Time is the fluid experience of a passing moment and the creation of another one. Like a river, it only knows one direction: forward to never look back. Time is intricately linked with all of consciousness. It infiltrates every nook and cranny and makes itself aware no matter what world I enter.
But there is no distinct stream of experiences I can call “time”. It is neither a feeling nor a signal from the senses but emerges out of the concert of all my experiences. When checking my watch I see a change in the indicator’s position and know the outside world moved on. It is undeniable proof that everything changed and time elapsed. Even when I try to lock out everything, sit down, close my eyes, and exist in a moment of absolute silence I feel my body around me. I feel an arching muscle and pain building up until I give up, and change my position, in expectation of that beautiful feeling of release. During all of that, there was not a single moment where I didn’t experience time.
Time, change, and experience; those words always go together. How could I experience anything if not for change? There would only be a static, singular scene; a single world, and no interaction. It would be as dead and unconscious as a picture on the wall. There is no experience without change because what I experience is change. I see the cursor blinking on my screen. I see and feel my hands moving across the keyboard. Even the very thoughts in my mind are full of change. They change the scenery and articulation that accompanies them. New ones draw my attention while others disappear into the unconscious.
There is also no change without experience. Only nothingness, a dreamless night, or potentially death itself, because what is death other than the realm of non-existence? And when there is no change, no experience, how should there be time? In the end, it is the distance between a moment long gone and the now (A1).
To have experience requires remembrance. Without memory, this instance would be forever replaced by another infinity. But I am granted a past. Like an archive, I have access to my colorful and long history deep down to the moment when remembering was first established and change found its root.
Experience builds upon memory and time is its progression. Every stream is its own complete universe. A massive river of different torrents. A cacophony of time. And then there is that outside force requiring a unified direction and imparting entropy. We dream of traveling through time like a ship on the ocean, only to recognize that it stays a dream. We delegate it to stories and fiction never to materialize in the “real” world because that moves on harshly and unforgivingly.
Time intricately links all my worlds and brings uniqueness to the flow of conscious experience. It is a black hole that consumes all of now and makes place for the next. Rome is not coming back and nor is the last day gone. All those conscious states went beyond the event horizon. And so time also consumes my own share.
Time is the divine force of direction. It is leaking into every part of my being. A singular truth and a fact of every reality. No world stays untouched, often repeated but never fully the same.
- Essay series index
- Previous: Thought
- Next: Memory
A1 - What is a moment?
A moment is that singular state of all my impressions. It is a virtual unit that appears when I stop time and take inventory of every object that is present in my conscious mind.
A2 - The Velocity of Time
There isn’t only one, but each experience has its own. When I am in a state of flow, when there is no resistance and struggle in the thought that dominates attention, then time flies by. There is barely any experience of a self and what feels like a short moment might encompass hours of my life. I inhabit that state when experiencing pure joy but also when I encounter a hard problem of a very specific kind. It is complex and challenging right at the edge between the known and the unknown.
But going too far and I feel uncomfortable and often don’t know where to go. Thoughts race in every direction but no path forwards seems right. A constant struggle emerges and time stops its progress. No matter how often I check the clock it doesn’t seem to move on. In this state, I would rather be somewhere else, sometimes even someone else. Being in the realm of no time means I left the safe shores of the known and deeply ventured into chaos. But it is also here where “I” is most pronounced.
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