Chronicles in Ordinary Time 243: Non-Linear Time

Watch the film, Arrival. An excellent explanation of non-linear time.

My imagination and my theology is stirred by science fiction–the possibility that things may occur in the future that we can’t imagine. Faster-than-light space travel hasn’t even been theorized very well, and yet nearly all science fiction stories from the mid-60s onward have space craft that can travel faster than light. The only way to travel between star systems in a human lifetime.

On Monday, July 11th, 2022, from the White House, humanity got its first glimpse of what the James Webb Space Telescope has been seeing: a cluster of early galaxies. This telescope is designed to see further than humanity has ever been able to see.

the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula
This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.
Called the Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional picture looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. In reality, it is the edge of the giant, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, and the tallest “peaks” in this image are about 7 light-years high. The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the center of the bubble, above the area shown in this image.
Located roughly 7,600 light-years away, NGC 3324 was imaged by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) and Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI).

In viewing the images above and below, you are experiencing non-linear time. The electromagnetic signals that were sent from NGC 3324 happened billions of years ago. 7600 light years converts to 44,646,972,718,000,000 miles [international]. The counting of seconds is an experience of linear time.

You are seeing now, events that happened billions of years ago; and you are reading something I wrote days/weeks/years ago.

Why does this matter?
It may not matter at all to you; why does it matter to me?
The NGC 3324 image is simply beautiful. Its distance from Earth is approximated at 8500 light-years.
The images above show some of the most distant galaxies, whose ‘light’ [electromagnetic energy] have traveled for over 13 billion years. We are looking into billions of years in the past. Today. Non-linear time.

As a man of Faith, not raised in a religious environment, and trained to ask questions, and evaluate answers, non-linear time provides an answer to one of the most difficult questions of Faith: Why does Creator [higher power, deity] allow evil to happen?

  • When I use the word, ‘Creator’, I am not referring to some god located somewhere around Saturn, who is responsible for the good and evil in the world. Creator has been creating the Universe for tens of billions of years, at a minimum. Creator does not have a specific location.
  • Creator does not allow evil to happen. WE ALLOW EVIL TO HAPPEN. There’s no blaming of a deity for what is happening in the world this very moment. Nearly all the crises raising havoc in the world, causing me to be FEAR*ful for the lives of my grandchildren, are caused by human beings in the last century and more. Some actions probably out of ignorance; many caused by humans who just don’t give a shit.
  • For Millennia, humans have blamed all of the tragedies of the world on a deity. “Why did [deity] allow this to happen?” That question places the blame on Creator. We live on a planet that is spinning at the equator at a speed of 460 meters per second–or roughly 1,000 miles per hour. Earth travels around the sun at approximately 67,000 miles per hour. In addition, our solar system–Earth and all–whirls around the center of our galaxy at some 220 kilometers per second, or 490,000 miles per hour.

The land upon which we travel is broken into seven or eight major plates [depending on how they are defined] and many minor plates or “platelets”. Where the plates meet, their relative motion determines the type of plate boundary: convergent, divergent, or transform. Earthquakes, volcanic activity, mountain-building, and oceanic trench formation occur along these plate boundaries (or faults). The relative movement of the plates typically ranges from zero to 10 cm annually.

Underneath these plates of stone is molten lava.

We are living on top of an ever-moving ball, sitting, standing, walking, running, sleeping on molten lava. The idea that the world is unstable should be taught in every classroom on Earth.

* False Evidence Appearing Real

Evangelicals won’t like this one. I believe that all our pasts, presents and futures have been known by Creator since the beginning of the Universe. Given that Creator has know everything about us, everything we have done or are about to do, it is impossible for us to surprise Creator. Not surprising Creator means that our futures are already known. We don’t know how we end. Creator knows. Punishment for ‘sins’ is illogical.
Jesus did not die on the cross so we could be saved [lots of proof-texts with which to disagree]. Jesus died because He spoke out against the religious authority of the day. He healed people without involving the religious bureaucracy. He fed hungry people virtually out of thin air [the Creator of seeds made bread, bypassing the ovens].
Jesus came to bring Light into the world as the Second Person of the Trinity—all of Creator that would fit in a human form. Jesus either did bring Light into the world, or Jesus failed. Failure would mean that he was hung on a cross by Roman soldiers at the behest of the leaders in the Temple. Hung on a cross like all the other men the Romans crucified. Evangelicals stop at John 3:16 because it serves their purpose. The paragraph ends on verse 21.

19 This is the judgment: The Light has come into the world and the children of men loved the darkness more than The Light, because their works were evil.

Jesus was the only One to get back out of His tomb. He said that we can, too.
Jesus left behind, the Spirit of the Creator. He left Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity and became the Third Person of the Trinity.
Jesus’ followers, needing some structure similar to the religious environment where they were found, worked at bringing order to that which may not have needed order. The Emperor Constantine, in the Third Century AD, created the Holy Roman Empire.

Over a couple thousand years, it all got messed up, and turned into a religious circus.

  • The above is simplified from actual history.
  • The passage below is magnificent in its simplicity

The Jewish discovery that God is not a god but Creator, is the discovery of absolute Mystery behind and underpinning reality. Those who share it (either in its Judaic or its Christian form) are not monotheists who have reduced the number of gods to one. They, we, have abolished the gods; there is only the Mystery sustaining all that is. The Mystery is unfathomable, but it is not remote as the gods are remote. The gods live somewhere else, on Olympus or above the starry sky. The Mystery is everywhere and always, in every grain of sand and every flash of colour, every hint of flavour in a wine, keeping all these things in existence every microsecond. We could not literally approach God or get nearer to God for God is already nearer to us than we are to ourselves. God is at the ultimate depth of our beings making us to be ourselves.

Herbert McCabe

Informally named the ‘Finger of God’ or Defiant Finger

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