Sunday, June 3, 2018
Finding Eternity In The Moment
After Albert Einstein introduced special relativity in 1905, humans became more freaky about time than ever.
His famous paper, entitled On the electrodynamics of moving bodies, describes how:
a. the speed of light is a constant;
b. space and time are interwoven into a single continuum known as space-time;
What is space-time?
It is a continuum in which space and time combine.
In other words, common physical phenomena—light, space, time, and gravity—depend on the relative motion of the observer and the observed objects. Two events, simultaneous for one observer, may not be simultaneous for another observer if the observers are in relative motion.
You are not alone.
Here’s another angle: Your observation of the speed of time passing depends on your point of view. For example, if viewing a distant planet, your sense of its time will be skewed by your relative velocity. The strength of the gravitational field affecting that planet, and yours, also affects the passage of time.
Although we exist thankfully unaware of it, our little planet earth travels around the sun at 67,000 mph.
As you sit reading this, our humble chunk of rock speeds through space-time. It also rotates. Further, as part of the Milky Way galaxy, it races through the universe.
Perhaps understanding subjective time is easier, but even that rapidly turns bizarre.
By subjective time, I mean time as you personally experience it.
Remember how slowly time passes when you look forward to a vacation?
Remember how quickly time passed when you are on the vacation?
When you later reflect on the vacation, it usually seems like it went by in seconds.
Unlike the space-time continuum, we can manipulate subjective time.
Consider how eastern philosophies preach living in the moment.
They propose you can find ETERNITY in any particular moment.
Extremely difficult in practice, but imagine you sat in a small backyard, like mine, and brought your attention to one particular second.
Literally millions of things can catch your attention—if you only focus on them.
Right this moment, I can hear:
Birds, fountains, wind-through-trees, dog barking, voices, cars, a wind chime, leaves rustling, airplanes flying, an electric hum.
I can see:
Trees, birds, a buddha statue, a sundial, a wind sculpture, plants, a calendar, book, cellphone, wallet, ashtray, notebook, fountain pen, matches, table, chairs, grapefruits, oranges, BBQ, counter-top, tile, doors, windows, stucco.
I can feel:
Lower back pain, air on my skin, butterscotch-from-lifesaver on my tongue, tranquility, a tinge of sadness, fatigue.
Just this morning, I tried focusing on the moment while hiking alone.
It was a bitch!
I kept thinking about last night, about planned writing for today, about plans for the week. This is what meditation teachers discuss. This is why mindfulness—as if it’s a new idea—suddenly became popular.
Because, if you work at it, you can slow time down.
You can, potentially, experience eternity in a moment.
An excerpt from the Tao Te Ching speaks speaks this truth. One passage in Chapter 21 reads:
Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.
Stephen Mitchell, recent translator of Lao-Tzu’s famous fourth-century-BCE work, suggests a boundless and inexhaustible eternity exists in a single moment. That is how you look inside yourself and see.
The true name of eternity is TODAY.
You might just try it.
Re-incarnation seems such a tempting idea, as does any religious concept of life after death.
But why chase eternity in the future if you can find it now?
Mitchell, S. (1988). Tao Te Ching. New York: Harper and Row.
(If you like this blog, please tell your friends, family, and pets to subscribe by opening up alankarbelnig.com, clicking on any blog, scrolling to the bottom, and signing up. Like any selfless writer, I always seek more readers. Thanks so much! – Alan)
Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP