Abraham’s Journey p.5

Our time experience is three-dimensional; past and future address themselves to us in the fleeting moment of the present. We live, of course, in the so-called present, but it can envelop us only if it is interlocked with the other two dimensions. The retrospective mood is one of the major motifs of our time apprehension, and so is the glance that we cast at the silent morrow, at the “not yet,” at the expected or fervently desired or hated. Retrospection, in the sense of reliving and reincarnating, and anticipation, which gives rise to a new world, constitute the central motifs of our unique time experience. We see the distances separating the ages and millennia as not so pronounced as in general history.

Modern man has learned how to conquer relatively long stretches of space and geometric distance. Ancient man did not possess this skill. Yet man today has lost completely his memory and time awareness. He has shortened the distances in space but extended the lanes in the time continuum. He is not capable of this miraculous recessional into the centuries and of the bold and grand procession into unactualized and unlived time. He is isolated in the infinitesimal fraction of the now which is, in most cases, disconnected from the before and the after. Both realms are deserted by the pragmatic, utilitarian, hedone-seeking man of today, and they form a vast wasteland. Man wanders in the present, not daring to approach the gates of these mysterious kingdoms. He lacks continuity with both his progenitors and his descendants. Man forfeits his historical memory and his great vision, and in losing these two endowments he gives away his capacity for love and devotion, his normative awareness and his idealistic stivings. In the present, usefulness and pleasure reigns supreme.

 

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – Abraham’s Journey: Reflections on the Life of the Founding Patriarch p.5

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