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That Time Does Not Run Backward

Jean Hoefling


That time does not run backward, that is its wrath. “That which was”—that is the name of the stone it cannot roll.   – Friedrich Nietzsche

Particle physicist Brian Cox claims that actual time travel is now pretty much a sure thing. To simplify, it seems all we have to do is tinker a bit with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and it’s a relative cinch to play time forward. The past is a different story; apparently the theory doesn’t work so well in reverse, which implies you can’t journey back to your senior prom and be even cooler than you already were that night.

Dr. Cox and the rest of us might want to ask ourselves what is so fascinating about the future when we’re barely coping with the present, this elusive commodity God has temporarily spliced into the DNA of the larger plan, eternity. My priest recently challenged me on my obsession with this. My habit of waxing either nostalgic or regretful about the past and my generalized angst about the future is absurd, for theologically, these nulled entities are both the abodes of demons. What is anti-God cannot abide in the presence of God, and God exists in the Eternal Now.

My friend Lynn gained a new perspective on this Now during an acute illness when he found himself suspended between time and eternity. He faced the proverbial portal to the Other Side, and was told—by God, he believes—that he could choose the next world or return to earthly life. He got well and reports that his primary astonishment over this near-death experience was how wanting it turned out to be in its capacity to terrify him. Since then, he has simplified his life so that every moment counts, taking to heart St. Paul’s exhortation to “make the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15).

Lynn’s take on cars: “I never liked them anyway,” and on making purchases: “Need is a matter of perspective.” Several mornings a week he pulls up a chair at a neighborhood coffee shop to discuss God and life with a local coalition of the homeless, doubting, and generally marginalized. Six hours a day he luxuriates at the piano and makes humble ends meet by playing music gigs. He reports missing nothing while owning everything. He can do this because he discovered the past had no power over him and the future was nothing but a laugh.

In 2018, may we all practice living in the Now, the precious abode of God.