Today is Sunday, March 24, 2013.
I've been thinking a lot about time lately. One research project revealed that the the most often-used noun in the English language is "time." We use this word in any number of expressions and idioms. We can do something ahead of time, on time, in the nick of time, in good time, or at the appointed time. We can bide our time or have the time of our lives. We can keep time, borrow time, have time, waste time, be pressed for time, or be out of time. Expressions such as "when the time is ripe" or " for the time being" don't actually mean any time that two people can agree on.
Einstein once said, "Time is that which clocks measure," but it's got to be a little more complicated than that. If you think about the way humans have historically measured time, it's easy to see that early humans were really measuring the movement of the sun, moon and stars. Even modern clocks really only measure movement. In fact, the "movement" is the internal mechanism of the clock that makes it work in the first place.
Physicists are still arguing about the existence of time. Those who believe time exists argue about the definition of time. Most physicists today will tell you that time is not a constant, as was once thought, even though it may appear to us to be constant. Monday is followed by Tuesday, and the atomic clocks that measure time for the whole world never stop. Subjectively, though, most people can probably remember at least one instance where time seemed to expand or contract. We even have expressions for this: there are instances when time stands still, as well as instances when time flies.
Scientists also tell us that at the subatomic level, time does not seem to exist, and that at a certain level, processes can work backward as well as forward. It appears that time is a local phenomenon.
Scientists now recognize an entity they call "spacetime," where time and space are intimately intertwined. Those who believe in an alternate universe have posited that there is such a thing as "timespace," as well, where Souls can move in time, but not in space.
For most of us, time seems to involve the ordering of events in our lives, and a one-way movement from past to future. There seems to be no way that we can go back into the past, at least not physically. Nor can we travel into the future. Some people like to say that time is a succession of NOW moments, and that seems true, too, since the only time in which we can do any action at all is NOW. However, we can also see time as a fractal, with a cyclic nature. All you have to do is experience the changing of the seasons or the phases of the moon to grasp the reality of the cycles of time.
There are those who say that time doesn't exist outside of the physical universe, and that the only place where time seems constant is right here on Earth. Those who subscribe to the Big Bang Theory say that time came into existence when the physical universe did.
Every religion follows some concept of time. For ancient religions of India (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism) time is regarded as cyclic. For Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), the dominant view is that of linear time. My own religion, Eckankar, takes both sides into account. We recognize the Law of Cause and Effect, which depends on a linear view of time, but we also recognize cycles in the concept of reincarnation, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. We recognize, as well, that the part of God's Creation that we call the physical plane (including Earth and the entire physical universe) includes matter, energy, space and time, but that these elements don't necessarily exist in other planes. There are a number of spiritual paths that recognize time as an illusion, with the reality being an Eternal Now, which can only be processed by our minds, while we are embodied, as linear time.
Many Atheists argue that God does not exist because they have trouble with the First Cause, or whatever caused the Big Bang to happen. They say that even if the Big Bang was caused to happen, that doesn't mean the cause was God. Of course, they don't like to think of the reverse argument, that they can't prove that the Big Bang wasn't caused by God. As one web site put it, science doesn't deal very well with first causes.
Let's return to the idea of the Eternal Now. Actually, whether you believe the moment we call NOW is eternal or endlessly repeating, there is no getting around the fact that the only moment we ever have control over, at least here in the physical plane, is NOW. The present moment is where we can process what happened in the past and take action that will shape the future. It is often said that we can't go back in time to undo the past. However, one thing we can do now to process the past is to change our attitudes. If you recognize that your attitude about something, the way you label it, can dictate whether you are content or miserable, then it stands to reason that if you change your attitude, even about something that happened in the past, then the way you process that past event will change. I remember doing a spiritual exercise at one time where, in meditation, I went back into my past and connected with the person I was in junior high school. I envisioned my junior high self as a separate entity so that I could talk to her. I sympathized with her feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing, and I reassured her that all was well. It was a very emotionally powerful exercise. I recognized then that although I couldn't change the past, I didn't have to carry forward into the present moment all my attitudes and feelings from the past. The sense of relief and freedom I felt were amazing. and very empowering.
A lot of people have weighed in on the question of how to describe change over time. Physical changes are easy to describe. Emotional, mental and spiritual changes are a bit more difficult. To describe the emotional, mental and spiritual side of ourselves, we can use the term "state of consciousness." Our states of consciousness change over time, but they can also change instantly. Those who argue that there is no such thing as time in heaven say that the only way we can express ourselves as Soul is through our state of consciousness. Maybe we can only make changes in our state of consciousness when we are embodied in the physical world. That would certainly be a good argument for why Souls come back again and again into physical bodies. In many ways time is a great teaching tool. It's just too bad that we don't tend to recognize this until we have been on the planet for a a number of decades. If it is true that we cannot change our state of consciousness in any other realm but the physical, then it seems to me that it is imperative for each of us to try to attain the highest state of consciousness possible each time we come here.
Now that I'm retired, my life – and time – seems to have slowed down a bit. Maybe that's only because I have fewer events on my calendar to measure the flow of time by. When I'm driving on a city highway, such as I-94 in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, I always feel that I'm traveling very fast, even though the speedometer only registers 55 miles per hour, because there are so many landmarks whizzing by. When I was driving on I-90 last fall, through vast areas of land with no cultivated fields and few trees, I was surprised that even when I was going at the speed limit, 75 miles per hour, it seemed as if the car wasn't moving that fast.
Nowadays, it doesn't really matter what day it is, unless I have a specific appointment. Weekends don't really mean much to me, anymore, because my weekdays are now free of time constraints, just the way weekends used to be. While I'm now at leisure to notice the changing of the seasons more than I used to, the actual calendar month means much less than it did before, when I had the school year to use as a time marker.
When I was 15, I remember standing in front of a mirror, putting on mascara. Impatient by nature, I was annoyed by the amount of time it takes to put on mascara carefully, without getting any icky, black stuff on my face around the eyes. I had one of those really lucid moments as Soul, where I realized that my time in this particular body was limited. I asked myself whether I was willing to spend so much time on activities such as putting on mascara, and my answer was a resounding NO! I therefore perfected a much quicker method of putting on mascara: I simply put some Vaseline on the eyelids and the skin around my eyes and then slather on the mascara without worrying how much gets on my face. When the lashes are well-coated, I simply wipe off the excess mascara with a couple of Q-tips. Later, I gave up wearing makeup altogether, except for special occasions. I still put on my mascara fast, though. Having avoided spending too much of this lifetime putting on mascara, I still can't say that I haven't wasted time in other activities. These days, I spend more and more time playing little computer games. Is this what I really want to do with the time I have left here? An excellent question. And will I have enough time to complete those projects that I consider important, such as publishing my book? That remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, I appreciate the time I now have to spend on whatever I choose. I appreciate, also, the freedom to order my day as I please, Night Owl that I am. I appreciate having the time to think about Time. :-)