation? That God came crashing through from Eternity into time to take human flesh in the Womb of the Blessed Virgin, in order to redeem us from our sins and make possible our return to be with Him in Heaven as He had always intended - if only we will.

Plainly we have a lot of reflecting to do, but Mr Wittgenstein is not much help. The ancient pagan Epicurus is in fact nearer to being of help, purely because of the clarity of his thinking and his expression.

  

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