In a semantics tutorial not so long ago, I bizarrely found myself saying something like, “Obviously, in this world, you wouldn’t blah blah (be able to find an extension for that phrase, or something).”
The slightly peculiar reaction from the student I was talking to reminded me (a) that they haven’t actually been told about ‘possible worlds’ theories yet, and (b) that anyway ‘this world’ is a phrase which maybe only trips off my tongue so easily because of how familiar is the concept that there is another world in addition to the one we presently live in.
But the thing is, I’ve been uncomfortably realising recently that the other world is much more distant from my thoughts than it should be, and having much less of an impact on my daily life than it really should. Whoever it was that said it, it’s true – eternity is just a step away; the only thing that separates us from the eternal world is the breath we breathe. It’s too common and far too easy to assume that things will carry on here just as they always have done – and more subtly, that we ourselves personally will always still be here. (It’s only very rarely that you seriously face up to the absolute certainty that it won’t be all that long before your life here will be irrevocably ended.) Whereas this mindset is glaringly counterfactual. ‘Change and decay in all around I see’ – nothing in this life is constant or perpetual, and grasping the implications of that would make a world of difference to how we live, if only we would grasp it.
Leaving the scene of time and stepping into eternity – that’s what our whole lives here are geared towards, and eternity is much more real, and much more near, than I for one really tend to acknowledge. It’s also much more important. ‘Teach us to number our days, and so to apply our hearts unto wisdom. O satisfy us early with thy mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.’ Let it be true, that ‘surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’