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.