Timelessness of Time

Grounds, People and Property of Esalen Institute

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

                      d’Albert Einstein

The week of my birthday is here. This isn’t a benchmark birthday…not one with a zero in it. This is just another year gone by on the human invention of a calendar which marks the great illusion of time. I am thinking about the way in which our lives are controlled by the illusion of a past and future.
“Illusion? What are you talking about? Of course there is a past and a future! That’s just crazy talk.”
Well if that is crazy talk I’ll talk it with some pretty good company. Stephen Hawking, Hugh Everett, David Bohm…all physicists who expounded on Albert Einstein’s premise, “Time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it.” When Einstein’s best friend, Besso, died, Einstein wrote a letter to Besso’s family, saying that although Besso had preceded him in death it was of no consequence, “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”
I am not a physicist. I’m not even sure when and how I came to this belief. I had some trippy experiences as a child under the age of ten when time would seem to speed up or slow down relative to “ordinary” time. Actually, it wasn’t so much that time sped up or slowed down, it was more the experience of me speeding up or slowing down within the ordinary frame…it’s very difficult to explain the experience but it showed me that there was something malleable about time. It wasn’t fixed the way the clock and the calendar try to make it seem.
In the experience of my life today I notice the contraction and expansion of “time” around me. Simply said, when I am fully present to what I am doing time contracts. When I am distracted, time expands. In other words, when I am engaged fully with all of my attention focused, a “long” period of time on the clock feels as if it goes by quickly. And the opposite, when I am aimless, distracted, unengaged and drifting, time feels as if it goes by very slowly. Einstein said time is purely a direction in space.
A good friend of mine (we met at the Monroe Institute) can talk this talk all day. He taught me the “film is in the can” theory which I use often. Any unit of time can be compared to a single segment on a roll of film. When we play the movie with a projector, each segment of film passes over the projector light and is seen on the screen. The segments pass in sequence creating the illusion that time is passing as each picture on the screen follows the previous one until the end. But the whole of the film goes into the can and back on the shelf when the movie is over. The whole of “time” that appeared to be sequential is contained in that film canister. The past and future are both in the “can of now.”
Unfortunately it is very much a reality that the works of the really great spirits of science, such as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Richard Feynman and their most fundamental conclusions about the timelessness of the Universe, remain unappreciated, even unnoticed by the majority of people.
I spend a lot of time at Esalen Institute. Alan Watts is one of the early writer, philosopher, teachers whose memory is enshrined at Esalen. Watts published over 25 books, mostly on eastern philosophy. He was one of those who attempted to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western philosophy. Watts said, “I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”
So here comes another birthday…oh, well. It truly doesn’t mean a thing, unless I choose to think it does.
Gevin Giorbran wrote the book, Everything Forever, Learning to See Timelessness. His website is http://everythingforever.com. I recommend it if this conversation interests you.

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