Eternity is a really long time

“Think of a ball of steel as large as the world, and a fly alighting on it once every million years. When the ball of steel is rubbed away by the friction, eternity will not even have begun.” – The Picturegoers by David Lodge.

I love this image. It’s so powerful in giving an idea of what eternity really looks like. We’ve all heard the word, but I’d never tried to give it emotional meaning.

Current thinking says that the universe has existed for 13.8 billion years, which is only 13,800 visits from the fly. So the entire age of the universe doesn’t even begin make a dent in the ball of steel. Perhaps there’s no such thing as eternity and the universe will end rather than continuing for eternity. Although the Heat Death of the universe seems to be at least 10100 years away, which is enough time for 1094 visits from the fly, an inconceivably large number.

But I don’t want to explore this question. It’s sufficient to just sit and marvel at the feeling of eternity conjured up by the image. Eternity is a really, really long time.

Links and Other Clicks

Here are other images of Eternity.

  • A sage was asked, “How long have we been on this journey?” He replied, “Imagine a mountain three miles wide, three miles high, and three miles long. Once every hundred years, a bird flies over the mountain, holding a silk scarf in its beak, which it brushes across the surface of the mountain. The time it would take for the scarf to wear down the mountain is how long we’ve been doing this.” – The Wheel of Illusion by Ram Dass
  • “If you have a steel ball, solid steel, the size of this earth, 25,000 miles in circumference, and every one million years a little sparrow would be released to land on that ball to sharpen his beak and fly away only to come back another million years later and begin again, by the time he would have worn that ball down to the size of a BB, eternity would have just begun”Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes
  • “High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.”The Story of Mankind by Henrik van Loon

I got the beautiful picture of the space landscape from here.

Here’s a fascinating article about Putting Time in Perspective.

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1 Response to Eternity is a really long time

  1. Jeffrey Suber says:

    I’ve heard a similar tale but it was a brass ball the size of earth and every million years a white dove flew by and brushed its wing tip lightly against the brass. When the stroke of the feather on the tip of the white doves wing had worn down a gulley to the radius of the brass orb, eternity had not even began.


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