Menu of Meditations

The Manuscript of Life

I was sitting alone at the breakfast table one morning, gathering my thoughts and energy for the day. The sun streamed in brilliantly through the café curtains, and I had a sense of being alone with God. It occurred to me that the whole day would parade before me in a long series of moments similar to this one. Some I would be able to anticipate, others would be a total surprise. But it is that succession of individual moments that make up what we call "time."

An image came to mind. I imagined that the day ahead was a large piece of paper on which were spelled out in sequence all the moments of the next twenty-four hours. Fixed over the paper was a small laboratory magnifying glass on legs. Because my human perception is limited, I was able to see the manuscript only through the glass, one letter at a time. I could look at that letter for as long as the moment lasted, and then the glass would move on to the next letter, the next moment in the document of my day. Once past a letter, I could not go back, nor could I see the next letter until the glass moved forward again.

It's tedious to read something when you can see only one letter at a time. Slow and frustrating. One must concentrate carefully to make any sense of what is being read. I wondered what it would feel like to wake up in the middle of this process without understanding what was happening.

I see one letter at a time, wonder what it means, move on to the next, ponder that for a moment, and so on, seeing no apparent connection between the letters. Sometimes there is a space between words where nothing appears in the glass, and I stare at the blankness for a while. The letters seem to be isolated, unrelated incidents, until it finally dawns on me that they might all fit together to form some kind of meaning. I don't know what letter is next, but I can recall the letter I just saw. When I try to remember the sequence, I begin to crack the code. The isolated letters spell words, and the blanks separate different words. The words form phrases that have a larger meaning, and the phrases eventually form sentences. Meaning is being conveyed, and I sense that I am reading bits of a manuscript which spells out some great truth. The more I read, the clearer becomes my sense of what the manuscript is all about. At times, I can even guess what word or idea might be coming next.

But there are other beings on higher spiritual levels who, because they are farther away from the page, can see larger portions of it. Perhaps the angels have backed away from the manuscript to the point where they can see whole words, perhaps even entire phrases, at one glance. But, at the same time, while that distance gives them a perspective that I do not have, it denies them my human experience. Other spiritual beings on higher and higher levels can see increasingly larger portions of the manuscript at once, whole sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters. Ultimately we arrive at God who alone is at such a distance from the individual letters as to be able to see the whole book at once.

God sees in an instant an event which for us is a sequence of moments happening one at a time. That sequence of moments creates for us the illusion of time. But God can see at a single glance the letter we are reading at this moment, the next twenty letters which are part of our invisible future, as well as all the letters we read yesterday, last week, last year. In that respect, time does not exist for God. What appears to us as time is only an illusion caused by our closeness to the manuscript. It's all a matter of perspective.

There's a fascinating fact at work here. Who wrote the manuscript? God did not, because that would violate the laws of free will. God merely set down the rules of grammar by which the manuscript must be written. We didn't write it, because we don't possess the knowledge. We may have chosen a title for the manuscript before we came into the physical world, we may even have sketched out a rough plot line. But the manuscript itself is being written as we read it. We know from scientific studies that an observer can influence the outcome of a laboratory experiment. In the same way, we influence the manuscript of our life even as we read its unfolding events. Thus, we always retain the ability to rewrite the ending. God may know everything, but even God cannot read what we have not yet written.

So, we must read and write thoughtfully. Perhaps God is the ultimate English professor, and judgment day is the moment when God red-pencils our autobiography.

Posted Apr. 15, 2004

Copyright: John W. Sloat 2004