This piece is taken from another of my book projects ‘Teaching a Monkey to Swim’, and is my own exploration of metaphysics and the overall human experience. In the following excerpt I talk about the perception of time.
Square Miles in Round Trips
We always think of journeys as being in a straight line, or at least in a progressive direction that leads you from point A to point B. Leading you from one place to another, like a story, like life. But like anything that describes the human experience it is an analogy that helps to maintain a social agreement as to how ‘time’ and therefore the unfolding of experience works that can then be mutually understood.
How I have come to understand the nature of time and of the ‘journey’, whether through a country or through life, is that it is rather more like a slide show of events. Moments that often overlay one another, with emotional intensity being the constant rather than any notion of time. And only when you look away from the linear for a moment can you begin to see the patterns and correlations that exist across a span of time, and you realise that the question of there being any kind of succession of events becomes irrelevant. You begin to gain a fuller perspective of why you may have experienced certain events, even though at the time they may have been seen as arbitrary or irksome perhaps, or even out of place.
From my own observations through life it is apparent that that is how at least my brain works, that memories are not linear at all, but grouped by emotional intensities that can spark all sorts of journeys in different directions seemingly related or not. I believe it is how the mind is designed to work, and what is generally known as lateral or creative thinking. We all do it as far as I am aware.
The way we might arrange photographs within an album gives an overall sense of a chosen experience. Of course there is a huge amount of ellipsis that occurs when we choose to arrange memories in this way. We omit all the other occurrences or photographs that we feel didn’t quite fit the overall picture, or the emotional intensity that we are aiming to capture, or ‘re-capture’.
I think it is odd for the human mind as it is currently culturally conditioned not to want to draw an imaginary line through places or things, because that to us is a sign of progression. It is a gauge by which we measure life and our successes in life. But as a very wise guide recently said to me, the numbers are irrelevant therefore the lines are irrelevant. Experience works in all directions and all intensities that transcend any notion of physical time and space so that a thousand years in the past or future can appear as present as your NOW moment, and be as significant and as valid as anything that you may perceive as occurring ‘now’, because it is occurring NOW. Any occurrence, be that a physical event or thought that provokes an emotional reaction is in fact a NOW moment, and as a memory will continue to carry the same emotional charge and intensity no matter when it is referred to, or to put it more accurately, re-experienced.
The socially created and accepted notion of time suddenly loses its novelty and its significance. The human mind’s capacity to perceive itself is much more complex and all-encompassing than science or religion give it credit for. Human perception ebbs and flows in intensity rather like the flow of magnetic energy radiating from the earth’s core. Never static, or particularly predictable.
12 thoughts on “Teaching a Monkey to Swim Chapter 9 – Ish on Time”
Besides art, the relativity of time is a subject I have explored extensively. The interplay between fate/self determination and science/spirtuality have all come within this milieau. It was encouraging to read your article and although our desciptives are different, the gist is the same. Meaningful answers require leaps of faith that most aren’t willing to take. I applaud your out of the box thinking. d–0.0.–b
We all have our own way of understanding our own lives and of expressing what we understand, and if others can benefit from that in some way then I consider that a bonus. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I’m glad that you enjoyed my post. And yes you are right that meaningful answers do indeed require leaps of faith, I guess then it just depends on your definition of faith 🙂 Best wishes,
The faith that I’m right where I need to be…
I’m pleased to hear it 🙂
Interesting…I have just this minute finished watching The Curious case of Benjamin Buttons, so this piece seemed most apt.
In fact it might be called kismet that I clicked on your blog less than 2 minutes after the final credits rolled off the screen of my my laptop.
If you haven’t seen the film I highly recommend it.
I am a sucker for a thoughtful and slightly mushy film and this was based on a short story by F.Scott Fitzgerald.
I don’t normally do the whole ‘left field’ thing but this piece held my attention
Thank you, Ishaiya, for an enjoyable read.
Yes perhaps 🙂 Whatever your opinion is, it is always most valid. And yes I have seen the film and I enjoyed it very much, I do like a story well told. Thanks as ever Ark for taking the time to peruse my blog, the fact that anybody reads what I do is pleasure enough for me.
I checked a few other pieces but the whole metaphysics thing is generally not my bag, but i do try to read …on saying that you and my wife and daughter would probably get on like a maison flambe..as they say!
I checked out the jewelry, too.Nice.
That’s fine, the whole atheist/science thing is not my bag either, but it entertains me and fuels my intrinsically sarcastic nature. Like I said my opinions and views are not prescriptive, they and my hat are my own. As far as I’m concerned my views are irrelevant here, it is the encounter and the exchange that is important for me. You can enjoy a good film without taking it personally 🙂 Everybody’s head is different, and just as well otherwise life would indeed be dull and woollen. Thank you for liking my jewellery by the way.
Believe me, I have tried the religious thing – our house has lots of stuff on many aspects of spirituality, religion etc etc ..From Bibles to Crystals. From Rhonda Byrne to Depak Chopra and anything you can fit in the middle. And then there is Moi…lol. In our family I am the odd duck.
I have read, studied, and pondered…but once I had read the bible, then went back and read more,and dabbled i the Koran, it more or less came unglued for me.
The more blogs I read of people who lean towards religion, Christianity, Islam etc etc the more baffled I become. I wonder, what book/s are they reading that I must have missed? Or misread.
I love to write. In fact writing for me is like painting a picture, quite literally. I am a synaesthete. Words and language are just another form of painting medium for me. Have a look at my blog post ‘My Purple Orange in B flat’, it may or may not amuse you. Too much emphasis is placed on words and the meaning within them as far as I am concerned, something you yourself fervently argue against. So for me pieces of prose or verse are pictures in a gallery that are emotive in one way or another. They will either make you smile or make you frown, without necessarily needing to understand the reasoning behind the image, you trust in the artist’s creativity. You look at the painting then you move on to the next. The way I see it, the confidence that I have in the choices that I make define who I am, whether others agree or not. As always I appreciate directness, and a healthy exchange of ideas. Why else would I do this? Why does a painter exhibit their work? Who knows?
Ishaiya, thank you for this remarkable post. In fact, you answered a burning question. To quote you, “…moments that often overlay one another, with emotional intensity being the constant rather than any notion of time.” And, “memories are not linear at all, but grouped by emotional intensities that can spark all sorts of journeys.” I have been trying to grapple with why the same set of memories filter their way to the top of my mind, each and every day. I had a feeling for the truth, but your words brought together the missing pieces of my puzzle. You have my deepest respect. Thank you for all that you do. Michele
I think we take the notion of time for granted as if it is something concrete, yet as many of the belief structures prevalent in our culture it is a social construct that lacks any kind of integrity when it is examined more closely. As I began my five mile walk today,a journey I do almost every day I realised that it was a perfect example of the subject of this particular post. I had many further insights about the subject of time and how we use it to create memory along the way. I plan to write up my thoughts on this and post in the near future. Always a pleasure to read your thoughts, and my deepest gratitude and respect to you too for appreciating what I do. Ishaiya