Word Search Projec
Word Search Project
8 January 2002
“Eternity is a terrible thought, I mean, where’s it all going to end?” (Adams, Henry B, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 670). Is it not a stunning reality that every one thought about even once in his life? That is how my tough adventure with my word “eternity” started, because I was also wandering what eternity might be or what might be eternal. Through my research, I found myself in the middle of the infinite meaning hiding behind the word. The only definition that I knew before I started was “time lasting forever”; however, from source to source my knowledge expanded and I learned the other meanings of it. After so many searches, I gathered more than twenty sources. I took notes on them. I studied on them, thus I was ready to write this enormous paper. By writing this paper, I want to explain what I know about the word before and what changes after the research as ideas in my mind, to define the word by examples from my entries and finally to add my own opinions about eternity.
In Webster’s Third International Dictionary, eternity is defined as the condition of being eternal and being immortal. The synonyms of the word eternity: endlessness, immortality, infinitude, perpetuity, etc., also show us the meanings of the word (Collins English Thesaurus in A-Z form). We can understand that eternity is an old word because now after much scientific research we know that nothing can be eternal and timeless. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first time that eternity is used in texts was in the 14th century: “ God is eterne..lat vs considere .an what is eternite.” (OED).
We often come across the word in old religious texts. In the Koran, the first meaning of the word eternity is used for describing the power of God. According to the Koran, it is God who possesses the power and it is only him who is eternal. In the verse Purity of Faith, God is described as eternal and absolute (Koran, 112:1). Izaak Walton also stated the same idea: “God enjoys himself only by comtemplation of his goodness, infiniteness, and power.” (Webster’s Third International Dictionary, eternity). The power of the God is also emphasized in the verse “The Prophets”: “No man before you (Mohammed) have We (God) made immortal” (Koran, 20:120). In the verse, we understand that, God gives immortality to his prophet.
In addition to describing God’s power, in the religions, eternity is often used to symbolize life after having no end and the place where the ones who were once living will live as immortals. For example, Christian people believe that after , the ones who trusted God will rise up in the clouds (Chirstian Answers Network, Resurrection to eternity page 2). Fernado Ortega stated the same idea in his song: “ Sometimes I call Your name / But I cannot find You. / I look for Your face, / But You are not there. / By my sorrows, Lord, / Lift me to You, Lift me to your side” (Lord of Eternity, 9-15). We can see the same symbol in the Koran as it is in the Holy Bible:
“ Here is all that you were promised. It is for every penitent and faithful man, who fears the Merciful, though He is unseen, and comes before Him with contrite heart. Enter it in peace. This is the day of immortality.” (50:34)
As you can see, in most religions, is related to its contrast;
immortality. This difference is due to the idea of eternal time after . People believe that after , time will be useless as it is in the idea of eternity. In addition, we know that, according to the religious beliefs, living things are mortal; however, their souls are always immortal.
In the Emily Dickinson’s poem, the eternity is described as the place where livings will be after very brilliantly:
“Our journey had advanced;
Our feet were almost come
To that odd fork in Being’s road
Eternity by term.” (Time and Eternity, LXII 1-4)
Emily Dickinson’s definition of eternity is the odd fork that people meet at the end of their lives. This fork symbolizes in the poem Heaven and Hell. The poet sees the life after as eternity as it is in all of the religions. The image of heaven can be more clearly seen on the lines which say: “Eternity’s white flag before. / And God at every gate.” (Time and Eternity, LXII, 11-12). As in the religions sky is the symbolic image of the Heaven, in the poem the white flag symbolizes the purity of Heaven and the sky. and from the last line we can understand that God is the one who rules Heaven. As you can see, all of the ideas in all religions and in the minds of most people describe eternity as heaven and thus, eternity becomes for the people a celestial concept.
Besides today’s religions, the idea of eternal life and life after are also important in the old mythologies and religions. Osiris, who is one of the gods in old Egypt, is known as the Lord of Eternity. Osiris is the god who rules the land of afterlife. In the Hymn to Osiris, he is described as the god of the Celestial Oceans (Book of , Egypt: the Complete Guide). In that piece of Egypt mythology, the Celestial Oceans are very similar to Heaven and Hell, which are told in the holy books.
In addition, when you look at the both religions, old ones and even the ones at which people believe now, the place where people would live after is located in the sky. In Fernando Ortega’s song “Lord of eternity”, which is based on the Christian religion, and in the Hymn of Osiris, which is a piece of old Egypt religion, the image of sky is clearly stated. The main reason why sky is interpreted as eternity is that, in old times, people saw sky as infinite and eternal; because they did not see the end of it. Thus, they started to see it as a place where God or Gods live(idea of Osiris being the god of Celestial Oceans). Even today, a similar idea exits. We think that space is an infinite emptiness. We interpret it as eternal. Even after so many scientific explorations, we cannot figure out if there is an end or a starting point of the space. Thus, space became an eternity for us after that once sky was for the ancient people. Lord Byron’s depiction of eternity fits the description of space: “Dark-heaving; -boundless, endless, and sublime- the image of eternity.”
The idea of eternal life and immortality is often used in old
mythologies. In the past, alchemists searched for an herb to make the potion of eternal life. In the past alchemist are the ones who searched an herb for the potion of eternal life. In addition, a Chinese myth tells about a potion of eternal life. The myth says that while the Empire is ruled by King Yao, ten suns causing danger for the life on Earth appeared in the sky. He asked an archer named Houyi to shoot down the suns. After the archer succeeded, Houyi asked the king to give him his daughter, Chang O. His daughter was a very vain lady. Meanwhile, as the king is worried about another disaster, he gave Houyi the potion of eternal life. However, it was the daughter of the King, Chang O, who drank the potion. Instead of becoming immortal, because of her vanity she was punished to rise up in the sky and live on the moon forever(The Allure of the Moon-Moon and Tell, Apollo 11, Discovery Channel Canada Website). The idea that I got from that myth is that eternal life, in every society, is something that everybody wanted to possess, however it is impossible to get. It is very similar to the idea in Fernando Ortega’s song; he wanted to reach God however it is impossible. He wanted to be beside God, in other words he want to be . For instance, reaching eternal life or eternity is impossible as a living and it is under the control of God.
On the other hand, when we come back to a more recent time, in Shakespeare’s writing the word eternity is interpreted as a symbol of power and the life after . In the comedy; Love’s Labor’s Lost, the king uses the word eternity as being immortal: “That honor which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge / And make us heirs of all eternity.” (1.1.7). In those verses king is talking about and the Angel of . The Angel of is a very intense symbol for and his scythe is always seen as a very powerful object. For him, eternity is a symbol of evil power that he wanted to posses. Moreover, in the Second Part of King Henry the Sixth, William Shakespeare uses the word eternity as immortality: “Death, at whose name I oft have been afear’d, / Because I wish’d this world’s eternity.”(2.4.88-89). Thus, we can clearly see the changes in the word from person to person. According to the king’s verses, the eternal life is considered as symbol of infinite power. However, for the duchess in Henry Sixth, eternity is the opposite of . The duchess feared and did not want . Instead, she wanted eternity. In my brother-in-law Alptuğ Ölmez’s, view the theme of Fearless (a film by Peter Weir) also describes the same idea. In the film, the hero becomes fearless of because he thinks that he became immortal after the past events.
Besides symbolizing life after and immortality, the word eternity is very similar to the infinity. According to our school’s mathematic teacher, Paul Murphy, infinity and eternity are the same because they both describe time, which has no end. In dictionary.com, infinity is described as unbounded space, time, or quantity. Similarly, in OED, one of the definitions of eternity is infinite time, which has neither beginning nor end. For example, in mathematics the sign “¥” is used for describing infinity of numbers. The numbers are assumed to be infinite; without a beginning and without an end. Similar to that, eternity is used to describing the endless time: having neither beginning nor end. My brother-in-law, Alptuğ Ölmez also stated the same definition to describe eternity. For him eternity is the time that last sforever. According to Cowley there are two kinds of eternity; one is the past and the other is the future (OED). By this statement, he wanted to emphasize that time cannot be limited by the present and the eternal time include the things that were and the things that will occur in the future.
Even today, the concept of eternity is a subject to discuss. In the New York Times, Dennis Overbye stated in his article that the astronomers often debate the expanding of the universe. In the article, he wrote that the universe was not only expanding but also the expansion was speeding up. Thus proof for eternal universe became more and and more stronger. In addition, Dr. Abraham Loeb also emphasizes eternity of the universe: “There is a infinite amount of information we can collect from the universe.” Although, Dennis Overbye’s statements about the universe are positive, the explanations given about the life in the universe is somewhat negative. However our souls are eternal, our kind will not survive forever. According to the article, as the universe is accelerating, a new source of heat is formed. It is called Hawking radiation, which is incredibly small; billionth of billionth of absolute zero. Overbye explained the theory by a quotation from Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss: ”The Hawking radiation kills us because it gives a minimum temperature below which you cannot cool anything, Since there is a finite total energy, this means a finite lifetime." (The Universe Might Last Forever, Astronomers Say, But Life Might Not, 1 January 2002). Thus, we can understand clearly that eternity is unapproachable for livings. Eternity describes only imaginary concepts; life after , God, immortality, etc.
At the beginning of this project the only meaning of eternity that I knew
was infinity. Now, I would like to think that I know every small detail
about eternity. I learned that it describes many more things than I
imagined: God, infinity, time, sky, immortality, etc. What I also learned is
that it's impossible to know everything about a concept and this is a very
valuable piece of knowledge for me. For this reason, I would like to dedicate my work to my teacher because as Henry Brooks Adams said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” (The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 2).
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