I’m collecting and writing some essays and observations about the nature of time and our experience of it.
This morning, while I was thinking about events of the deep past, it occurred to me that once now is gone, what takes place in now is just as distant and missing if it happened 10 seconds ago as if it happened 10,000 years ago. This is not to say that the results of the immediate past are not more proximate; but what took place is just as definitively and equally over, no matter when it took place. So any measurement of distance in time that attempts to comprehend the past — or, for that matter, the future — is always 100% removed, that is, it is infinitely and eternally distant whether it took place before or will take place later.
This seems interesting, because our experience of the passage of time suggests to us, artificially, that that which will take place pretty soon or which just took place a little while ago is quite close to us. (“Soon,” a Germanic word, actually means “at once,” or “immediately.” So it carries the sense of the now, not “in a little while.”) We develop impatience when things don’t happen quickly enough; and much of our inner agitation also develops in relationship to events in time: either that which already happened, and can never be changed (already distressing, in many cases) or things which might happen, and would be bad.
I bring this up just to point out that we don’t at all understand our relationship to this entity we call “time.” We are always here. There isn’t any other location except in what Meister Eckhart called “eternity,” which is forever infinitely distant (boundless, without limit.) Hence our experience of the now becomes critical; everything depends on it. The now is a fulcrum on which the inner levers of our future and our past are perched; but it’s up to us to determine which of those levers is longer and, thus, can provide the most support for the weight our Being must carry.
There are times, then, when the arm of the past (memory) is long and has power and can be used to support the future; this can be good or bad, depending on whether or not this long past within us is perceived as a burden or a blessing. At other times, the arm of the future seems longer (hope) and it can leverage the past in unexpected ways.
This is why it is said, use the present to repair the past and prepare the future.
That information is practical and useful; yet the understanding of how absolutely distant events actually are before or after they take place, well, this is somehow interesting. It places all past and future events in exactly the same place, which is not now. That place, in a certain sense, has a value of zero; and our awareness places us here, where the value is always 100%.
These are my thoughts this morning.Hosanna.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.