“Eternity is a long time, especially near the end.”
– Woody Allen
What a great quote. It so clearly shows the limitations of the human mind when it comes to the understanding of existence by our species.
We humans rarely come to understand a truly long-term view of our universe. We live in the ‘here and now’, we make short steps to reach a goal. We are not well-versed in terms such as ‘enormity’ or ‘holistically’. We can only comprehend the immediate area we inhabit rather than the fulsomeness of space around us. We are self-aware, and that form of awareness is the root of our greatness as a species. We are, after all, individuals aware that we are stuck in the arrow of time.
Allow me to use the example of distance (this could be equally applied to quantity as well, but we’re doing the distance thing today).
If we walk down a flight of stairs to get to the breakfast table, that’s measured in feet. It’s easily understood. Then we get into a car and drive to work, and that’s where miles come into the story. We can understand miles, it’s a common unit of measure.
Then there are hundreds of miles, thousands, millions, billions and trillions. We can get into our heads the idea of millions of miles, perhaps, but it breaks down around that point. When it comes to any distance greater than one million, our brain sort of short-circuits. We stop thinking of the miles in physical units and suddenly we think in irrational terms; in that sort of thinking, a million might be represented as a single unit of measure. We have extrapolated. We are as a species incapable of truly understanding such gigantic units of measure. It becomes meaningless and has no reality for us.
Now, all this is well and good if we’re talking about the attempt to understand the distance to, say, the nearest pulsar. But how can a unit of measure have anything to do with our everyday emotional life?
As it happens, quite a bit.
When I awaken each day I use several units of measure to assess my emotional self. How far are we coming in therapy? Are we this day crawling to the breakfast table? Is that as far as I can reach today?
Or am I driving myself those many miles to work toward being a socially effective person? Am I traveling the thousands of miles and arriving at a goal I have set to do something important for my health and well-being? Or am I traveling a million miles and reaching real understanding?
Or am I traveling those miles without any understanding of the enormity of the distance?
Or am I missing the point?
Time (which is the Fourth Dimension) is what it takes to go anywhere, do anything, arrive at a point in space. Time, and the work that is the propellant for our journey. We know we reach for a point of light in the heavens but we know almost nothing about how many actual miles it takes to arrive. So we extrapolate. We make a guess, educated or not, and we stick to that guess until we are presented with facts that state otherwise or until we are deflected by something in the way of our goal. We try to understand it in terms of when we will arrive at our destination; but we must ask, is the time of arrival such an important thing?
“Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.”
– Woody Allen
What I’m really trying to say is that for we humans, one mile is pretty much the same as another with one exception: each mile is in a different place in space. We are, as beings stuck in a timeline tend to be, kinetic, but time forces our action into only one direction. Because of our place in time we are moving through the universe whether we wish it or not. It is time as well as distance that is misunderstood.
The focus is forward,
No matter the speed.
Moving on Earth, in Time,
When isn’t important.
In the arrow’s glide,
There’s no turn to take.
You are ballistic,
Moving toward a time
That isn’t the one you’re in,
Or the one you’ll never reach.
[From Devolving in Eden, 2011]
All things in transition use time as the unit of measurement: when I get to point B from point A, I have arrived. We may believe that all we have in this reality is time itself and when we no longer have it, we will have reached a goal of a sort.
When it comes to my struggle with bipolar disorder time is often distorted and there is much anxiety when it comes to reaching ‘goals’. I want a solution to everything wrong right now regardless of what the universe has in store, but that’s not how things work. Instead, it’s just as important to my journey to go through what time I have in wellness rather than fear. The distance covered can be remarked upon but the fact that we are on a journey cannot be seen as the destination. And with a huge, unending and physically inconceivable universe in which to dwell, one point within it is as good as another. So much for destination.
But the experiences of the journey are another matter. The work toward good and true experiences is the destination; it is our experience along our path that is the meaningful goal.
“Time has been transformed, and we have changed; it has advanced and set us in motion; it has unveiled its face, inspiring us with bewilderment and exhilaration.”
– Khalil Gibran