Temporality has always interested me. What does it mean that "I," a self, am part of the present moment? I learned from my short practice of Zen the importance of the present moment. What else is there but the present moment? But then I go to graduate school and begin to understand how the past and the future are just as real, and part of the present. Even eternity is part of the present, in a way.
I'm reminded of something I wrote previously, that when time and eternity intersect, the present moment gathers the self into a whole that exists fully in this fragmented world. Thus a space is opened for a “yes” to the transcendent call to freely choose ourselves in our “eternal validity,” as Kierkegaard would put it, that is, to risk everything and in faith and true freedom live out who we are given to be. God calls to us from eternity, reaching into time, calls us to be the people we are meant to me. The "extra-temporality" of our existence--we exist in both time and eternity--connects us to God in the midst of time. We are extratemporal beings. This means that although we are inside time in a way unlike other species, we are able to stand outside it, query its meaning, and sense its ethereal appearances and vanishings.
Corey Anton reminds me of the mystery of self inside time. I am aware that before I was, history is, and that after I am, history will be. The past is no more, yet in its elasticity it stretches forward to the present—and is. Who I am now is an continuation of who I was; therefore, because the past is never amputated, I am and am not constructed afresh each moment—I continue. The future is not-yet and nevertheless reaches backward to the present—and is; I am molded now from the formative influences of my future. For others I occupy a slice of time and existence. For them, a piece of me is here and now, there and then. For myself, I am an enduring temporal whole, unfolding in a continuing history.
At the intersection of all this exists the self, Catherine Keller’s "dancing evanescence" that in its transcendence somehow recognizes the reality behind the words, “I am the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega.” It is this subtle (or stark) recognition of the utter mystery of our existence in time and the resulting awareness of our dependence on the divine Mystery of the Alpha and Omega that makes possible a moment of free decision, or perhaps better said, a moment of intensity or intense awareness—a sense of ‘coming alive’ in which we do indeed choose ourselves in our “eternal validity.” This moment appropriates the tenses of time into a unified whole and is the dancing evanescence of the authentic self. The authentic self does not cling to past or future versions of itself, but instead is present—immediately in the now, trusting the touch of the holy Other and accepting the gift and task involved in the mystery of its own ‘realness.’