By David Hegg
There is no debate that time marches on. The sun rises, shines, and sets, and then does it all over again, day after day. And each day we encounter the unknown components of a whole new 24-hour set of life experience.
From the time we are born until the day they lay us in the ground we are chained firmly to the relentless treadmill of time. We have to keep going, sometimes walking, often running, always being propelled into the next minute, hour, day and year. Life is undeniably a progression.
We often say, “Let’s do it since we have time.” But do we? This is Super Bowl weekend, and Sunday will find millions around the world watching a game that, ultimately, will be all about time. The two teams will square off, but there is a third participant in the game that is actually in control … the clock. In football, time is sovereign. To win will demand not only scoring more points than their opponents, but also doing so before the clock declares its judgment that the game is over.
The fact that time has us is actually more important than the idea that we have time. We think, erroneously, that we control time when ultimately it controls us and acts on us. We are all aging, involuntarily moving from who we once were to the final stages of who we will end up being. And that brings up some of the most essential questions of life.
At some point we all come to wonder the same things even if we express them differently. “Who am I and why am I here?” These questions of existence and purpose never leave us even after we believe we’ve found answers. These two fundamental questions are actually at the ground level of the human quest for meaning in life.
As we go about trying to figure out these questions it will also occur to us that the answers must go beyond the mere physical components of life. “Who am I?” Certainly, we must all admit that we are more than a neatly packaged set of molecules. The fact that we have desires, ideas, and most basic of all, consciousness of our desires and ideas can never be accounted for through cell division or other physical processes. It is both common sense and good science to recognize the dualistic nature of humanity. We are both material and non-material, physical and spiritual, body and mind.
Does this help us in answering the second question? I believe it does. “Why am I here?” If we were merely material, it could easily be said that we exist simply to carry out physical processes and then die, leaving the stage to others to carry out the same physical processes. A merely physical existence seems to have no more purpose ultimately than that of a tree or river. But, the presence of the non-material, spiritual part of humanity argues for something greater.
It is in this spiritual or non-material sphere of our existence that we come to understand the purpose of life. To this realm we would consign the creativity and inventiveness that have marked human progress. As well, it is this part of us that loves, and feels loved, that organizes right and wrong, and believes certain truths with the conviction necessary to hold the brokenness of this world at bay, at least in part.
It is also the non-material part of us that longs to connect with whatever it is that keeps time moving. The very fact that history is progressing argues that there is a point to it all, that humanity is going somewhere, moving toward some conclusion. And if this is so, then it is reasonable to consider that the power that started it all, and is holding it all together, has a rational reason for our existence, and a purpose for our lives.
Albert Camus, a French writer and philosopher and Nobel laureate, was known as the father of Absurdism, and was by no means a theist. If fact, many consider him to have been a most honest agnostic. Yet, when looking at these basic questions, he stated his answer. “I would rather live my life as though God existed, and dying, find that he did not, than to live as though he did not exist and after dying, find that he did.”
Life is short. Time marches on. The questions don’t change, and the answers you believe make all the difference in how you will live.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.