I have a deep fascination with time. I am acutely aware at how fast it passes and am dismayed that I’m forty five years old. It is not a sadness at no longer being young but more-so being very surprised that this age has come so quickly. I’ve always known that time is precious and that is a main reason I write this blog. I’m the only person I know who can read about his own life and remember what it was like. Memories alone are like faded photographs: they are black and white images that only convey what happened with very little feeling and emotion. In reading my own words at various times in my life I’m transported back to that time and can catch flickers of my mindset and the emotions of the time. The memory becomes alive. It is for this reason I’m also one of the few that have strived to keep in touch with old friends. By reading my entries I remember those bygone times very vividly and the connections I had. I’m always the one who makes contact whereas my contemporaries have all forgotten and thus never initiate contact with me.
Music is another medium in which I can remember the past. When I was in high school I would always sit in my little gaming chair with only a few inches from the floor situated in my little “Sega Cove” under my bunkbed. I’d put in my headphones connected to my Sony CD Walkman and listen to Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb rocking back and forth immersing myself in my thoughts and feelings about the present and wondering about the future and what my life would be like. It was a powerful experience full of that deep emotion we all feel during our teenage years. I had a beautiful girlfriend, good friends, was on the wrestling team and had no idea about what the future held.
I am now living that future and sometimes put in my wireless headphones connected to my cell phone before sleep and listen to that same song. I try using my mind to reach out to my younger self across time and space. “Hello, is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me, is there anyone home?” If I concentrate I can put myself back in that Sega Cove, feel the rocking back and forth, remember the excitement of finally having a girlfriend and the anxiety of each upcoming wrestling meet. Feelings and emotions as a teenager burn fiercely imprinting themselves upon the soul. Just as Cat Steven’s said “The First Cut is the Deepest,” the emotions are new, raw and fresh. At forty five they have all faded with time and experience like old scars, still there but barely noticeable in the psyche. Playing Comfortably Numb that scar starts to throb again and I enjoy the feelings, even the sad ones. At forty five feelings and emotions are tempered, there are no high-highs or low-lows for me, it is as though I really am comfortably numb and simply want to feel something again.
So through my mind I reach out to my younger self in a semi-hypnotic state wondering if in some dimension, or parallel universe I can actually make contact.
The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”William Faulkner – Requiem for a Nun
Time isn’t necessarily linear. You can perceive it in many different ways, linear is simply the one we’re used to. Accept the irrational, and dive deep into the lake. And so I dive deeply and reading this book I hope to find some proof of that past somewhere in this vast and mysterious universe.
Here are my highlights and thoughts from the book:
Most of us rarely give a second thought to our everyday conceptions of time and space. Minutes and hours pass by – too slowly when we are waiting for a delayed flight, too quickly if we are hurrying to finish a task before a deadline. Day and night, summer and winter follow each other in unsurprising sequence. And the space we occupy has predictable and unyielding physical properties; When something is here, it cannot simultaneously be elsewhere. To get from one part of space to another – be it from this room to the room next door, or from one planet to another – requires physical movement, or so we believe.
The first part of this quote reminds me of the cartoon about a one eared bunny Matt Groening wrote before the Simpsons called “Life in Hell.” One strip showed a young bunny being in agony at how slow only 15 minutes passed when they wanted to get out of school. In the next strip it showed an old bunny sitting down to wait for a doctor’s appointment but immediately getting up as an hour had already passed.
The second part of the quite gives me home that perhaps a teenage version of myself is still rocking to Pink Floyd in that Sega Cove.
Among these scientific theories: that space and time are not two different entities but aspects of a four-dimensional continuum that might better be called space-time; that this space-time can be bent or folded onto itself and that there may be holes in it; that more dimensions may exist than the four we are used to thinking about, perhaps as many as twenty-six, although the extra dimensions may be curled up in tiny nodules we fail to notice; that instead of one universe there may be zillions of universes, all existing right here, right now.
Interesting thought. Perhaps one day I’ll have the ability to visit them if I keep up my meditation practice.
Whereas Westerners traditionally have tended to think of time, space, and objects in space as separate, unchangeable entities, Taoists saw all three joined inextricably in an ever-changing matrix (which, as it turns out, bears a somewhat closer resemblance to the modern scientific view of time and space as a composite whose quantities can change relative to each other). In Chinese art, clouds symbolize this perspective because they are constantly changing shape – quickly in a heavy wind, slowly on a calm day – but always changing. Taoists believed that even mountains were nothing more substantial than cloud forms, changing shape by the millennium rather than by the minute. They also believed that these outer changes corresponded to inner, personal ones. According to the Tao, you are changing even as you read these words; the information they convey becomes a new part of you.
By reading my own words from decades ago I’m able to change my internal shape from a mountain to a cloud but only momentarily. This blog is a precious gift to myself.
Since only change was eternal, the best way for a person to live well was literally to “go with the flow.” By heeding the patterns of change one could follow them like a canoeist negotiating river rapids, a skill honed by balancing one’s personal yin and yang.
Although latter-day enthusiasts frequently refer to the I Ching as an oracle, its original purpose was not fortunetelling. Instead the reader was meant to gain a clearer perspective on his or her situation in the flow of time and space as it was occurring at that moment, in order to swim with the current of change.
There has been a lot of change over the past few years with Trump, COVID, loss of friends, changes at work and even the climate. I’m not in a flow, but more of a riptide and in the confusion I find that the last three years are not much more than a blur. In fact, just yesterday I forgot how old I was and had to use an age calculator to be sure of my age. As I write these words a verse from Pink Floyd appears at the perfect time as though my younger self is reaching back out to me. The other song I listened to along with Comfortably Numb was “Hey You” and I just heard this lyric.
“Hey You, out there in the cold, getting lonely getting old, can you feel me?”
It was said that the Spaniards waited until 1698 to invade Mayan territory because Spanish missionaries in previous expeditions had learned that the end of a cosmic cycle was due in that year. When the European invaders arrived, the Maya regarded them as a sign that the world was ending and fled without resisting.
As advancing civilizations left their ancient roots behind, they grew nostalgic fro the bygone beliefs that allowed them to escape the relentless march of profane time, which so often seemed to lead to a degraded and unhappy existence. But having lost the ability to easily transport themselves from profane time to a sacred time, they sought other answers, in new explanations for the universe, to replace the ancient, organic, cyclic mythologies of time and space they had outgrown.
Like other ancient cultures, the Greeks viewed time cyclically Their Great Year was a universal circle that revolved through the “gold, silver, bronze and iron ages” of civilization until all life was destroyed by a Great Winter and a Great Summer, eventually to be re-created and rolled through the ages of history once more.
I do not wish to live my life again as a young person. I would very much like to just spend a day as my younger self again with the knowledge I have now. Or, I’d like to commune with my younger self exchanging thoughts, feelings and emotions. I can attempt the latter as crazy as it sounds. I think this would also make a great movie if anyone from Hollywood is reading.
And our sense of time’s passing changes as we age. Days may seem almost boundless for a child, but they pass all too quickly for an adult.
I referenced this thought already with the Matt Groening cartoon.
In modern Western societies, time stretches out along a horizontal path, one event following another, marching on into the future. From such a time line springs the Western notion of progress, that today is better than yesterday and that tomorrow will surpass today. Conversely, many non-Western cultures have a vertical, essentially static vision of time; for them, the events of the present are intertwined with those of the past and future. Tradition is valued as well as progress.
The Iroquois Indians of the American Northeast are an exceptional example of a culture with a vertical time perspective. When members of the Iroquois nation gather together to make a decision, they consider the wisdom of their ancestors and the needs of their future descendants as well as their current desires. Past, present, and future become part of a single time frame. As a result, the Iroquois are remarkably forward-looking, much more so than Westerners, who tend to be interested only in the immediate future. “Every decision we make relates to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come,” explains an Iroquois chief, “and this is the basis by which we make decisions in council. We consider: Will this be to the benefit of the seventh generation? This is a guideline.”
I agree with the Iroquois. Our society only lives in the present with no regard for the past or future, only how much money can be made today. We are a society with no concept for the importance of time.
In monochronic cultures, the schedule becomes sacred. Trains and planes are expected to run on time. Appointments are made to the quarter hour. In Japan, where the business world is highly monochronic, working environments are tightly scheduled, from teh workers’ morning exercise program to their afternoon tea break. Even the traffic patterns are tightly controlled for maximum speed and efficiency. According to the Osaka Prefectural Police, a traffic-control system installed in that city in 1975 has reduced travel time by 17 percent and has saved more than 200 billion yen (about $850 million) in valuable time.
Polychronic time by contrast, is slower, more people-oriented. The process of completing a transaction, particularly the interaction of the people involved, is valued more than preset schedules. As a result, getting to an appointment on time is not taken as seriously. In Ecuador, for example, a woman on her way to an appointment may stop to talk to someone on the street and discover that a mutual friend is in the hospital. She immediately changes direction and heads for the hospital to visit her friend. Her first appointment must wait.
In many traditional cultures, however, time is measured not by the ticking of the clock and abstract numbers but by concrete and often colorful descriptions of specific tasks or activities. As one scholar observed, the people of traditional cultures “don’t tell you what time it is; they tell you what kind of time it is.”
I am a “what kind of time it is” person. Months and years can pass making no impression on me and are easily forgotten. I do remember sitting on the porch drinking wine with family; I remember spending time with my boys and watching them grow; I remember first dates and the excitement of being with a girlfriend; I remember times with good friends. The isolation of the COVID period is mostly devoid of feeling, of special times and thus are easily forgotten.
Time slips like this one – if they actually occur – call in to question our traditional understanding of time. They suggest for instance, that the past is not over or finished but in some way still exists or at least has somehow left a record of itself that can be perceived with the senses.
This gives me hope of being able to make that contact with my younger self. Perhaps my idea is not so crazy after all. I do feel as though I can perceive myself rocking under the bunkbed at 18 years old listening to the same exact song at two periods in my life. It takes practice and a deep meditative state to even get close which isn’t easy.
Jung saw these symbols as representing archetypal human concepts and used them to justify his notion of a universal linkage between people in different dimensions of time. How else, he wondered, could one explain a Hindu graphic symbol called a mandala showing up in the art of the American Navajo?
And why are there pyramids in Egypt, Mexico and Cambodia? There is a link, it cannot just be coincidence. There is something going on.
Jung’s essay, which he entitled “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle,” argued the existence of a timeless unity that incorporated past, present, and future, and where mind and matter were fused as one reality.
Indeed and hopefully I’ll one day be able to tap into it more fully.