Piddingworth Greg Benton
|'Piddingworth...where St. George's Cross is not yet banned.'
|The 'six degrees of separation' refers to the theory that, if a person is one
"step" away from each person he or she knows and two "steps" away
from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows,
then everyone is no more than six "steps" away from each person on Earth.
Even if one doesn't accept the mathematical certainty of the theory, it is
easy to acknowledge that there is an approximation of connectedness to
thousands of people in each person's individual experience. We may not
'know' the people with whom we are connected because we are connected
to others, but there is a link of some kind to a whole host of people whom
we don't know, that each of us possesses.
What of the degrees, not of separation, but of actual knowledge shared
with other people that permits a knowledge of others even beyond time
One of the distinguishing characteristics of being human is that of 'memory',
i.e., the ability to choose to recall events and images and experiences from
the past and into the present.
Given that most of us know our parents, aunts, uncles, cousins,
grandparents and even a great-grandparent for a time, the stretch
of 'knowledge' through memory can reach both vertically and horizontally
through time. We encounter others experience in time through
the sharing of memory.
Allowing for the average lifespan of threescore and ten (perhaps
more with people living much longer these days), it is possible
that through our parents memory of 70 years and our grandparents
memory of 70 years, the average person is able to connect with
a first-hand knowledge of a time perhaps 100 years or more from
now and many years before we were even born.
If we know our Grandad who was born in the 19th century and
are able to hear of his experiences as a boy and young man, then
we have a primary contact with that time through his memory.
If, as I did, one is also able to actually see the effects of that time
through him, e.g., his war wounds, our knowledge is even deeper.
Thus, when I see an historical programme on television about
the First World War, the battle of the Somme, et al, I feel
connected to those events directly through a man who lived
through those events. The images stir up a memory from
well over fifty years ago of a memory forty years before.
In addition, if Grandad is able to recall in memory his experiences
with his grandparents,then we are able to have secondary contact
with double the extension of time where we can reach back almost
If such primary knowledge comes through a great-grandparent,
the extent of knowledge in time is even greater.
Based on an average, it is theoretically possible to connect
with the events and people in each century by only two to three
primary contacts per century. The degrees of our separation
from, say Henry VIII, in the 16th c., could then be on average
through the knowledge of about only 10 or 12 people.
Using the same general calculation, each of us is separated in
time and memory from Christ by about 40 people.
Of course, we cannot access beyond the memories of those
with whom we have primary experience but it does lend
credence to the veracity of 'oral tradition' and the ability to
sustain in the present much of the past.
In Jewish and Christian theology, there is a concept called
'anamnesis'; a belief in the power of memory that is more than
a mere 'looking back' but rather bringing of the past to the present.
For the Jews, every Passover meal is a living experience with
power of God in the freedom that was their exodus from slavery.
Similarly, for the Catholic Christian, the eucharist, whose source
is that same Passover supper, is a living experience with
the crucified and risen Christ. The mystical power is made
manifest through time and space and into the present.
As is proclaimed at the blessing of the Easter Candle, 'all time belongs
to Him', the living, risen Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning
and the end. Time, being relative and determined by infinity, our ability
to enter into the experience of the eternal from our place here and now
is possible beyond memory and through the transcendence of time
and space in memory and prayer...which is every person's 'time machine'.
When we pray 'Our Father' through the eternal Spirit, we are
communicating from the depth of our souls, including all of our
memories, with the eternal Memory in which resides all time.
It is this same power that permits us to communicate with
the saints who live in that same eternal reality. Our knowledge
of them and they of us transcends the relative limits of our
earthly existence and is able to be heard and understood with
an immediacy and intimacy such as we might have with those
on earth but even more deeply in communion with God.
A woman I recently met expressed her desire to communicate with
her departed mother and she asked me if that was possible as she
had seen certain 'mediums of the dead' on television who claim to
contact people's departed loved ones.
These charlatans who use their snake oil on emotionally vulnerable
people with credit cards deserve an unhappy fate. Their deceit has
a source other than that of God and the heavenly realm.
We can indeed communicate with our departed loved ones but
not directly and only through the Spirit and power of God.
We surrender the souls of the departed into the 'hands of God'
that they might share in eternal life with Him. They are beyond
our time and space...but not beyond God who is the source of all
How will I know, she asked, if my mother can hear me?
He will let you know, I said. If you open your soul and heart to Him
In the meantime, our memory permits us a living experience with
those who now belong to the past by bringing them forth to
|The Degrees of Time|