The film, which won eight Academy Awards out of 13 nominations, including Best Picture, and which, later on in 2002, was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", is a star-studded Hollywood classic.
Its title comes from James Joyce’s 1951 novel, upon which it is based. Joyce took his title from a quote in Rudyard Kipling's 1892 poem titled "Gentlemen-Rankers", about soldiers of the British Empire who had "lost [their] way" and were cursed “from here to eternity".
Eternity itself is a common enough notion in our culture. We toss the term around lightly as we refer to complicated love stories as “eternal triangles”, or to coffins as “eternity boxes”. But to what exactly does eternity really refer? What does the concept involve? What, in short, is eternity all about?
In their recently published book titled The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back, Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock share an excellent illustration about what eternity involves.
Their illustration comes from Christian author and speaker Francis Chan. During a message on eternity, he brings out a very long rope. A very, very long rope! The rope winds around and around the stage, and it eventually runs off the stage to who knows where.
However, he soon reveals that the end of the rope which he holds in his hand, which is the beginning of the whole length of rope, is actually a short, one-inch section of the rope painted red. This is visually striking as the rest of the rope is white.
As his talk unfolds, Chan goes on to explain that the short, one-inch red section of the rope represents our lives in this world; while the rest of the rope represents eternity, after our lives here are over.
He then drives his point home quite well, asserting that far too many of us spend far too much time fretting and worrying about such a pathetically short span (represented by the one inch length of red rope); and yet we give remarkably little thought to what really counts, which is the never-ending span of rope leading off into eternity!
Kudos to Frances Chan for this wonderful illustration! And also to Phil Cooke and Jonathan Bock for bringing it to my (and perhaps your) attention. In so doing, they are all underscoring the teaching of Jesus Christ. For, in the New Testament Gospel of Luke, chapter 12, verses 13 through 21, we read the following…
13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’
20“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Clearly, Jesus is here cautioning against focusing only on what Frances Chan presents as the one inch section of red rope at the expense of the never-ending expanse of the rest of the rope disappearing off into the future.
In light of this, surely it behooves you and me to focus less on the first little inch and more on all that unfolds thereafter! For my part, I have done just that. I hope you have as well! If not, then the New Testament Gospel of John, chapter 3, verses 16-18 might be a good place for you to start…
16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Cooke, Phil and Jonathan Bock, The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get It Back (Franklin, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2018), page 208.
Multiple videos of Chan employing this illustration are available. The original presentation appears to be posted online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86dsfBbZfWs.