I found Eternity in the North of Spain, in a place popularly called the town of the three lies, Santillana de Mar. Yes, the one that is neither a saint (santa), nor flat (llana), nor does it have water (mar), but it is the possesor of a great Truth that, reminding me of Alexander Casona, is none other that the grandness of her beauty. Before such an overdose of her, we would undoubtedly have the Stendhal syndrome if the quantum part didn’t control the biological hemisphere of my being. Subtly camouflaged to the average eye and tied up in threads of Art, the Collegiate exhibits a very special symbol in the cloister of some Roman capital. It is an interlaced geometric design that insinuates Eternity in its cyclical and hypnotizing future. The acanthus leaves and albatross have equally represented Eternity by tradition. Disappointed? Did somebody hope for something more than a representation of “the thing”? Did someone conceive of a toothless midievel fleamarket seller selling by weight such a tangible concept and…edible?! “Can I have an XXL cone of Eternity and two small ones for the kiddies?” I, myself, put hydrating cream on my artificial skin, and I check my hard-soft daily to slow down total disintegration in an infinitesimal way. Argh! I think I confused it with its biological little sister, inmortality.
Eternity is another story. A stupid consolation before my incapacity to define it is to have the certainty that no one could/can/will be able to do it. Something finite-the human mind, a quantum computer-can’t even remotely make out anything similar to something infinite, infinite time. That’s why Mr. “to infinity…and beyond!” that the “great philosopher” Buzz Lightyear mentions delights our disquisitions with hilarity, while Mrs. Eternity is his guest. Or is it the other way around? Is infinite space the one that lives in infinite time? “Come in, make yourself comfortable. Excuse the disorder (entropy). What would you like to drink?”
I knew of this unrepeatable Hawking for a while, I suppose that more than the rest of everybody ALL together. The famous scientist, still condemned to being his own live statue, traveled with his mind to the four corners of the world in these cosmos, “halving” our brains even more upon reminding us that our celestial house is nothing more than one of “n” more. In spite of these theories, that reduced us to almost the most absolute nothing upon comparing ourselves with the all, he consecrated his life by buoying Eternity and the infinite, enclosing them with fluorescent striped orange cones that were called the Big-Bang. According to his definition, from a quantum-physics prism, time and space are sons of that extraordinary and original explosion, that before they didn’t exist, neither of these entities, therefore nor anything at all. Not even excise taxes. Excuse my ambition of trying to transcend the idea of Eternity beyond that scientific conception. I think you can understand my wanting to poke my nose into the concept, and never heretically contradicting the masterly British physicist, upon venturing…How many big-bangs (and ulterior big-crunches, cosmogonic implosions) existed before the one that originated our little home, this universe? How many will exist afterwards? That’s what Eternity’s got.
Temporarily halting the scientific prism (is that possible?), I propose a simple, philosophical and playful exercise: Let’s close our eyes and let our finite mind fly until the finite eternity. What could be there? Umm, just upon arriving we make out a pleiade of pharaohs from afar that emerge from their pyramids,-since they disintegrated when the time blew,-and they are going towards this impossible redoubt. Some wear gold rings on their ring fingers, encrusted with sapphire scarabs, as if anxious to unite the representation or the represented. Others, under their shiny adorned purple tunics, and from smooth skinned sacred heads, exhort in a whisper the binomial Amon-Ra, as if anticipating that soon they will bump elbows with them. And to Eternity also comes a procession of all the philosophers and wise Greeks that won it motu proprio with their definitive pens, with their names engraved in the stone until the end of time…exactly where/when they were wanted. Hmmm, this makes us reflect: The truth is that we also see all the men and women that existed start to get closer to us, that, apart from their merits, and apart from their behavior and earthly deontology, they all got their passport for the mere fact of being alive. When they arrive, they will wait for the others, to tire of their material existence. From this lookout that our imagination gives us we open the doors also to all the intelligent beings- or not-that at some time existed at some point in the universe, in any universe. Why discriminate against them? To finish drawing the demographic map of philosophical Eternity, we can’t obviate those who were always there: The gods. And, truthfully, I speak in plural before the doubt, that not all those from humanity were One, but before the possibility that in Eternity all of them from all possible universes also converged and that they, for irreconcilable differences in their conceptions, needed different deities of very different natures. Good, it looks like we are all here. Who’s out then? The living, no one else.
In the Harold Ramis film “Groundhog Day” (1992), Bill Murray lives his own little piece of Eternity in a day that repeats itself to no end. In science-fiction film and literature people come and go by the hills of Eternity, they travel in time, with all naturalness, like when you catch a taxi to the center of town. I forgot to ask Asimov what was in “The end of Eternity”. Damn. Does he know better now than when he wrote the novel? Something of what was will roam around for all Eternity, for centuries of centuries until one day, at 18:37 Universal time a red door will be found, with an emergency light above it. And in this paragraph I am trying to laugh at myself, at the absurd task of writing about the insurmountable, about the incognizable. The whole article, let’s admit it, is a little joke, sometimes naked, sometimes with a patina of likeliness. Don’t get angry with me, those who try to analytically clear up any aspect of reality, but I think that this article is a metaphor for what such a futile try implies. Reality fractalizes, in breaks down in indefinitely smaller parts but with similar characteristics, or this can be approached from infinite points of view, therefore writing about it should be a microscopic exercise. Putting our magnifying glass on a miserable aspect of reality, with a very concrete focus, upon writing about it, it is obvious when one tries sink ones teeth into something like Eternity. Have you seen how I justify myself on my first article? Be lenient, I promise to do a better job the next time.
I’ll finish with a reflection and a quote, one that I consider a pearl, a little jewel. Human beings have digested, metabolized, the concept of reality much better thanks to the most extraordinary biological mechanisms, the marvelous trick gives them a promise of eternity and, potentially, of happiness. Bertrand Russell said… “to be happy, one should feel that they form a part of the river of life, from the first cell until the remote and unknown future”. The truths are those that deliver a Nobel Prize or a cartoon: “Look Simba, there’s your father”- says a funny marsupial to the one who will one day be the “Lion King”, while he contemplates his reflection in a puddle. And he later adds: “He lives in you.” Getting away from the beliefs that there is something that exists after life, the certainty of leaving something personal behind comforts us. Our alter ego presents itself as a re-incarnation of our “I”, still alive, with a calling to perpetuate and evidence a change in concept: collectivity before individuality, us before a naked “I”, plural before singular. It seems, like at the beginning of the article, that I have confused immortality with Eternity again and this isn’t the case: The genetic material of an individual that lasts for millenniums (they say that one out of every 200 people alive is a descendant of Genghis Khan), doesn’t have anything to do with scientific Eternity, cosmogonic, but it does have to do with our subjective perception of what this means.
There have been many things said about Eternity, all of them imprecise, many of them beautiful. I’ll stick with this one that reduces eons to infinitesimal fractions, that transforms relative Eternities into insignificant scraps of quarks in oceans of time:
Approximation of the concept of Eternity:
“If once every thousand years, a swallow passed lightly touching with his wings
the surface of an iron sphere the size of the Earth,
the moment that, because of the infinitesimal erosion, the sphere disappeared completely
would be the first second of Eternity.”
J.P Gortázar, Theologist.