Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Albatross That Binds Us Together

Whether blinking, blaring, or ticking, time machines constantly remind us of the irreversible, rapid, one-way, stream of change, ultimately, carrying all of us along, without regard to race, religion, sexuality, status, or gender. Within this continuous flow of split seconds that is us, the ever moving present becomes our past (decay), as it transforms into our future (bloom), and illuminates the inherent contradiction of human living: that we are born to die.

That's life, when experienced through the uni-directional, linear concept of time.
How cruel is that? Is it any wonder that we will do anything to cover up and distract ourselves from this only inevitable certainty in life? Our tendency to be untrue and evasive about ourselves and our lives is understandable considering none of us are getting out alive. However, is hiding and running from the truth fully living. Could we live more fulfilling lives if we confront the "awful" truth that death is as much a part of ourselves as life?

Just as every millisecond stands between decay and bloom, all of humanity exists in complexity and paradox. We cannot have life without death, love without hate, clarity without confusion, or faith without doubt. Nevertheless, most individuals skim the surface of life, afraid to confront this reality. They do whatever it takes to distract themselves from the way things are.

“If you ask a member of this generation two simple questions: 'How do you want the world to be in fifty years?' and 'What do you want your life to be like five years from now?' the answers are quite often preceded by 'Provided there is still a world' and 'Provided I am still alive.' To the often-heard question, Who are they, this new generation? one is tempted to answer, Those who hear the ticking. And to the other question, Who are they who utterly deny them? the answer may well be, Those who do not know, or refuse to face, things as they really are.” -- Hannah Arendt
Maybe, it doesn't have to be this way as time is a human construct. None of the basic equations in any type of physics include an arrow of time that points in one direction only. In other words, our concept of time does not exist in the universe, however, it's the only way we can make sense of and order our world considering our perceptual limitations.

We think of the past as what no longer exists, and the future as what does not yet exist, meaning the only thing we have is the present. But if that's true, that leaves us with nothing but a fleeting microsecond of time. Moreover, recalling our past, and anticipating and imagining the future, greatly influences how we define our present. Our one-dimensional sense of time is greatly flawed.

Time to travel back in time.
Consider this. We cannot see ourselves moving through time as we live only in the here and now -- that nanosecond of time. Rewind our life backwards and every minute we go back in time, we erase that much of our memory. However, we will remember our lives ONLY up until that point that we moved backward...not a nanosecond after. So, who is to say we are not moving backward and forward in time? Or in any other direction, for that matter.

Nevertheless, no matter what time is or isn't, until we come up with a better way, this is all we have right now. In order to preserve our humanity, we must confront our existence as it is, in order to make it bearable, not just for ourselves, but for life in its entirety.
"[W]e have cultivated a mass mind and have moved from the extreme of rugged individualism to the even greater extreme of rugged collectivism. We are not makers of history; we are made by history. Longfellow said, ‘In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer,’ meaning that he is either a molder of society or is molded by society. Who doubts that today most men are anvils and are shaped by the patterns of the majority? Or to change the figure, most people, and Christians in particular, are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society." - Martin Luther King, Jr.


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