Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Musings on C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters

Time vs. Eternity, or Then You Woke
by Theresa M. Sneed

"For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." -Psalm 90:4

Screwtape says, "The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity." p. 75

"Humans live in time..."
I have often wondered about the concept of time. What if time is separate from eternity, and actually exists within it? Screwtape writes, "Present is the point in which time touches eternity." Perhaps the Past is also a point that touches eternity, so that eternity exists on either side.

It seems to me that earthly time of mortal lives is one of the grandest creations. In my fantastical imagination, I perceive this life to be the greatest reality game ever contrived, by the greatest, most advanced intellect that exists. We first lived in eternity with our Creator, and then we were born into time, and at death, we will return to that same eternity.

In 2 Peter 3:8-9, it states:
"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

I did the math on that:

1 day..............1000 years
1 hr...............41.66 years
30 min.............20.83 years
15 min.............10.415 years
7.5 min............5.2075 years
3.75 min...........2.60375 years
1.875 min..........1.301875 years, or about 1 1/3 year
56.25 sec..........7.81135 months, or 234.337 days
28.125 sec.........3.905625 months, or 117.1688 days
14.0625 sec........1.952813 months or 58.584338 days
7 sec..............29.29210 days
3.5 sec............14.6461 days
1.75 sec...........7.32 days
.875 of a sec. .....3.66 days
.4375 of a sec.....1.83 days, or 43.92 hours

SO, about 1/2 second of God's time is equal to about 2 days, or 44 hours of man's; and about 1 second of God's time is equal to almost 4 days, or 88 hours of man's.

Imagine a plan so intricate to encompass thousands of years of mankind, and billions of lives, and yet be intimately involved at all times, and in all places, with all lives ... such is our God.

Screwtape writes; "The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift." p. 112

How long the days seemed to drag on when I was a young girl attending Dover Elementary school. Each day seemed as a week. I distinctly remember how much faster the days went by when I entered the 6th grade, separated in our own building from the elementary school. And why in my sleep doth time speed past, while it ebbs slowly by for those yet awake? Wasn't the same amount of time expended? Was not the minute 60 seconds, and the hour still 60 more?

Screwtape recognizes times' merits when he says, "How valuable time is to us may be gauged by the fact that our Enemy allows us so little of it." p. 157

Lewis alludes to the time limitations imposed on Screwtape and his nephew Wormtongue for seeking out and taking individual "patients". Gratefully, that is true, as the time is quickly approaching that the power of the adversary will cease, and his time upon this earth, and those who followed him, will come to an abrupt end.

Here is truly one of Screwtapes greatest deceptions:
"They of course, do tend to regard death as the prime evil and survival as the greatest good. But that is because we have taught them to do so." p. 154

The greatest fear of man, often unspoken, is death, but why? Consider that if a man lives an average life span of 80 years, he will be away from God for less than two hours! That's not even the length of a good movie!

Why is death so welcomed to the sick in hospitals who many times see deceased loved ones as if they were alive? Maybe, it's because they do. It's like going back to them, the ones they love, and to the great place they just left a few moments earlier.

Screwtape: "...human birth is important chiefly as the qualification for human death, and death soley as the gate to that other kind of life." p. 157

So eloquently written ... man must be born, and must be deathed back into eternity from whence he came, but to another kind of life.

Screwtape: "Did you mark how naturally, as if he had born for it, the earth born vermin entered the new life? How all his doubts became, in the twinkling of an eye, ridiculous?" p. 172

Wonderfully and insightfully put! "How naturally..." as if it, his death, were santioned to be.

My very favorite Screwtapian philosophy:

"The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out. The dream became a nightmare and then you woke. You die and die and then you are beyond death. How could I ever have doubted it? As he saw you, he also saw Them." p. 173

I have imagined this, and quite expect it will be so.