Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How time flies.

What is time? Is it a thing? Is it a dimension? A place?

Many, many authors come to grapple with this question in their writing. Any time travel novel must treat time travel as something either magical or scientific. Magical would include books like "A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court" in which the hero is transported to the past by a blow to the head. Scientific would, of course, include a machine (in fact, they nearly always do) or a theory that had some reasoning behind it- something like "Timeline."

In fact, I'd make the argument that pure science-fiction always uses a machine. Anything else would require something bordering on magic. Which is why Madelaine L'Engle's books "A Wrinkle in Time" and "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" sit squarely between Sci-Fic and Fantasy. "Wrinkle" is more science fiction, but the means by which they travel is still more magical in form than scientific, no matter how much she says otherwise. "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" moves to more spiritual terms and lets time travel be a power that a creature can have. "Many Waters" on the other hand, actually uses a machine for the outward journey, although the journey home is more miraculous than otherwise.

And then, of course, there is God, who is outside of time. Which leads us to wonder, is heaven itself outside of time? Are the saints and the angels outside of time as well?


Hans Lundahl said...

according to Aquinas, the sempiternal of Heavenly glory, angels and saints - as well as their lower "counterparts" - are between the absolute eternity/timelessness of Holy Trinity and the temporality of this earth:

God has neither beginning nor end.
Heaven has beginning but no end.
Earth has beginning and end.

I am not sure all Orthodox theologians would agree on the Thomistic delimitation between Heaven and God.

There are also mystics to whom being in Heaven means being, so to say, in God.

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Carpe Guitarrem said...

One quick note, I'd actually say that even fantasy uses a machine to accomplish its time travel, that machine is just called "magic". Conversely, you could also argue that every novel uses magic for time-travel. Sci-fi merely backs it up with pseudoscientific technobabble. :-D

Bowman the Black said...

Since the saints and angels are created in time, they must exist in time. However, sharing in the Beatific Vision, they are not bound by time's limits.

I'll top you one better as well. Heaven is a physical place. It is outside this world entirely, but it has a physical aspect to it because of the following:

1) There will be a full Resurrection of the dead, and all bodies of the saints will be glorified. There has to be a place to hold those bodies.

2) We know from Scripture that there are at least two bodies there already (Elija and Jesus) and from Tradition that there are two more (Moses, backed up by his appearance at the Transfiguration, and Mary). Therefore, there has to be a physical dimension to Heaven right now; it's not something to be added later.

This also holds true for Hell as well. Aquinas has some interesting stuff on that subject too.