Thursday, September 29, 2011

"To have more is not to be more"

In Lewis's novel Out of the Silent Planet, the antagonist Weston attempts to explain why his civilization is superior to another.  He says,

"Your tribal life...has nothing to compare with our civilization--with our science, medicine and law, our armies, our architecture, our commerce, and our transport system which is rapidly annihilating space and time.  Our right to supersede you is the right of the higher over the lower."

For Weston, the annihilation of space and time is proof of advancement.  I am reminded of Rabbi Heschel's words about the Sabbath in his book Between God and Man, where he advances a quite different view:

"Technical civilization is man's conquest of space. It is a triumph frequently achieved by sacrificing an essential ingredient of existence, namely time.  In technical civilization, we expend time to gain space.  To enhance our power in the world of space is our main objective.  Yet to have more does not mean to be more. The power we attain in the world of space terminates abruptly at the borderline of time.  But time is the heart of existence."

The conquest of space - that is, of gaining power over things and making them our servants - comes always at the expense of time, which we often expend as though we could withdraw from that deposit infinite sums without deficit.