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The inescapable end

9 March, 2008

“The image of the future produces contrasting feelings in man. The expectation of the future gives one a feeling of joy. It is a great thing to have a future in which one can actualize one’s possibilities, in which one can experience the abundance of life, in which one can create something new — be it new work, a new living being, a new way of life, or the regeneration of one’s own being. Courageously one goes ahead towards the new, especially in the earlier part of one’s life. But this feeling struggles with other ones: the anxiety about what is hidden in the future, the ambiguity of everything it will bring us, the shortness of its duration that decreases with every year of our life and becomes shorter the nearer we come to the unavoidable end. And finally the end itself, with its impenetrable darkness and the threat that one’s whole existence in time will be judged as a failure.

How do men, how do you, react to this image of the future with its hope and threat and inescapable end? Probably most of us react by looking at the immediate future, anticipating it, working for it, hoping for it, being anxious about it, while cutting off from our awareness the future which is farther away, and above all, by cutting off from our consciousness the end, the last moment of our future. Perhaps we could not live without doing so most of our time. But perhaps we will not be able to die if we always do so. And if one is not able to die, is he really able to live?

How do we react if we become aware of the inescapable end contained in our future? Are we able to bear it, to take its anxiety into a courage that faces ultimate darkness? Or are we thrown into utter hopelessness? Do we hope against hope, or do we repress our awareness of the end because we cannot stand it? Repressing the consciousness of our end expresses itself in several ways.

Many try to do so by putting the expectation of a long life between now and the end. For them it is decisive that the end be delayed. Even old people who are near the end do this, for they cannot endure the fact that the end will not be delayed much longer.

Many people realize this deception and hope for a continuation of this life after death. They expect an endless future in which they may achieve or possess what has been denied them in this life. This is a prevalent attitude about the future, and also a very simple one. It denies that there is an end. It refuses to accept that we are creatures, that we come from the eternal ground of time and return to the eternal ground of time and have received a limited span of time as our time. It replaces eternity by endless future.

But endless future is without a final aim; it repeats itself and could well be described as an image of hell.

From Paul Tillich ‘The Eternal Now’

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 10 March, 2008 7:06 am

    ‘we come from the eternal ground of time’
    Almost.
    We are the eternal ground of time. It is a plain fact that the universe was not created without us. Our component parts have always been and aren’t going anywhere when the earthly life has left them.
    See either ‘Big Bang’ or ‘Progenitor’ over on my site.

    I am thinking about reinstating my blogroll ………………………

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