Eternity

“To love someone, is to tell them: ‘You will not die.'”
– Gabriel Marcel

As I recall that quotation, I’m reflecting a section from John Crosby’s book, The Personalism of John Paul II:

Unrepeatability and immortality:

Let us bring in here the great philosophical question of whether an individual human being in any sense lives on after death. Now if each of us were just a specimen of the human kind, if this were the whole truth about each, then there would be no point in any individual human being living on without end; an unending succession of different human individuals would provide all the continuity of existence that could be desired. If we want roses, for example, to continue in existence, it is quite enough to have an unending succession of roses; there is not need that this or that individual rose should never die. It is only because human beings have a different relation to their species than roses have to theirs, only because each human being is more than an instance of the human kind, more than a mere specimen of any particular type or quality, but rather a person, unrepeatably himself or herself, that each individual human being ought to exist forever. If a person were to go out of existence altogether then something would be lost to the world that could never be recovered in any subsequent person. Humanity would suffer an irretrievable loss. This loss is averted not by there being an unending succession of human beings, but only by the continued existence of each individual human person.

This is a beautiful and compelling antidote to the cosmological reductionism that inordinately emphasizes biological continuity. I also think that Judaism stresses generational succession because of a less differentiated eschatology and that, when some Catholics stress it ideologically, this indicates an impoverished conviction in the significance of an individual immortal soul.

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