The murderer approached the couple he intended as his victims with a promising smile. He offered, "You know what? I have the secret of eternity; and it's your Lord Who is keeping you from becoming an angel and from being eternal. If you take this fruit and eat it, you won't be bound by anything anymore; nothing will limit your freedom." His poor victims were not aware of what was waiting for them. They had never seen someone lying. How could they guess that this smile was the smile of a vicious snake? They replied, "Is that right? It must be very nice to be eternal, to be completely free…" The murderer felt that his ploy was working, but he thought he must tempt his victims to come closer: "This is just a small bite. There is no risk in taking it, for you can always step back. Look at me-do you see anything wrong?" The victims' minds were sliding down a slippery slope towards full confidence in the words of this unknown fellow. Then, they looked at each other; both were eager, and they tried it. And so the murderer easily killed the gullible couple with the poisoned fruit.
Upon their death, the victims found themselves in another world. Now, they tried to understand what had happened to them. First, they realized that they had been terribly deceived by the murderer. As a lesson from this unfortunate experience, they also realized that their inherent love for eternity had been abused by the murderer. Days passed, but they did not receive any word from their Lord. The burden of being away from the abode where they were in touch with Him became unbearable. They understood that where they came from was actually the land of eternity.
In later times, they would recall those past days, and they would feel an expansion and serenity in their hearts, feeling apart from the passage of time. So, they started to associate the things of this world with things from their homeland. Thus, they cherished their memories of when they were in the eternal land. Most of all, they each recognized the other as a mirror to remind them of the Eternal Beloved. So, everything they loved in this new place gained a sort of eternity with their longing for the eternal homeland and the Eternal Beloved.
Sometime later, they had children. As the children grew up, the parents related their stories to them, and talked about the homeland with their voices longing for return. The children also took on this behavior from their parents. Just like when their parents expressed their yearning for the homeland, whenever the children talked about loved things or whenever they were with people they loved, time would pass like lightning, and they would wish that those moments would not finish. As new generations followed, the expectation of eternity from the transient beloveds of this world evolved into a subconscious associating of eternity with them.
We do not know exactly how many years have passed since the time of Adam and Eve. Today, in spite of diversity in the definitions of love and the literature about it, there is a certain aspect of it which is the same for everybody who loves. Love changes our experience of time because we subconsciously associate it with eternity. Through this association, love motivates our actions. The limited time spent with the beloved seems very small compared to the human heart's hunger for eternity. So, we strive to extend those moments-the lengthy phone calls and the long eye-to-eye gazes stretch out between lovers.
Eternity in the realm of the heart reflects itself in the form of continuity with the material world. Similar to the desire for the eternity of the beloved, we would like the continued existence of our loved ones. For example, the first experience of love each one of us feels in this world is the affection of our mothers. The initial manifestation of this love is breast milk. It not only provides the nourishment we need, but also contains the materials and the live cells that supplement our immune system. Thus, breast milk serves the continuity of our life in this world. Later on, our mothers provide intense protection and give us our first education. Both of these form the basis of our continuity in this life. And similar to our mother's care, when we grow up, we too try to meet the needs of our loved ones in order to ensure their continuity.
In effect, we humans try to bestow continuity and eternity as a manifestation of love in accordance with the powers we are given. The love we feel is a projection of the infinite love that God has for His creation. Just as we strive for the continuity of our loved ones, God endows continuity on His creation by feeding and protecting us in this world, and granting us eternity by opening the hereafter to us. Since our existence is a temporary and dependent one, the continuity we ourselves give is also transient. However, God's existence is eternal and He is the Self-Subsistent; therefore, the eternity He gives will be an actual one.
In this life, we realize that love bears a seed of continuity in it. We feel the beauty of eternity hidden in the lovely memories of our very first ancestors. Our visions fill with the fruits of the tree of love that fosters such long-lasting relations. However, the conditions we live in today are not coherent with those delightful sensations. When we look around, we see love affairs that last only a very short time. Many people conduct their love life by changing their partners periodically instead of remaining faithful to their spouses for all their lives. The meaning of contemporary love is being reduced to "temporary mutual interest," obliterating the important notion of a "fellowship on the way to the Eternal Beloved." This drastic change points to the fact that, along with the passage of time, we have forgotten the heavenly stories told by our common parents.
What is it that we need in order to re-discover the seed of eternity in our hearts? It may be that we all need to retreat to our childhood to find the pure love depicted by the naivety of children. Maybe we need to forget the turmoil of daily life, and focus on the lesson that comes at the end of virtually every one of the bedtime stories told by our beloved mothers, "And they lived happily ever after..."
Seth Mette has a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at West Virginia University. He has a special interest in psychological fiction.