About time

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure, measure a year?

How about love?

Seasons of love… — From the musical Rent by Jonathan Larsen

Time is something we either have too much or never enough of. It is rare that we have just enough time on our hands, and even if that were the case, it would
barely be enough. Time is a part of existence that is as integral as another element, which is space. Our lives, we might say, are all about how we fill up time and space. Time and space, and us… are inseparable.

Time wears disguises. Or rather, we like to dress it up. We clothe it with an old man’s demeanor on December 31 and welcome it donned as a toddler on January 1 of every year. We also describe time as too “short” when a moment is pleasurable and happy, implying that we could have had more of whatever we were doing at that time. Many times, when the happy moment has passed, we crave more time.

On the other hand, we call a moment “long” when it is boring, unpleasant, threatening or meaningless. A moment of danger or a boring presentation can seem to last forever.

A comedian on TV once remarked that he visited a place so boring, he spent three days there in one night. A friend of mine has a comic description of boring and it is this: imagine participating in a raffle where the first prize is a weekend in a vacation spot, and the second prize is two weekends.

Einstein recognized time as relative and though he described time in abstract terms, he could deduce concepts that, as time passes, have turned out to be accurate and true. But mortals like us do not need to comprehend Einstein’s theory of relativity to understand time.

Why? Because it is real to everyone alive. It is remarkably real though we can’t smell, hear, see, touch or feel time. But we know it as real because we are living through it. To be alive is to be bound in time and space.

We like to imbue and shape time with our thoughts and emotions and intellectual constructs because only when we imbue it with qualities does it seem real. It is an arena where we allow ourselves not just to experience feelings, thoughts but also to live or play out our lives. It is a theater where we become. And the way we use time affects the quality of our becoming.

A moment in time can be anything from something so meaningless that we are hardly even aware of how we are living it, to something so intense that it can shake us to the core. It’s up to us what we want to do with it, or what we want it to be. In short, this arena is where we are allowed to create what we wish to experience.

And consciousness plays its part in all of this in many ways. It recognizes, affirms, creates scenarios, finds meaning, connections and theorizes not just about the unfolding of time, space but of consciousness itself. Consciousness — our thoughts and reflections — makes the abstract dimensions of time and space tangible and real. What would otherwise just be a stretch of time is parceled into chunks of meaning. Examples of how the mind has done this are the creation of calendars, birthdays, anniversaries, the 35-hour workweek, overtime, leap years, and concepts like “24/7.”

Imagine time and space without our consciousness hovering over it. Without it, what are time and space for? Would they even exist? And even if they did, who would know? There is a Zen koan that asks, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, will it make a sound?” To me it means that consciousness is crucial to everything that happens. Consciousness affirms everything. In effect, nothing “happens” without it.

Consciousness, therefore, animates time. Andy Warhol put it simply when he said, “They say that time changes everything. Actually, you have to change it yourself.” Without us as a part of the equation, nothing happens.

One of the greatest, most mind-boggling theories I like to ponder is the Big Bang theory, in which everything supposedly just came into existence from nowhere. Prior to it, there was nothing! Time and space, among other things, were supposedly born out of the Big Bang. From nothing to everything, in one instant.

When monks meditate and have satori or enlightenment, it affects how they experience time and space. In the enlightened state, they stumble upon the oneness with everything. Now let’s take a second look at that statement. What satori or oneness with everything actually means is that there is only One — no subject versus object, no differentiation between the world and oneself. There is only the moment, or this. And all this implies that at the moment of satori, time and space collapse. They are no longer separate objects from “us.” There is not even an “us.” When subject and object are fused into one, time becomes timelessness.

That’s saying a lot right there. And saying nothing, too, since the experience of satori is, in fact, beyond words or description. Any attempt to do so would merely capture the shadow of it, but not the experience.

If all this sounds confusing, it’s because it is expressed in words. Words by themselves are not what truth is all about. They merely point us to the direction of the truth. Only the experience of truth will make it real for us.

And we only experience what is real when we apply consciousness in full-throttle, or presence to any moment we are in. It does not matter what time or place it is or whatever we are doing. It doesn’t have to be Christmas, New Year, a birthday, or any other occasion deemed important by the world; it doesn’t have to be in any place like an expensive restaurant, or Paris, Rome, or anywhere “special.” It can happen while we are doing the dishes, or meditating, or simply sitting.

Full consciousness applied to any moment induces timelessness. Isn’t something you love to do worth doing with attention and presence? When you are doing something with full attention and abandon, doesn’t time stop?

I once wrote a song that had this line: “Love is for making memories of time.” Without love, what would time mean? Rumi, the Sufi poet, said as much when he wrote:

“Come out of the circle of time

And into the circle of love”

That’s a great way to experience timelessness.

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Monica Franco
Monica Franco
13 years ago

Hi! I read this article on Star. It’s beautiful. I am a 23- year old aspiring writer. I hope that someday I can have a column of my own just like you. But I don’t know where to start. I hope you can give me an advice. Do you know where I can take creative writing lessons? How can I be a writer for newspapers? I have sent sample articles to papers. But I never got a call. Hope you can help me.

Thank you

The Equalizer
13 years ago

Since 1927, TIME Magazine has chosen a man, woman, or idea that “for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year.”

Following the tradition of TIME magazine,who in your humble opinion, deserves to be the “Pinoy of the Year ” honor for 2007(the Pinoy who for better or worse,has influenced events in the Philippines in 2007)? Vote in the new poll in my blog.

In alphabetical order:

* President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

* Ex President Joseph Estrada

* Manny Pacquiao

* Gov.”Amang” Ed Panlilio

* Lea Salonga

* The Filipino Soldier

* Senator Antonio Trillanes

* Overseas Filipino Worker(OFW)

* Joey De Venecia

* You(yes ,You and me,the ordinary Pinoy!)

13 years ago

“and for silly silly thing that you never think of doing..”
great post! thought i’d like to share this old lexus moments ad:

The Equalizer
13 years ago

JIM:we miss you! We miss your energy,fire and contagious enthusiasm.I first met you in one of those rallies right after Ninoy died.
Pray for the Filipino.We are again in another dark chapter of our nation’s history.

More power!

13 years ago

hi sir jim,

i always read your writings here. and not letting the week passd without droping by. i really apreciate your writings… and your music too.

“…time is too SLOW for those who are waiting,
…time is too FAST for those who are afraid,
…time is too LONG for those who are needy.
…time is too SHORT for those who are BLISSFUL and REJOICING.
…but for those who are in love, time is ETERNITY.”

More power! and God bless.


Monica Franco
Monica Franco
13 years ago

Thank you. I will look for email address. Hope you can continue to inspire more people like us with your works!