“…time passes more quickly than man is able to live, and that life is terrible, because everything in it is necessarily doomed to extinction…”
— Milan Kundera “Let the Old Dead Make Room for the Young Dead”
Contrary to prevailing beliefs, becoming a sage or a doyenne is not a goal or aspiration, it is a phenomenon. If we seek it we will not find it, if we lay claim to it, we lose it. For if you were to arrive there, castaway by the tempest of life, you would find it a journey in the abstract; a place not found on any map; a still point in time; perhaps a quantum of eternity.
If your experience was similar to mine as a child, you wanted the earth’s revolutions to quicken their pace so life could reveal the answers to your questions. In reflection, these queries represented some of the richest moments of my youth and it has taken more than half a century to rediscover this place of wonder. I thought it had been devoured by the brutal demands of chronological time, but it was there, hiding in the moment. It had, of course, been there all long, timeless, like a quantum of eternity. Fifty years of living is long enough to know that everything is doomed to extinction, and that thought, surprisingly, is emancipating. Some feel the alexipharmic to this mortal existence is the blissfulness of youth but I have long spent that capital. I don’t think I could afford the distraction now, anyway. Youth demands its folly, but it wasn’t wasted on me. It taught me to surrender to the context of the moment. Now I am reminded to do so more thoughtfully. For I regard the resource of a moment and in doing so, I ponder if I am practicing life outside of the tyranny of time.
We are chastened by time as a sanction. There is never enough time, we are running out of time, so we must steal time. This undergirds the axiom, time is money. When we have enough money, we’ll have all the time in the world. It is much like chasing our shadow as a kid. We are cultured into thinking of time as a quantity; which is seemingly inexhaustible to the young and a savage shortage to the old. I’m not sure that we really understand time in its quality.
Time, I have learned, is beguiled by our measurements, for time is immutably perception. A few years ago, in a curious attempt to escape the bindings of time as a student and writer, I chose an experiment against the measure of time. For more than 24 hours I gave minimal attention to my paradoxical “devices of productivity” and took no notice of chronological time. This little curiosity surprised me. I experienced the day without an awareness of synchronized passage and began to notice a perception of time and a releasing of my creative flow. I entered a different realm of time that did not create anxiousness over how much time remained, as the focus was not on time at all, only experience. I became lost in my reading, my conversations, my writing, my thoughts, my walks and bicycle route, I ate when I felt hungry, I woke up when my body was ready and prepared for sleep as twilight and fatigue descended. The exercise persuaded me that time’s sincerity is issued by experience, not by linear calculation. Had time been running me?
When I do not regard time, I regard the moment, which is to say, experience is my measurement; my satisfaction of time. I made two distinct observations from my experiment: the first was that time does not pass without change, and the second was that change itself determined the perceived passage of time. It would seem the moment is truly numinous if we respect it. My experience of time is highly impressionistic on my quality of life.
Living in timelessness takes us away from aging and sets us on a path that Ram Dass coined “saging.” Is this not the practice of eternity? I believe, perhaps somewhere in a series of moments, we become without notice our unmeasured selves. That is where the sage or doyenne seem to live, in that place where we let go of our superfluous certainties of knowing.
If there is a return to youth, I suggest it is a second order of youth, an informed and quintessential youthfulness where we are guided by our playful curiosity and tutored by wonder. The body and brain age, but the mind holds within it an eternal youth.
I have invited clients, who have sought guidance, to pursue a path to experiencing their timeless selves. Many have been reoriented in the re-enchantment of time and the candid connection to themselves as time transitioned from a devouring measure to an experience. Moving from measure to experience can establish a different context with the world. For measurement represents a kind of perfection, like time-keeping and experience a kind of wholeness, like keeping-time.
Now for me the day is still evolving and the sun is rising. I pay no mind to the ambiguity it promises. In this practice of eternity, I get to hold the excitement of what the day has yet to share with me. I imagine it will be some part of me forgotten or not yet introduced. I wonder if I will notice or if I will negotiate the moment and glance at my watch. Perhaps today I’ll leave that device on my nightstand.
The passionate Phoenix of Firefly Horizons and conceptual prognosticator of Mutatis Mutandis reborn through the scorching forge of his annihilation into creative sanctuary. Steve translates the fury of his Phoenix experience into experiential exegesis in search of perspectives not yet in view. Read more about Steve • Articles by Steve