The Intrigue of Time – Part 1 - Nov 2011 (A Personal Exploration of Time)
It intrigues us! It fascinates us! It scares and intimidates us. It is the most important and valuable commodity which we have. We are all given the same amount each day. We cannot save it and regardless of how much we love them; we cannot lend any of our time to others. We certainly may wish for more, but we will not get any more of it. When we lose it, misuse it or use it unwisely, then there is no way that we can get it back or make up for the blunder in the future!
It speeds up when we are enjoying ourselves and having ‘fun’, and slows down to a patience-testing crawl when we are in misery and trouble, which leads to the often used phrase that our lives ‘flash before our eyes’ in mere seconds in a near death experience. One of our most brilliant scientists ever, Albert Einstein said it best. He said something to the effect that if you are holding hands with your loved one for an hour, it seems like a minute and if you put your hand over the open flame of a stove for a minute, it seems like an hour.
Some of us try to outsmart time by doing things such as setting the clock ten minutes ahead so we won’t be late for work. When the paint on the house fades with the effect of time, we try to freshen it up with another cover of paint. Some of us try to do the same on our bodies with cosmetics and even use plastic surgery to try and disguise the adverse effects of time. It even seems that in a twist of mercy, time gradually fades our memory on purpose as we age, to prevent us from feeling bitterness when we compare our time of youth of our lives, to the present moment in time.
We celebrate it. It makes us extremely happy on some occasions, makes us downtrodden and sad on others and it is definitely, never enough. Some of us waste a lot of our time by sleeping too much, much, much more that our body needs. Many of us waste a good slice of it being mesmerized by the new-fangled television, sitting in front of the TV for many hours on end, or on one of those online games where we escape reality by immersing ourselves in a far-off fantasy life, while our own priceless and irreplaceable sand run out in our own hourglass. Some whom we have nicknamed 'couch-potatoes' throw themselves at the mercy of the TV, watching whatever the device wants to show them, even if there is nothing that they like, and many of us waste a lot of our precious time ‘socializing’ and browsing on the internet, with no sense or feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Yet when it comes to doing some of the more important things in life, like spending time with our families, meditating, our daily prayers, or exercising the gift of this human body, we complain to anyone who would listen, that we do not have the time. We blame time; yet fail to consider that the most accomplished of us, from the great prophets, scientists, great Gurus and teachers, all have had the same amount of time in their day as we do. Only twenty four hours a day. They did not have twenty five hours. They have had the same twenty four hours as the rest of us, but they went on to accomplish great things.
Now, imagine that you have $100.00 dollars in your pocket and you are going to the grocery store to buy much-needed food for the family, and on the way there, you pass by a store which displayed a gorgeous jacket in the front window. You’ve always wanted this jacket, so you go into the store and buy the jacket with the $100.00 and you go home happy, for the moment. But now you and your family go hungry. You have spent the money on a jacket and then you complain to the world that you have no money for food. Many of us do this with time. We have a limited amount of time, like the limited hundred dollars, but we make the unwise choice, waste it, and then complain that we so not have enough time.
It intrigues us! It fascinates us! It scares and intimidates us. Yet, it is at the center of the essence of our very existence. I’ve often wondered! Is it that time is laid out as in a time-scape, as opposed to a landscape, and we are, as the often-used phrase suggests, traveling through time? Or is it that we are living and existing, and that time is passing us by, leaving us suffering its’ insidious effects.
I’m in awe of time and try to watch every TV show which discusses time, and even though it is at the center of my existence, I do not fully understand it, in fact, I barely do! In so many ways it is still a mystery and leaves many of our perpetual questions still, and seemingly forever, unanswered. We find so many ways to measure and divide time. We take a life of it, we call it a lifetime, and then we divide it up into years. Then we take the years and divide it up into months. We keep dividing our time into ever smaller increments of weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds and even micro-seconds.
We effectively create what I think of as these tiny blocks of time which we fill with the rewards and consequences of our actions, the result of which we call happiness or unhappiness. In addition to our present actions, we also fill these blocks of time with the results of our past actions which bear fruit in our present circumstances. Yet we are lightning-quick to lay the sharp blade of blame on friends, relatives, mother and father for what we have become and what befalls us in our lives.
Over the past eons, it is still, as it has been; that the most important fact about time is how we make use of the amount of it which is allotted to each one of us, and the order of importance in which we place health, wealth, spirituality, family, work, friends, and all the other pieces of our lives which makes up our day of time, and eventually our life of time. Our Lifetime!
Om, Shanti. Om Shanti. Om Shanti. (Peace to everyone)
And my fascination with time continues ……..
Over the course of human history, I cannot help but wonder at the thousands, and possibly, millions of minds who have tried and struggled to wrap their thoughts around the concept and experience of time. There is, in my mind, that part of me who is still a teenager and I have lost count of the number of times when I have looked across my living room at my children in wide-eyed amazement, wondering exactly where did the time go, almost like I have not yet made peace with the fact that yes, time has moved on, and I am now a father of grown children?
The idea that our measurement and understanding of time is totally based on the revolution of the earth and its orbit around the sun, seems so simple, but sometimes leaves me fantasizing about the possibility of far-away planets where the differences in rotation and orbit will create wonderful, extra-long days for me, the space traveler to enjoy. Oh, the beautiful dreams of endless amounts of glorious time at my leisure! But one can only dream!
It confounds me to observe that it seems that majority of people have taken time in stride, almost taken it for granted, and seeming so satisfied with just letting one day follow the last, and let it replace the previous day without getting caught up in the why, where, how, and what of the whole idea of time. It seems that it a concept which we should not waste any of our limited and precious time thinking about? If this is so, then I am guilty of wasting quite a bit of my own time on this apparently unanswerable dilemma, although I must confess that I enjoy immensely, the act of getting my mind lost into this delightful chaos of thoughts about time and its special intrigue.
Should I compare one moment of time in my life to another? If we do this, is this perplexing comparison fair? Or should we confine our time which has passed to just the bits of videos tucked away in the miracle of the memory banks inside of our heads …. in our minds? Is there anything to gain from doing such comparisons or do we just torture ourselves by recalling the sad, unsavory memories? There is certainly a great deal of pleasure in replaying these mind videos of the joyous moments of our past, so much so that some people waste their present gift of time in a kind of self-fulfilling fantasyland, their memories stuck in the past, playing in a loop over, and over, and over. Then they have a difficult time dealing with the reality of their lives and may eventually seek professional help to overcome this hurdle.
Is there any truth to the idea or concept of Karma? If there is, then our past actions remains as formidable monuments to which our futures are inevitably tied, and recalling these past actions as lessons, ultimately makes sense. But if Karma is just a human concept containing no fragment of truth, then the past is the proverbial ‘water under the bridge’ and it makes no sense to revisit the huge database of mind-videos stored to memory, except for the memories of happy moments which we so much enjoy reliving in our heads. If the actions during the flow of sand already gone from our hourglass are meaningless, does it then imply that the present minutes and hours flowing out now, also means nothing? NOTHING? Can this be true? If this is true, then our whole, entire existence is also meaningless, and this, I absolutely refuse to believe!
The speed at which I experience the passing of time differs with the activity in which I am engaged in at that moment. If I am waiting in anticipation for something enjoyable, time drags and when I am in the midst of treasured moments, time flies. How can this be? Why is this so? Our emotions at each of these moments seem to determine how we experience the passing of time. Our experience of time is as varied as our different perspectives, but the fact remains that the actions we perform today does in some way, shape and dictate the sequence of events which will happen to each of us in the future. It almost seems that out of this thinking, the idea of Karma was born eons ago.
We find so many ways of measuring time, but I have come to the conclusion that if time itself is used instead, as a measurement of our personal progress, of intellectual maturity, and of mental evolution, then time becomes so much more interesting, meaningful and even more intriguing.
Let us use the example of December 31st 2012.
It is the New Year! 2013! On the night of New Year’s Eve, we all sat around talking excitedly, waiting in anticipation for the arrival of midnight, and the New Year. Many of us would remember that last day of planning the details for the impending celebrations! On that special night, where we would be? What would we be doing? And with whom! Time ticked away ever so slowly towards midnight. That last hour, that last minute, the last second and then, it was the New Year. And everyone rejoiced! Hugs, kisses, handshakes, and well wishes all around. Drinking and partying and all the socializing that have become standard celebration each year and on almost every occasion worth celebrating.
But, what makes last year any different from this year? What makes a moment in time of last year any different from a moment of time in this year? More specifically, we are sitting for the past few moments in our favorite chair reading this article today. What makes this period of time any different from moments sitting in the same chair a day of last year? If you examine the two periods of time closely, they seem to be the same! Nothing really is different, except that the calendar has changed and time has moved on, leaving us a bit older!
But if we look at time as a measurement, there is a huge difference between last year and this year. If I look at time from the perspective of, what is better and what is worse? If I look at these moments in time and I ask myself that “as a person, as a human being, am I better than I was last year?”
Am I a kinder and gentler person?
Am I being more compassionate to others?
Do I show more patience with others?
Am I better at showing empathy to those who unfortunately suffer from illnesses?
Do I show love to all in my human family?
Am I more tolerant with what was previously intolerable to me?
If I believe in spirituality, have I made spiritual progress in my life?
Am I getting better at conquering my ego and do I focus less on feeding it?
If I am religious, is my practice of my prayers and meditation more productive?
Am I finding peace of mind easier?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then I should continue to do the right thing and walk that same path of progression, and I will definitely advance in this life. My thinking is evolving. If however, the answer to any of these questions is no, then I have a lot of work to do. I am not living up to my potential and have to continue to work on it a bit harder to realize my purpose.
We should all, at some point in time, ask ourselves these questions so that we can understand the direction in which our life is going, why this is happening and what we can do to change it.
The fact about time remains that ‘If we change nothing, then nothing changes’.
Depending on our perspective, it is a spiritual, religious, and moral challenge, and as the well-known Guyanese Hindu priest and humanitarian Pandit Budhram Mahadeo once said many years ago, “That I am a better person tomorrow than I am today, better next week than I am this week and better next year than I am this year.”
That, in simple words should be the ultimate goal of every member of the Human Family.
Om, Shanti. Om Shanti. Om Shanti. (Peace to everyone)