LeFevre: Ending Time is the True Fountain of Youth
Ending Time is the True Fountain of Youth
As Einstein proved, time is elastic, slowing down as the speed of light is approached. But if that is true of physical time, how much more elastic, and illusory, is psychological time?
With sufficient attention, the infinite regression of the observer ends, and psychological time ends as well. One is no longer in a perpetual state of becoming. For a few minutes at least there is simply being, and one is present with everything.
Simply put, the observer is the habit of separating oneself from oneself. If you sit still and watch your mind for a few minutes, you¹ll notice that there is always a watcher, a self that seems to stand apart, evaluating, judging, and deciding.
Passively attending to the stream of thought, awareness naturally and effortlessly quickens. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, awareness overtakes thought, catching it in the act of separation. One sees that the watcher and the watched are actually part of the same movement of thought. That is, the mind sees through the trick of the observer, ending the divisive habit. Then there is just observing.
In actuality, there is no observer. The separate self is at best a functional illusion; a mechanism the mind fabricates to give us the ability to perform intentional activity. The tragedy is that the mind¹s arbitrary separations are taken to be the truth, producing every form of individual and collective egoism, for which people since the beginning of time have been willing to kill and be killed.
Conscious thought can be defined as the mechanism that allows us to intentionally remove things from the background of the environment. A tree is not a separate object until we see the tree as such. In nature, there are no separations; matter, energy, and time flow together in an infinite series of interpenetrating and seamless totalities.
Leaving the garish strip of stores, shops, and apartments along the mountain road, we turn off toward the lake, and are graced immediately by a boulevard of pines and spectacular canyon views.
A few miles on and we arrive at the lake. It¹s actually a man-made reservoir, though a most beautiful one, given its forested setting and emerald color. The jewel is deserted except for a lone and apparently disoriented driver haltingly pulling into (and then out of) the parking area ahead of us.
We walk a mile (as enumerated by trailside markers every quarter) on a wide path that circumnavigates the lake. Though the elevation is less than 1000 meters, the autumn that has just begun in the valley is in full leaf here. The oak trees that liberally dot the land are yellow and red, and summer lies in brown abundance at our feet.
My friend indicates she has walked as far as she wants; she starts back as I descend the slope to sit in the sun at the water¹s edge. The spot overlooks a finger of the deep green reservoir. The sun is at about 45 degrees in the western sky, and so bright off the water that I cannot look to the right without shading my eyes. The silence is palpable.
The underlying silence is all the more astonishing because it isn¹t completely quiet. From some miles away a back-up beeper on a construction vehicle goes on and off with the regularity of a maddening metronome. (Fortunately, it¹s too far away to hear the engine sounds.) The occasional vehicle pulling into the gravel parking lot, over half mile way as the crow flies, is as audible as if I¹m sitting on one of the benches adjacent to it.
But these are minor annoyances, completely enveloped by a tangible silence that soon penetrates the mind and obliterates thought. I look up to see my friend standing across the water a quarter mile away; we speak to each other in normal voice, as if on the opposite sides of a room.
At the end of an hour alone (an hour that passes as swiftly as a minute), my ears, mind, and heart are fully attuned to the wondrous place. Then I hear a strange whirring sound behind me.
Nearly half a minute later, I look up to see a single bird flying high above, its wings rhythmically beating as it literally slices a path through the air. Each wing beat takes a moment or two to reach my ears, but time has ceased to exist.
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.