Time is a measurement
It’s a tool that we use define the constant expansion of the universe. It puts a framework on something we don’t understand, a movement that never stops. Time is constantly pulling us forward, forcing us to change whether we like it or not. Time reminds us that we are headed somewhere and that we can look back and see where we’ve been.
We track time, we manage time, we try to control time, we try to make the best use of time. But like any other linear measurement system, it just tells us the same thing over and over. We say things like “time flew by” or “time stood still” – all the while knowing that time itself, the way we’ve defined it, hasn’t changed – just our perception of it.
“If we’re honest at the deepest levels, we’re afraid of time.”
– Joel Eschenbach –
Time is our frenemy
Time fights us every year. The older we get, the more we are aware that time is against us. When we were young, time couldn’t move fast enough… “I can’t wait until Christmas!”, “My birthday is only a week away!”… My kids are constantly asking me about future events and looking forward to time moving as fast as possible in their favor. But then at some point, we grow up and are faced with our mortality.
That’s when the quest begins. We begin fighting the curse of time on our bodies and minds. We work harder and faster, we try to eat better and workout, we invent all sorts of ways to trick ourselves into thinking that time has no affect on us. We discuss and fight over things like eternity, afterlife possibilities, and what happens after our lifetime is over to give meaning to time.
Time is a distraction
We’ve all had those moments (maybe more times than we’d like to admit) when we are here, but not here. When we are with the people we love but our mind is thinking about the future or the past. We time travel constantly in our minds. I think it’s part of the reason that time travel is so fascinating to our modern culture.
We think back to things we could have done differently in the past or, if you’re like me, constantly imagine the possibilities of the future.
Then, there are those other moments in life, the times when you are aware. When your mind/heart/soul/spirit are present and you feel and sense everything on a much deeper level. Cultures and religions throughout history have defined these experiences many different ways. Whatever you want to call it, being present in the moment is an amazing experience. It’s VERY HARD, but worth practicing.
Time has no beginning or end
Like a race, we sometimes think of time as having a start and a finish line. But really, it’s just that we started measuring time – and there may come a time when we stop measuring it. Even before the universe existed, time did – and long after us it will keep moving.
Our own lifetimes become the center of our personal universes. Even though we try hard to understand time and space objectively, at some point, it will always come back to our own lives. This is not a bad thing. It helps us define our existence. It gives us a way to think about our days that makes sense. It gets us up in the morning and tells us when to go to bed at night. It helps us classify and organize our experiences and gives us a measurable framework to look ahead to the future and cite from the past.
But, there might be something better than time…
What about rhythm?
The day begins, the day ends. The seasons come, then they go. There’s birth, then death. The leaves are green and vibrant and then they fade and fall to the ground. We breathe in and out. We work and play, strive and rest. We live and then we die. There is a rythym to everything.
What if we could view our lives and everything in our universe as a rhythm? Time has it’s place and is necessary, but rhythm… Rhythm gives us balance. It gives us a way to be present in the moment AND have times to think about the future. It allows us to stop obsessing about time and immortality and gives us the space to rest.
Our lifetime is a big metaphor for our small daily lives. We experience little deaths and new beginnings all the time, and rhythym gives us the assurance that the pendulum will always swing back again. What if instead of managing time, we worked towards a healthy rhythm in our lives? One that’s less defined by our phones and watches, but more defined by what’s important to us and others.
Time might be our enemy, but rhythm is our friend. The hope that even bad days will end and new ones will begin. The hope that years of difficulty will be followed by years of peace. The hope that pain is just one half of the story. We might measure our time in days, months, and years, but we measure rhythm in the back and forth, the push and pull, the give and take.
And, if the rhythm of the universe is true, we might find that when we reach the end of our time here, it might be just another beginning.
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Watch the creative prompt that sparked this conversation.