by Bruce Epperly
[ene_ptp]This morning, March 8, 2016, I heard an archived interview with author Kurt Vonnegut, in which he suggested that we establish a new cabinet post “Secretary of the Future.” Such a secretary would look at the long term consequences of our actions. From the mountaintop, he or she would aspire toward a global and longitudinal perspective, looking ahead in terms of decades rather than focusing solely on the crisis of the moment.
I think this idea is insightful, both politically and theologically. A good life involves affirming “this is the day that God has made” and living in the holy here and now, it also involves living in light of eternity, and considering the long-term impact of small actions. This is surely the wisdom of the “butterfly effect,” a butterfly flapping its wings on the shores of Lake Tahoe in this now can shape weather patterns months from now faraway on a Cape Cod beach where I walked this morning.
In my upcoming Energion book, I ponder the issue of survival after death, “From Here to Eternity,” and suggest that we don’t need to polarize this world and the next. In many ways, we are already in heaven right “here” if we believe God is omnipresent, that is, present everywhere. We are already in God’s presence, which, according to many persons, is the definition of heaven.
“Here” our actions are performed moment by moment. We live in a constantly changing now. Yet the constantly changing now flows into an “eternity” of “now” moments, each following the other, emerging from the other, and evolving over time. Could it be that our “now” moments are creating our eternity? Could it be that God, whose mercies are “new every morning” enfolds each moment into a faithfulness that “endures forever?” Surely, if our personal identity persists beyond the grave, and to me that is the only meaningful form of everlasting life, one where we have self-awareness, a history, and continue to evolve in light of our history, then we are creating our everlasting life and the everlasting lives of others by each and every decision we make. “From Here to Eternity” is the movement toward future horizons, actualized in every well-spent now.
So, perhaps each of us—not to mention the government—needs a Secretary of the Future. We need to live in the moment, savoring the shimmering seascape, the bird in flight, the laughter of a child, and our beloved’s touch. We also need to see these passing moments, lived well and loved fully, as contributory to the future we dream of for us and our descendants.
Jewish mystics assert that the world is saved whenever a soul is saved. I would go further: in the stream of passing now moments, the world is tipped toward beauty or ugliness, life or death, one moment at a time. Such awareness moves us from self-centeredness to world loyalty, and enables us to rejoice in the moment and act for a future we may never live to see.
Let’s hear it for the Secretary of the Future! At the very least, let us live into this new position by doing something beautiful for God in every passing now.