Lead Article

  • Issue 94 / July - August 2013



    The Enigma of Time

    M. Fethullah Gulen

    Under no circumstances can it be said that any nation possesses a greater authority than others with respect to physical power or spiritual values. However, when it comes to managing time and utilizing every second as if they were precious stones, some nations are considerably more advanced than others.

    Time is not a void traversed from above. It is a precious jewel to be acquired and put to use. It is the most valuable commodity we have, and an important capital bestowed upon humanity in this marketplace we call the world. Throughout history, those who have been able to fathom the mystery of time, have uncovered the secret of how to exist with it. Those who considered time a vacuum were devoured within its gnashing teeth.

    If any nation desires to attain honor, splendor, and glory, with the hopes of being a balancing factor in international relations, then they must first learn to command time. Not even a millisecond of it should be wasted, and the methods used to fully utilize time should be taught to succeeding generations.

    There is one significant rule for those on this path: they have to claim full possession of their past as a foundation on which they can develop plans and projects for the future; while doing so, they should still focus on current issues, and be conscious of the present dynamics. What use is it today that we were happy and fortunate yesterday? What will remain tomorrow, even if the present circumstances shower us with comfort and felicity? If the future is a glasshouse built upon dreams, what will it offer to today’s unfortunate? The past, indeed, ought to be seen as a crown upon our heads and a source of pride - but we should be prepared for the future with such diligence and spirit that those prosperous years do not merely remain as epic tales and legends in the moth-eaten pages of books.

    Creation—each particle of which is a world of hidden truth and wisdom, each instant of which contains a lesson to be learned—is an exhibition for those vigilant souls who gaze carefully upon it; it is a book with each page on display, providing inspiration for hearts; and it is a musical where every note that is heard instills the knowledge of God in the listener’s conscience and heart.

    We witness the wonders of creation in a multitude of ways. We gaze upon the luminous sun, the azure sky, and the endless seas bubbling with our aspirations for eternity. We look out from between peaks and plains, with the consciousness of the vicegerents of the earth. We come face to face with distant stars by observing the depths of space through telescopes, and become acquainted with tiny insects by descending to their microscopic world. We attempt to perceive and understand the events of nature within the passing of seasons, recognizing the springs, summers, autumns, and winters that come one after another, year after year. We ceaselessly contemplate the resplendent world of the eyes and ears, listening for the wild chatter in the forest depths alongside the sweet susurrus of the wind rustling in the leaves. We listen to the sorrowful poets of day and the eloquent orators of night reclined upon their thrones in the tree branches. We strive to see the brilliant countenances in places of worship and in other works of art. We experience, one after another, heat and cold, bitter and sweet, beautiful and ugly, and discover the unifying spirit behind opposites. We greet the future with new syntheses, new evaluations, and new discoveries, both in our conscience and the external world, as we prize each moment of life with an appreciative contemplation. Indeed, we find the essence of existence through all of these; we accelerate the flow of existence with these. And then, when the time comes, we tear away from it entirely. Thus is the luminous path to union with time.

    Those who complain of not having enough time to work and think, and who perpetually curse and bemoan time, can falter through heedlessness and deviancy; whereas those great souls who etch their spirits’ inspirations on every fragment of time have found it to be even more expansive than they initially thought. By using time wisely, they have explored all facets of creation, down to the minutest detail. With this care and vigilance, and through perceiving the reality beyond creation, great thinkers like Ghazali attained a second existence; those like Rumi were entranced by the uplifting breaths of time, and embraced every corner of the world with its clamor; scientists like Newton, interpreting even the smallest event, such as an apple falling to the ground, discovered the laws like gravity, and proved that time could suffice for everything. These personalities of great stature, at one with time, utilized the inheritance of the past in the best possible way, and investigated, in every detail, the time in which they lived. From the moment at which they were recognized, they were respectfully greeted and welcomed the world over and, like the seeds sprouting on the hardest rock, they took root in the consciences of even the most primitive societies.

    The fortunate generations of the future are going to make the best possible use of time, are not going to fail at working while thinking, at reading while working, and while reading, they will not neglect serving others for the sake of exalted ideals. They will know how to remain forever lively, forever colorful.

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