A few years ago I wrote about time in the context of chronos and kairos, human time and God’s time.
I recently read what is probably one of the earliest stories about time travel, H. G. Wells novella, The Time Machine, published in 1895, from which I’m adding some thoughts.
Time is a human measurement, based on natural phenomena. The time the earth takes to travel around our sun is an (almost) fixed period. But the hours in a day are a human derivation. All of which might be completely arbitrary to God, for whom time is probably meaningless.
When the Time Traveller (he is unnamed but for this epithet in the original story) arrives in the year 802,701, his first impression might be described as a kind new Eden, or at least a heavenly place. The young population seems well provided for with no need to work. Their food and clothing are provided, there is no learning and are no scholars, there seems no need for them. They spend all their time relaxing and playing. That initial impression impression of the time traveller doesn’t last long
What the time traveller finds, once he begins to look a little closer at the future society he has landed in, is a world where there are signs of decay and atrophy all around. Humanity has degenerated to become lazy and indolent. With nothing to strive for, humanity has stagnated.
Worse. In the millennia since the time traveller activated his time machine and left victorian england, the humans in this false Eden have become like farmed animals, bred for a purpose. Time has turned the humans the traveller meets into domesticated herds of food, bred to feed the Morlocks, formerly human now a sub-human species living underground. How the Morlocks evolved is not explained in the original story (though an attempt is added in the 1960 film).
What crossed my mind as the story unfolded was the contrast with elements of biblical text. Jesus is the Good shepherd, caring for his flock and in turn after his ascension the flock must learn to care for one-another.
In Well’s story the flock has divided somewhere in the intervening years. What once might have been a shepherd class, caring for their flocks, have become subverted; breeding the flocks for their own use. They have become cannibals.
The Bible also tells of “a new heaven and a new earth”.But what at first appears heavenly could be deceptive, as we see looking deeper than the time travellers initial impressions of the distant future human society imagined in Wells’ novella.