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The Tyranny of Time
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time. - Longfellow
The foundation for all experience is laid with information that comes
through our five senses. Dying is a process which among other things
involves us losing our senses. Living is a process which among other
things involves us using our senses. To speak of the end of time−outside
of personal death−is utter nonsense or mysticism, in that such a thing
would entail the cessation of all events and experience and would reduce
reality to senseless, meaningless nothing. What is meant is really the
end of the tyranny of aging and dying in that the pressure induced by a
limited lifetime is no longer a factor.
What is meant is really the end of a fundamental dilemma, the
hazardous passage between time's rock of Scylla and its whirlpool of
Charybdis. Those is, on the one hand, our facing long or seemingly long
periods of empty time, where our "allotted" duration on earth is ticking away and
whatever events we are experiencing are not significantly enhancing our
lives, where we are bored to the point of taking undue risks on some
level. As it was said long ago, "Even the Gods must fight boredom."
On the other hand, we face having to spend, sell or trade our talents and
life experiences in order to survive or support ourselves or to 'buy
some time for ourselves'. However well we make this passage without
losing our soul, we then face a third hazard, the quandary of constant
decisions over wanting to do 'too many things' or wanting to have too
many experiences and only having the time to make a commitment to some
or a few,
always to the exclusion of the others.
When we are having a "really good time", we are not speaking of a
large quantity of time but are addressing the life enhancing quality of
the events or experiences of that sequence. When we are ecstatic*. or
euphoric** or elated', we don't really lose track of the sequence of
time but we do lose our concern over or worry about the tyranny, the now
ever present lack of time.
Here is what Steve Taylor says about the subject:
ANOTHER EFFECT OF the Ego Explosion was a change in the way we perceive time.
It's possible to say that the Ego Explosion actually created
1 Schopenhauer, 1930, p.56.
perception of time is linear. The past is behind us, the future
in front of us, and the present is a brief moment at the
intersection of the two. It flashes for a tiny instant and then
disappears. The past is a gigantic "trash box" of old present
moments, none of which can ever be relived, and the future is an
endless sequence of new moments waiting to happen, which are
unknowable until they arrive.
The sense that
time is always flowing in this way puts a constant pressure on
us. We feel that it's continually slipping away, and struggle to
keep up with it. We're always behind time, there never seems to
be enough of it, and every time we let a few precious moments
pass by without making use of them we feel like we've wasted it.
This flow of
time can be a depressing phenomenon too. It means that nothing
is permanent, that all the circumstances which give us happiness
fade away after a short while. As the German philosopher
Schopenhauer wrote, "In a world like this, where there is no
kind of stability, no possibility of anything lasting, but where
everything is thrown into a restless whirlpool of change...it is
impossible to imagine happiness."1
Time takes everything away from us. It eats away at our youth,
beauty, health, optimism, and even our lives themselves. Every
hour we live through takes us closer to death — "The hours are
killing you, one by one," as the French saying goes.
view of time seems self-evidently true to us, but in a sense
it's just as much a product of the fallen psyche as male
domination, theistic religion or body-hostility.
Steve Taylor, The Fall, O Books is an
imprint of The Bothy, John Hunt Publishing Ltd.,Deershot Lodge, Park Lane, Ropley, Hants,
S024 OBE, UK, 2005, p. 228
* The word 'ecstasy' means the opposite of boredom and its Greek
roots mean out of stasis.
** This word describes a feeling of fully enhanced well-being or
being filled with elation.