Finite or infinite? the present choice

20170303_203711One of the desires of the human heart is for the promise of eternity. We hate watching one chapter of life end so much so that often we are dreading the end even while still in the beginning. Our hope is to achieve some form of eternal security, something that cannot be taken away from us. A state in which striving is unnecessary and our status is guaranteed. Yet while this is the goal for many, the actual realization of that goal is enough to drive many mad. Take retirement for example, phase of life which is as close to the striving free existence as one can get. For many, the sudden absence of a reason to get moving in the morning can be disconcerting. Often alternative objects and goals to strive after are sought. Few things about the human condition are as agreed upon by writers and thinkers across cultures as constant striving as a definition of the human condition.


However, while we are striving for more, bemoaning our finitude and pursuing the infinite, it rapidly becomes apparent how unfit we are for the infinite as well. Our minds and bodies make enjoyment of the infinite an impossibility. Life desensitizes us to the things around us, both pleasant and unpleasant. Bad odors which initially gag us upon entering a room no longer bother us after a few minutes. Exciting roller coasters or delicious treats which initially enthralled us become nauseating. Part of the human condition is the pursuit of new experiences. We want to hear new music, see new places, meet new people, eat new food. Expand this to the infinite. We are so bound to living in a finite place and time that we cannot think of an eternity with any form of accuracy, however let us make a few points. However one could think of an infinite life in this universe as a form of groundhog day. One may be able to change some things, go visit a new place here or there, learn a new skill, but over billion, or trillion, or more years, nothing new would exist. No new ideas, nothing new to experience. One would become inured to everything.


We seem to be neither made for the finite or the infinite. Rather our hopes and desires are caught up in the infinite which propels our behaviors and actions in the finite. It is living in this tension that we continue. As C.S. Lewis writes “For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” The only way to make a lasting impact is to live in the present. Spending time bemoaning our past and our finite nature, or conversely, only looking forward to a brighter future someday denies our humanity and robs us of our chance to make a difference with the time that we have been given.


Published by JR Stanley

I am an MD, PhD student, training to be a physician scientist, with a deep interest in science, faith, and living life as an adventure. Join me as I entertain ideas from new findings in science, evolving interpretations of faith, and experience life one day and one adventure at a time.

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