Martin LeFevre: Being Human Is No Longer an Option
Being Human Is No Longer an Option
Spring is on the downslide in the Central Valley, and literally on the upside in the mountains. After the record-breaking rains of March and April, the land is extraordinarily verdant, especially around the creeks.
The boughs hang like long emerald curtains over the creek, enveloping one and providing shade on a hot afternoon. A rapidly melting snow pack in the mountains above town continues to make the stream run fast and full. The light plays on leaves of all sizes and shapes, and attention gathers energy, quickening and quieting the mind.
Suddenly a huge blue heron, neck cocked and massive wings slowly flapping, flies upstream just above the water. The illusory movement of time, which had already stopped in the deepening awareness of the present, rips open. For a few seconds, as the large bird soars by seemingly in slow motion, one has the gut feeling of peering into the age of the dinosaurs.
Was it a trick of the mind, or did one actually contact that primeval period in the earth’s history? There are at least two possibilities. The first is that the incongruity, size, and peculiar flight pattern of the heron triggered an association with dinosaurs, which instantaneously activated my imagination.
The second possibility is that the life-forms now present on earth enfold the evolutionary stages that come before them. In observing a species directly linked to a primeval period while in the meditative state, one can actually come into contact with a previous epoch in the earth’s history. That would mean that linear time is a fiction of the human mind, and that all that has come before now is enfolded in the present. We only need to know how to look.
If so, time travel is not to be attained by hypothetically going backward along the supposed “arrow of time,” but by allowing the present moment to unfold, revealing the past that lies enfolded within the animate and inanimate expressions of evolution. That rings true--all evolution is contained in the present.
Orbiting the earth, the Hubble telescope is free from the distorting aspects of the earth’s atmosphere. When the Hubble is pointed toward the far reaches of space, it is often said that we are looking back in time. That is because at the speed of light [186,000 miles per second], it takes thousands and even millions of years for the light from very distant objects to reach us.
So when the Hubble takes a picture of a galaxy that is a million light years away, we are seeing that galaxy as it was a million years ago, not as it is today. In a way, we are therefore looking back in time. Looking at the most distant objects, astronomers are thus able to peer into the early epochs of the universe, some 15 billion years ago.
Let’s say scientists build a telescope strong enough to observe an earth-like planet orbiting a star like our sun ten thousand light years away. When we look at it, it is ten thousand years ago relative to that planet. But that only defines the illusion of time. Obviously everything--every galaxy, star, and planet--exists only in the present; the telescope merely telescopes time. Therefore what we see in looking at a planet a million light years away is present and past at the same time.
Is there a similarity between simultaneously looking out and back into space/time, and observing life on earth in the meditative state? I think so, for if one can see very clearly, without any distortion in perception, then the past, which is enfolded in the present, unfolds in the observation that is meditation.
What is the distorting factor that prevents seeing things as they are? It is psychological time, which is the product of memory. Memory is the lens through which we look at the present through the past, and when memory is operating, we inevitably "see through the glass darkly.”
Obviously the idea of time is useful and necessary; one couldn’t build anything or carry out any plan without the notion of tomorrow. The first humans divided their labors and met at the end of the day to pool their efforts. Without the concept of time, they couldn’t have taken that first step.
But just being human is no longer an option; from now on, it’s either degenerate into Borg-like automatons, or flower as human beings. Can the brain use the concept of time where necessary, but not fall prey to the trick and trap of tomorrow?
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. The author welcomes comments.