A Very Brief History of Eternity

A Very Brief History of Eternity

A Very Brief History of Eternity

A Very Brief History of Eternity


What is eternity? Is it anything other than a purely abstract concept, totally unrelated to our lives? A mere hope? A frightfully uncertain horizon? Or is it a certainty, shared by priest and scientist alike, and an essential element in all human relations?

In A Very Brief History of Eternity, Carlos Eire, the historian and National Book Award-winning author of Waiting for Snow in Havana, has written a brilliant history of eternity in Western culture. Tracing the idea from ancient times to the present, Eire examines the rise and fall of five different conceptions of eternity, exploring how they developed and how they have helped shape individual and collective self-understanding.

A book about lived beliefs and their relationship to social and political realities, A Very Brief History of Eternity is also about unbelief, and the tangled and often rancorous relation between faith and reason. Its subject is the largest subject of all, one that has taxed minds great and small for centuries, and will forever be of human interest, intellectually, spiritually, and viscerally.


The death of any human being is an outrage; it is the out
rage par excellence, and all attempts to diminish this out
rage are contemptible, no more than opium for the masses….
Death is the unacceptable. The annihilation of one memory
cannot be compensated for by the existence of the universe
and the continuance of life. The death of Mozart, despite
the preservation of his work, is an utterly evil thing.

Why dawdle? Let's stare the monster in the eye, close up, right away: this book amounts to nothing, and so do you and I, and the whole world. Less than zero.

So the experts tell us.

These pages and all the words in them will burn up and vanish into oblivion some day, along with every word ever written, every trace of our brief existence and that of every living creature that has ever squirmed on the face of the earth or in its waters.

So we might as well revel in brusqueness.

Never mind that you and I are both headed for certain death, or that our species might face extinction. That's not the worst of it. No. Ponder this: not a speck will be left of you and me; no trace at all. And no number of progeny we engender, and no amount of technological marvels they invent, will make any difference either. Nothing can thwart the ultimate ecological and cosmic crisis.

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