Dec03

The Limiting View of Time

Filed under Prose

aGZvDAWToday, everywhere and everyone is near to us, thanks to our technology. I have friends around the world, and I can speak to them instantaneously if I want. I can hop on a plane and be there, no matter where “there” is. So for us, our limitation is not space—it is time. For us, time is everything. For us, a long journey is not a matter of distance—it is a matter of time. So for us, when we think of the infinite, it is infinite time, not infinite space, that we imagine.

In the past, without the technologies that bring everything and everyone near to us, a long journey was one in space—the distance between two places—time was a less important factor than it is for us. For ancient cultures, it was space that was the limiting factor; not time.

To translate the experience of the infinite we must be aware of this difference. Because we have a sense today that we have a “handle” on infinite space—we read about the universe and watch films involving speed of light travel every day, after all—it doesn’t evoke the right understanding, that infinite time does, for us. Infinite time is beyond us with our limited duration, “stuck-in-this-time-ness” feeling of being drawn relentlessly to our fast approaching end.

Besides, though we think of time abstractly as a kind of river carrying us along, or a container in which we are “in time,” concretely, time is so intimate a quality of experience and existence, I can’t see the difference. What is experience if there is no time for it to happen? What is existence if there is no time for it to be? What is awareness or consciousness without time? Love, compassion, nature, naturing, universe, world, the flicker of a candle, the maturing of a flower, a river flowing, leaves dropping from trees, the smell of the earth after a rainfall, the smile of a child, the life of a sun and all its days… without time as an implicit character of the occurrence in question, they are all meaningless, even impossible. So much so, that I dare you to define anything without implicitly starting with time as a fundamental character of it. What would you even say, and when would you say it?

Now ask yourself, why you think time is something you are in, rather than what you are? Define “time” without resorting to using time as its definition. Time is everything, is it not?

If I want to describe the infinite nature of awareness, I use time, not space to denote that essence. When I wonder why I need to separate awareness, which is only an abstract concept anyway, from the reality of my presence in the world, I cannot help but feel that there is something grotesquely perverse about what I am attempting to do. The nature of phenomena is time, not awareness, because all phenomena are “unborn” and “uncreated” and lack a true “self,” so what is there that would be aware, or be awareness?

It is time that is infinite and unlimited, not awareness. “Awareness” is an idea in my mind, a manifestation of my failure to note that in separating the world into parts, I first created a world of parts. To say that time is everything is to state the obvious, and to describe phenomena and experience in a truthful, natural way.

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