To exist at this moment means to inhabit the forefront of linearity, however that moment has already perished and now you’re in this moment. Living in the contemporary world means existing at the transformational position of time, but it also means operating at the threshold of the past and future.
Once a moment is acknowledged it ceases to be the present, sliding to the top of one’s recent experiences and connecting the uninterrupted series of events binding history to novelty. Perhaps Chekov put it better, “The past… is linked with the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of another.’ Preceding events cannot be repeated but they can be moulded into memories, the mental chest of individual history becoming our gauge of time.
While time may be mathematically uniform consciousness is not and individual perception varies according to interest, enthusiasm and intent. Under the influence of fascination, elation or trepidation, it’s hard to know when the last moment ceased and its replacement arose.
Resounding since the industrial revolution, modern societies are bombarded by calls for increased individuality and autonomy with most witnessing life under the aspect of personal experience. However there is another alternative, one crafted centuries before the bourgeoise toppled the feudal hierarchy – Spinoza’s Sub Specie Aeternitatis (under the aspect of eternity). By examining the world with deeper attention to the cosmos’ perennial flow an endeavour to flow with it helps one to utilize their prescribed time better.
Just because humans have been able to quantify time doesn’t mean it’s perceived analogously or even that we explicitly know what it is. Instead of having a fixed disposition time appears to alter according to conscious interaction with stimulation integral to judgement.
Time is measured at the baseline reality where 60 seconds equal a minute and 60 minutes an hour, however has there not been occasions where it seems like this prescribed frame has elongated or accelerated? When your stomach is about to give way and home is still 7 minutes off, does that period linger longer than eternity? Does the golden trite aphorism “Time flies when you’re having fun” hold legitimacy?
The fixed variables for measuring time are rational and extremely pertinent for society’s operations, however they are impersonal and the devices fashioned for discernment do not consider the mind’s propensity for experiencing, absorbing and interpreting. As conscious beings we intellectually interact with our surroundings, therefore individual appreciation of events will vary according to levels of engagement with a particular environment.
An element adding complexity to time appreciation is memory, an amalgam of hazy screenshots displaying selected portions of what’s been seen. Peering into the chest of previous moments people often forget the mirage, the past not seen as it occurred but as consciousness reconstructed it. We use the present moment to recollect the past, projecting previous sequences and making it even more difficult to consider the length of time between then and now.
When time is interpreted it tends to be from an independent and autonomous position, and what more personal than one’s perception of their age? Everyone at some point has uttered, “Where did the days go by?”, as if they’re standing at home plate, bat in hand, ball curving past them and they’ve no idea how they’ve got there. The longer we live the more memories amass in our chest to select, recollect and contrast. Because the chest is increasing every day like experiences coagulate and the reflection of yesterday could really be portions of yesterday and slices of yesteryear.
Time may operate on it’s own spectrum and facilitate life’s continuation, however it’s the mind’s engagement with time providing anecdotal evidence.
Absorbed in Experience
Life provides us with continual opportunities to engage with and develop large databases of relative circumstances, yet new encounters are rare when one is engrained into routine stretching their immediate experience of time. Without a regular dose of displacement individuals fall prey to rigidity, days lagging while the years waste away. This progressive degeneration of spirit occurs not because time is deceitful, rather due to inadequate awareness of occurring life.
In contemporary society an abundance of technology aims to your steal attention; as a result, consideration to the factors facilitating life decrease in favour of instantaneous stimuli. Everyone now has their own algorithmically tailored reality in their hands, one that intends to hook the user on to a dopamine drenched screen. In the attention economy your time evaporates, syphoned into packaged data for anyone’s purchase.
When an intention is set to acquire something out of a situation the ability to fully enjoy it is inhibited; when the mind is focused on personal desires it struggles to be completely present in the moment. Expectation is the curse of the optimist.
Time’s malleable character only becomes cognizant when one is absorbed in experience; for this, the ideal state to occupy is that of flow. Flow state is conceptual equilibrium where an individual is wholly immersed in a collection of actions, concentration honing in on an activity and blocking out the external world. Think about Kelly Slater cruising down Pipeline, Jimmy Page mid-Stairway or Bourdain slicing up pigs nuts – they’re not just present, they are optimally occupying that moment with limited thought. During these periods the conscious mind is clear as impulse and intuition guide the body, bequeathing individuals the superlative psychological state for creation.
It really goes without saying that meditation is a great assessor of time. The practice attempts to impede the influence of stimuli as it intertwines a sedative body, breathe work and mantras. Anyone who has sat in lotus understands how, like a ravenous squirrel, the mind will try to satiate attention by drawing things towards it. This is when the brunt of time is experienced as the amateur aims to sit for thirty-minutes but only musters eight. The longer a meditative prescriber sits and learns to lessen the volume of thought their perception of time will increase in opposition to the layman.
The most lucid example highlighting the plastic nature of time is psychedelics – a frequency providing a peephole into the complex nature of reality and it’s true state of constant flux. Under the influence of these enigmatic chemicals the world pulsates with animation, time an inscrutable element not conforming to its prescription at baseline reality. When the conventional attributes of time evaporate all that remains is the present moment. While the psychedelic circumstance cannot be sustained indefinitely, the experience belittles notions of uniformity and leaves a precocious opening in the mind for new, fertile thought.
Existing in this reality necessitates a basic concept of time and acknowledgement of the whims of its perpetuation. Being an ultimate common concept quantified and categorized many think they understand time, however how can one be comprehensive in their assessment when perception alters interpretation? To properly grasp time (or as close as a human can to doing so) the dimension needs to be recognized for its flexible malleability. Placing ourselves in states that question baseline view of time like flow, meditation and psychedelics allow for subjective observation of it’s shifting status.
As one develops their own concept of time there’s an extra incentive to not waste it. The facilitator of events may provide a platform for life to exist, but there is a major difference between existing and engrossing oneself in the art of living.
Image Source: The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali.