Faith: The fifth dimension
In a mass graveyard, time appears to be at a standstill, condensed to a sepulchral silence enveloping each tombstone. Densely inhabited by the dead who are relieved of the hurly-burly of worldly life, a necropolis constitutes the very antithesis of a metropolis. Unlike an urban sprawl, where life is always in a state of flux, fraught with a feeding frenzy, a cemetery is a tranquil scene, with gentle breeze caressing the headstones, birds chirping with abandon and bees fluttering from flower to flower. Unlike our high streets, boardrooms and the corridors of power, where everything moves at a maddening pace, our last resting place is kitted out like a calm and laid-back destination.
After what can be called a rat race against time, where we scramble to generate money, wield power, obtain positions and acquire possessions, we will find ourselves outsmarted on the finishing line by the very phenomenon against which we wage a spirited battle all through the life. Eventually, time subjugates us, shackles us in its chains, confiscates everything we have made- money, power and possessions and what not-imprisons us in the grave, and stamps the seal of its absolute victory over us in the form of a tombstone.
In life, we strive to be ahead of time; in death, we lie subjugated by it. In life, time acts like a chimera; it’s ubiquitous and serves as the ultimate yardstick of everything we do. We dread it so much that we try to circumvent it by doing things around it. We seek to tame it through our carefully choreographed schedules, agendas, diaries, working hours, deadlines, weekly meetings, monthly plans, quarterly reviews, and annual reports and so on and so forth. We also draw timeline to chronicle our milestones and achievements, until death proves them all weak, renders them irrelevant and announces the time’s triumph over us.
Time will have the last laugh. It’s consuming us. After licking the sugar coating off our life, it will spit our body out to death. No matter how earnestly and persistently we strive to move, grow, and expand, death will elbow us out to a diametrically opposite direction, to live a life of quietude and idleness in the grave. No one tries to project oneself there. It’s the writings on the tombstones that help us spot the individual resting places of our nearest and dearest.
Mostly the inscriptions on tombs would tell us the names of those buried in, with dates of their birth and death given in parentheses. It’s an irony that our tombstones talk only about our names and the dates of our birth and death, which all have nothing to do with our achievements but came to us without our knowledge and efforts. In graveyards, all our belongings and possessions are consigned to our names and all the invaluable years of our life are reduced to the two dates written in parentheses. Our names are probably given to us by our parents, while we are not privy to any information about our birth and death, which marked our entry to and exit out of this world.
Notwithstanding the varying degrees of success that we accomplished, the succinct encapsulation of our life has been done in a word or two which we are named after and a couple of figures indicating our birth and death- which all happened to us without our having any active role to play in it.
Prisoners of time and space
It’s not only in death, but also in life we are prisoners of time, despite all our pretensions to stemming the tide of it. Our earthly existence is hemmed in on all sides by time and space. We live for an appointed time, and there is a finite point beyond which we cannot physically grow or expand ourselves. The time and the space together constitute the four dimensions of our earthly existence. Our life spans a stipulated timeframe and our body is anchored within the precincts of a given height, weight and length. Whatever we do falls within the territory walled in by these four dimensions of which we are not the masters. In a sense, we are the prisoners of the time and the space when and where we are forced to endure our corporeal existence.
The freedom with which we are born comes with some invisible strings attached. There is no human activity without having a time and a place attached to it. To live means to consume the time allotted to us, no matter whether we occupy it with something productive or just while it away. Likewise, we exist by occupying a space, no matter whether we are standing, sitting or lying. We are free to move, but from one place to another and from one particular timeframe to another. We can turn at will, but from one direction to another; we can look around, but from one object to another. Although we are born and continue to grow up free, bestowed with willpower, our role in deciding the ‘when’s and ‘where’s of life is abysmally minimal.
We are slowly getting out of life, by living it. Each moment of our life is ticking away the quota of time allotted to us. We are fast running short of time, but without taking cognizance of it. Time is such an abstract concept and it moves so abstractly that in order to feel it we have to look into the universal signs indicating its movement-the solar and lunar cycles, the seasonal changes, variation in temperature, changes in our physical features etc. We don’t feel the movement of time, but understand it through the signs it leaves back around us and within us. Like a skilled craftsman, time is constantly chiselling us-and the whole world around us- into what we are today and will become tomorrow. But the combined time of all mankind and the total space they occupy look like an itsy bitsy speck in the eternal ocean of time and the infinity of the space.
But if we are constituted only by our body which represents the physical space we occupy and our age which stands for the time we are allotted, then our black and white existence comes to an end once and for all, when we are taken away from this cheeseboard of life. The game is over and the results are what the spectators can see.
But is it that simple? How can this colourful and melodramatic life come to such a dull and somber end as ‘death’? Or how can the end of this imprisonment we call life be such a duller and darker place as a tomb? If life is an imprisonment of time and space, why can’t death bring us the freedom and solace from all the chains and burdens weighing heavily on us? Can death liberate us to the freedom of endless time and infinite space? Can it render this limited sense of time and space irrelevant and put us on the eternal path to infinity? Will the heavy chains of this incarceration crumble into dust and will the metallic doors of this prison burst open, when we heave out of it with a last breath?
The fifth dimension
Although we enjoy a limited, finite and inferior version of existence in our earthly life, we are at the same time endowed with the immense potential and spiritual wherewithal to liberate ourselves to the freedom of its expanded, infinite and far more superior version- the hereafter or the life after death. The belief in the hereafter perfects our vision of ourselves, providing us with a 360 degree view of who we are. It adds a completely new dimension to our life’s mission and sheds new light on the directions we need to take. Without this view, our perception tends to be narrow and acutely short-sighted.
While the four dimensions of time and space help us understand the linear and predictable aspects of our self, it’s the fifth dimension of faith that accounts for the several nonlinear and uncertain twists and turns in the life. Without this faith, we are pathetically ill-equipped to carry on with this journey on a path full of hairpin bends and curves. When we look around, we can see things which are of a particular length, height and width. But the same things will be invisible to us, if they are too distant or too close for our eyes to see.
The faith in an unseen phenomenon beyond time and space or which can master time and space, and the faith in a life which will have time and space in abundance, as opposed to the short rations of them available to us now, enable us to get a comprehensive, holistic picture of who we are. This faith enables us to expand our perception of ourselves and broaden the cosmic spectrum within which we position ourselves. Faith helps us to get a clear vision of who you are and where you are headed to as well. It also helps us to blow the cobwebs of wrong perceptions regarding the long-term mission and purpose of our life. Faith also imparts a solid meaning to several things which run the risk of becoming meaningless in our mundane life. It relieves us from the pain and stress of the cyclically humdrum business of life, a lot of mundane tasks one after other, each one offering a semblance of comfort and pleasure.
However, we are so accustomed to view things from the four dimensions that the fifth one tends to easily slip through the immediate net of our perception. And without this dimension, which helps us to form a true picture of things, we lose a comprehensive vision of them. Actually it’s the fifth dimension which provides us the original idea and the most enduring vision of who we are.
As humans, most of us are born with all our sensory organs intact, but it takes a while before each one of them become fully functional. And it takes months, if not years, for our sensory system to start its full-fledged operations. And our ability to analyse the various sensory data we collect through these organs in order to form an opinion or reach a conclusion about them is something we develop over a long period of time. But our submission to God is something with which we are born and which will remain with us even after all our sensory faculties sink into atrophy.
What is amazing about life is that it’s only our body that is stuck in this time-and-space warp. We are endowed with certain faculties that are capable of breaking through the monotony of these four dimensions. If our body is made for a transient life, our soul is meant for an eternal leap. The soul can outlive body by aeons. While the body is a structure created by God, the soul is what He breathed into it. We are ephemeral creatures, but the underlying energy that drives us is divinely human.