We tend to think of time as a line along which we are moving. Most of us look at time as a straight line. Some get the feeling we are going around in circles. In that case, time loops back on itself. How you look at it is cultural. Most people in the west think time is linear.
You might struggle with the question as to whether or not time is real. You certainly feel bound to it. You can’t stop it, although it might seem to speed up or slow down, depending on your state of mind. You can’t go backwards, and you can’t skip forward. It is your fate to grind it out, one second at a time, until you run out.
You might say that the past doesn’t really exist because it’s gone; and that the future doesn’t really exist, because it hasn’t happened yet. The present moment seems like the only real thing. At other times, it seems the present moment is an impossibly thin knife-edge between the past and the future. You might choose instead to live in the past or the future, depending on your own particular circumstances.
It’s definitely real, it’s just hard to wrap your head around how it’s real.
The ancient Greeks had an interesting spin on the subjective nature of time. They felt time had two qualities, which they called Chronos and Kairos.
Chronos refers to the passage of time. I like to think of it as a wave of time that passes through the world.
Kairos refers to the sensation that everything has been leading up to the present moment.
I can imagine something the Greeks didn’t write about. What about flipping Kairos upside down? What do you call the sensation that the future is bursting forth from the present moment? The feeling that Cameron Crowe expressed in “Almost Famous”: It’s all happening. A friend of mine suggested the term “serendipity” applies. I like that.
Here’s how I like to look at it. I want to put the notions of Chronos, Kairos, “serendipity” and the time line all together and make one picture. So I’m riding the crest of the wave of time, with the feeling that events have converged on my location, in some respects. And that there are possibilities for the future springing forth from that same point. In another Cameron Crowe movie, he has a character say, “every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.” I was thinking, yeah, every passing moment is an opportunity to mess things up even more than they already are. (That movie was “Vanilla Sky.” Watch it before you read my chapter on Carl Jung.)
While we are on the subject of movies about time, check out Ron Fricke’s Chronos, which is a meditation on that concept of time. It’s gorgeous, very moving. Not much action, and no dialogue. It’s sort of like MTV for people who don’t have ADD.