C.S. Lewis said that “The present is that point when time touches eternity.” He also said, “There is no other day. All days are present now. This moment contains all moments.” I think about this often when I feel tempted to go either too far into imagining illusory possible future scenarios or trying to makes sense out of something that has seemed to have happened in the clouded so called past.
If you are one that pays attention to innuendo then you probably noticed that I used the words “illusory” when talking about the future and “clouded” when talking about the past. To be direct, I used those words because I consider them both suspect. Think about it. Where do most anxieties come from? Answer: Projections of an illusory future or interpretations of a clouded past. This is unarguable. Though I am sure that some people will try to find a way to argue about it. But I can tell you for a fact that I have never been in an argument or disagreement with anyone about the present moment. Not ever. And neither has anyone else. And I think anyone who says otherwise is lying at worst and is deceived at best.
Time is the Fear Factor
The reason I can so declaratively say that all arguments and anxieties are over what we refer to as the past and the future is because the concept of time is THE PRIMORDIAL FEAR FACTOR. There is no conflict absent the concept of time. It is the very idea of “running out of time” that ignites the flames of passion in most folks. It is what influences many of us to try and leave a mark on the world that exceeds the length of our physical presence whether that is through having children, creating some work of art, inventing something of value, or sometimes doing some of the most horrible acts imaginable because we just want people to remember our names after we’re supposedly gone.
And in the space of the seemingly mundane—things like managing daily schedules or “spending time” with the people you care about—the fear of “not enough time” can make us treasure every moment on our good days and on our bad days, it can push us to the limits of our mental, physical, and emotional health trying to figure out how we can psychologically manipulate the clock in our favor. I’ll say it again. TIME IS THE PRIMORDIAL FEAR FACTOR. I could say a bunch more about this. But instead, I will just invite you to witness your relationship to time and if you can prove to me, to my satisfaction, that time is not a factor in any or all of your frustrations, I will send the first person to convert me a gift card of $25 to anywhere.
Nothing “Kills Time” Like Time
Have you ever bought a “time saving” product or service that “gave you more time” to “waste time” on something else that “sucked your time up”? (Hello YouTube) Of course you have. And if you didn’t use that extra time on something like the internet rabbit hole, you probably used it worrying about how little time you have or fantasizing about what you will do if you ever have more time. My point is that for most of us, whatever time we gain will very likely go down the drain. (Did you like that rhyme?) That is because the concept of time is simply that—a concept. It does not objectively exist. In fact, some would call it an illusion.
You Can Have Time or Eternity. Not Both.
Julian Barbour is a physicist who calls BS on this whole time thing. He is featured in a book written by Astrophysicist, Adam Frank, About Time, which looks at emerging minds that are flipping the script on ideas of cosmic order such as the Big Bang, string theory, and other ideas. The way to Barbour approaches his challenges to some of sciences sacred cows is to drop the whole time thing altogether. He simply says that “Time does not exist.”
From Barbour’s cosmology, what we experience as time is an illusion created in our minds as we try to order independent “Nows”. As he sees it, a “Now” is an independent arrangement of everything in the Universe that exists at the same time as every other “Now” and that we mark what we experience as change in an order that we call time which we use to construct a flow of sorts that goes from ”beginning to end” in a linear fashion that does not actually exist. As he describes it in the book, “The cat that jumps is not the same cat that lands.” And in that cosmology, the cat can land “first” and then jump, outside of the illusion of linearity. But I’m not going to take you there. I’ll just say that I believe that what he is saying is viable and that I have been telling people for decades that this is how I experience this thing people call time.
In the video below, which was part of a post I did 6 years ago called, The Future is Full of Problems, I get into how this time thing actually drains us of our Present Power that is sufficient for every “Now” that we are a part of. And below the video is a poem I wrote for my grandmother’s funeral back in 2000. I wrote it under the prompting of someone asking me how I imagined my grandmother was feeling in “heaven”. Both serve to communicate that the only truly present reality is always the Eternal Now.
From Time to Eternity
It is five minutes past tomorrow,
And Yesterday is on its way.
The world thinks I’ve just passed on,
But I was born today.
There are no more “it’s over”s
Or “where did it all begin”s
I just slipped into eternity.
No beginning, no end.
Time is now immeasurable,
Because now I know it never was.
I now have always been where
God always was.
Eternity in Love.
I have never been too far from you.
Behind the veil is where I stand.
Just open your eyes to reach for me.
I will hold your hand.
My Children, I Am with you always.
There has never been a “time” when you have been that I have not.
This will always Be. Where I Am, you will always Be.
You are forever in me. In a like manner, my Home is within you.
This is Eternity.
Here. Now. Be.
I won’t pretend that what I am suggesting is something many can get behind without some significant inner struggle. I’m basically saying that the foundational building blocks of American society and most global exchange don’t even exist. Like money, time is an idea that we humans have thoroughly invested in. We even tell ourselves that time is money. That’s why we use the same terms to express both–spend, waste, save, etc. Furthermore, we experience both as being in limited supply and create mechanisms of every kind to try to “hold on to” as much of both as we can. And as a result, we consistently participate in manipulative activities in order to control the “amount” of both that we “have”. But what if Barbour is accurate and there is no such thing as time? How would you experience life if you only lived Now?
I know that these days there are books galore and gurus of every kind trying to teach us to be more present. But what if no one had to teach you anything? What if you could simply accept that the fullness of who you are and who we all are is eternally here now? How are you living Now?
When I re-member this, I instantly realize that I have choice in how I encounter every aspect of my life. Nothing contributes to a sense of “choicelessness” like the belief that we lack resources–whether they are time or money, both, or something else we might value, such as approval of someone in particular or anyone at all.
Recently, a friend prayed for “the resources to be present”. Even though he meant it in a different way than I took it, I was excited by the word usage. To me, the resources to be present are immediate when one realizes that they are not imprisoned in time–that they are eternal. The challenge is accessing that awareness and maintaining it so that one experiences it as having always been. Here then, the person lives as Consciousness itself–in Christian language as one having the ever new Mind of Christ.
Romans 12:2 says,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This is just one of many passages that suggests that there is a way for humans to know, discern, and make manifest what those ancient dudes called the “Mind of Christ” or even the “Eternal Godhead”. And beyond Christianity, many other traditions could imagine a similar state of consciousness. So let me ask you, do you think that God’s Mind is preoccupied with temporal things like time and money or would it be creating from a place of completely resourced eternity? Even if you aren’t into God language, I could ask you if you think that intelligence is best expressed under conditions of lack and limitation or of resources and freedom?
For me, the answer is obvious. And that is what I am re-membering Now. From a metaphorical perspective, I see that if time were a shadow and eternity were a sun, their contact would naturally mean that in eternity, there is no time. Accepting this, I cannot be satisfied with playing time games. My desire to love God with all my heart, mind, and strength and love my neighbor as myself compels me to choose God’s sight over my own—to not conform to that which has no eternal substance—because to do otherwise would be a “waste of time”.