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THE ARROW OF TIME
Scripture citations are to the New International Version, UK edition (NIV-UK)
‘But,’ said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the fire, ‘if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is it, and why has it always been, regarded as something different? And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other dimensions of Space?’
The Time Traveller smiled. ‘Are you sure we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough, and men always have done so. I admit we move freely in two dimensions. But how about up and down? Gravitation limits us there.’
‘Not exactly,’said the Medical Man. ‘There are balloons.’
‘But before the balloons, save for spasmodic jumping and the inequalities of the surface, man had no freedom of vertical movement.’
‘Still they could move a little up and down,’ said the Medical Man.
‘Easier, far easier down than up.’
‘And you cannot move at all in Time, you cannot get away from the present moment.’
‘My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong. That is just where the whole world has gone wrong. We are always getting away from the present movement. Our mental existences, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave. Just as we should travel down if we began our existence fifty miles above the earth’s surface.'
ONE CAN MAKE scrambled eggs from eggs, but not the reverse.
This statement evokes the notion that Nature moves only in a forward direction. This is the general assumption behind the Big Bang.
Triggered by a so-called ‘quantum fluctuation’, it is postulated that the Universe exploded out of a dense, compressed point of matter about fourteen-thousand-million years ago, and spread outwards at high speed, a process which continues. Likewise, forward motion presumably lies behind the process of Evolution in which living organisms ‘move’ from a simpler mode of existence to the more complex (and not the other way round).
This principle of the ‘arrow of time’ applied to history, suggests that time travel, the theme of the novel by H.G. Wells, quoted at the head of this article, is a physical impossibility. However, the universal interest in travelling back to the past intimates at a legitimate longing of the human mind.
In its sentimental forms, time travel expresses itself as Nostalgia and Regret. This would seem to argue against the evolution of the human species, for Evolution is, by its very progressive nature, intended to produce the best adaptation of its subjects (organisms) to the prevailing environmental conditions. If such be the case, then hankering after what ‘was’, rather than being content with what ‘is’, seems inexplicable.
Even Cliff Richard Gets Older
Ageing will never win in the popularity stakes. There are few of us who do not wish to hide our own slide in that direction by various adjustments to the face, the hair, or other aspects of our increasingly fragile and baggy-skinned anatomy. We glance back via nostalgia at the way we were.
Indeed, so many of us are looking back now that there is a boom in the entertainment industry, reviving the plays and music of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, through which we may ‘travel’ back in time and relive our youth.
As someone has said, ‘nostalgia is not what it used to be’ – especially when thinking about the past is an excuse for not facing the future. There is much fear abroad in Britain. From concern over global warming, terrorism, family breakdown, and predations on city streets, to mental illness and one’s mode of dying, people are anxious.
It’s not surprising that many prefer the past to either the present or the future.
If Only . . .
It’s a rare individual who would not like to correct his or her mistakes of the past. Overdone, regret can lead to exaggerated self-condemnation, despair and suicide. But it can also be salutary, a useful caution against repeating similar mistakes, and encourage one to do better in the future. Indeed, regret is at the heart of Christian repentance. Without a recognition of our sinful, guilty state before God, we are not prepared to accept Christ Jesus as the Saviour.
Longing for the Old Days
Instinctively, the human race looks back to the old times which, oddly, none of us ever knew. The paradise which was Eden, from which Adam and Eve were evicted, was the cradle of human existence. And ever since the curse of sin and death was pronounced on the rebel pair, humanity has been in free-fall, checked here and there by God’s interventions throughout history. The most significant intervention of all was in the sending of Jesus to die on the cross. ‘The Son of Man’, Jesus said of Himself, ‘came to seek and to save what was lost’ (Luke 19: 10). The ‘lost’ includes the Edenic state and the race itself.
That exile from Eden long exerted a powerful influence on the collective mind of Man. Though exchanged by many for faith in the passive, non-condemnatory ‘assurance’ of the theory of human Evolution, the original Fall from Grace is the reason for our present distress. Looking back is, so to speak, in the genes. The Apostle Paul notes that the human race unwittingly hopes for liberation from ‘its bondage to decay’, and longs to be ‘brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8: 21).
If we put our faith in Physics and the immutable progress of time to an uncertain future, we need not be surprised that by degrees we lose the anchors of consolation. Physics has no mercy. But the Creator of physics does. It is His express purpose, through Christ, to redeem the human family from grief past and present, and to restore it to its original state.
The Future will be much better than the Past.
Source: http://ota.oucs.ox.ac.uk/headers/1901.xml (free download for non-commercial use)