Our local PBS station reran the Bill Moyers interview with Joseph Campbell last week. Watching it in 2012 was an entirely different experience from viewing it for the first time 25 years ago. The interview is the same, but I’m not.
Twenty-five years ago, I did not grasp the meaning of Campbell’s statement: “Eternity has nothing to do with time.” I had been taught that eternity is forever—and in my mind, eternity was mostly in the future—after this life. Eternity and eternal happiness are the rewards for receiving the ordinances and keeping the commandments in this life.
Too often, I sacrificed the present for the future—wishing the present moment away for a perfect future moment—the time I would be caught up, no problems, no tasks to complete, no discomfort. Somehow, I thought that if I just worked hard enough that moment would come.
I was almost as crazy as my cousin Maddi who has spent her life battling everyone she knows—family, neighbors, employers. She never misses an excuse for combat. Not surprisingly, she never married. Being part of her parents’ eternal family is crucially important to Maddi, a devout Mormon. Currently, she does battle with her sisters over the care of their elderly mother. Once she asked me if there was any chance the hatred and contention between her sisters and herself will disappear in the Celestial Kingdom. How do you tactfully answer, “Not a chance” to a question like that?
One thing I’ve learned from reading utopian novels is that perfection is boring. No one wants to stay in Shangri-La or El Dorado. Dealing with problems, pain, and sorrow creates some of the joy of life. Eternity is now and life is beautiful—warts and all.