What is your view of history? It seems there are three main views (do let me know if you think there are more.)
The first idea is that time is like an old fashioned clock. It has been wound up, the pendulum is swinging and slowly, slowly, it is winding down. There was a beginning to life on earth and there will be an end. That is all there is to it. How individuals live and behave is pretty meaningless in terms of history. In millions of years from now, there will be no life on earth and no one to remember it. There will be nothing.
The next idea is that time is circular, more like a spiral. Everything that happens has happened in the past and will happen in the future. Events repeat – possibly after thousands of years, but basically the same things happen over and over again. Whilst this clearly doesn’t apply to specific inventions (the Romans had central heating but no internet!) in terms of humanity, empires rising and falling, people doing the same things over and over, history repeats.
I guess this idea is behind the philosopher who said,
“Every river flows into the sea, but the sea is not yet full. The waters return to where the rivers began, and starts all over again. Everything leads to weariness – a weariness too great for words. Our eyes can never see enough to be satisfied; our ears can never hear enough. What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again. There is nothing new in the whole world. ‘Look!’ they say, ‘here is something new!’ but no, it has all happened long before we were born. No one remembers what has happened in the past, and no one in days to come will remember what happens between now and then.”
The last idea is that history is more like an arrow that has been shot from a bow. It is going somewhere. We might not see the big picture, but there is a clear aim, there is somewhere that all this life on earth ultimately leads to.
So, which view is your view? I’m not sure if it’s possible to hold the third view if you have no belief in God or an afterlife. What do you think? I would be very interested to hear from anyone who does hold that view and who doesn’t believe in God. It is certainly the view held by religious people but if there is no God, I’m not sure where life could be leading. What do you think?
I thought about this a lot when I was a teenager. Actually, I was a very unhappy teenager – all those hormones whizzing round made for a very troubled person. I also could never summon enthusiasm for things that I felt had ‘no point’ (a common view amongst middle children I believe.)
This was something of a problem at school and I frequently skipped lessons and rarely troubled much about homework. It wasn’t helped by our family having very little money. Why learn French if the only foreign country you are likely to visit is Wales? I was also brought up to believe that the best thing for girls to be was a wife and a mother, so what use was chemistry going to be? (I do now, as an adult, think that being a wife and mother is an excellent thing to be. However, I also think that other careers are also excellent. I do sometimes wonder if I might have made a good journalist, going around the world and giving other people a voice. Some better qualifications would have been helpful. Too late now…)
I did actually, for a while, get very depressed. I was brought up in a religious family, but we were pretty much taught rules and knowledge. I really couldn’t see the point of life. If the point was to have fun, and I clearly wasn’t, then why bother? If there was a Heaven, why not just go there straight away?
No one ever told me (or at least, if they did, I never heard) that there was a plan and that I was part of it. I never heard anyone explain the last view with the addition that the God who had ‘shot the arrow,’ actually had a purpose for me, there was a point to being alive, right now, even if I didn’t always see it. I wish someone had told me that. That’s why I’m telling you.
Thank you for reading.
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