Seeing the world-as-it-is
1) At nearly exactly the same time as you (apparently), I was laid up following ACL replacement surgery and unable to do anything beyond sit pensively between doses of painkiller-induced sleep. In my waking hours, unable to focus on anything else, I mostly meditated. Odinn and I conversed on some very similar topics, it seems.
2) Americans living in America are not at all "distant" from the follow-on of Ukraine. Our government is spending tens and soon to be hundreds of BILLIONS of OUR MONEY while our economy is already on its knees to endlessly prop up what is ostensibly a proxy war but is becoming increasingly clear to more Americans is a money-laundering scheme dressed as a proxy war. We have runaway retail prices and empty shelves already. I recently gave a neighbor a carton of eggs because she couldn't find any under $6 a carton and the sort she normally buys were now in the double digits. EGGS.
They are strangling and killing us.
"Inciting fear and hysteria in people is a deeply violent act, whether done by murderers, the media, politicians, or activists." Agreed and well stated.
Also, I think you mean to say the Jetztzeit with two t :)
Jesus calls it “The Kingdom of God.” The eschaton is not a point in time, a culmination of history, but a place of timelessness that can be accessed by going within. That’s what the church got wrong.
It seems to me that the story of crisis that must be averted if we are to avoid catastrophe is the inverse of the story of The Fall, the idea that there is some perfect past that we lost because something bad happen, if only we could go back...
Thank you for sharing this great piece of work. Your elucidation of jetztzeit is fascinating. This especially: "and most importantly of all we are neither the products nor the protagonists of history." I suggest that this idea would encompass a similar one, that who we see ourselves to be, our identity, is usually based on conditioning from the past. Society, parenting, culture, and our own personal history. And the past is simply an idea; not reality. So, when we tell ourselves "I am this, or that", or "I am like this, or like that" we are reinforcing a limited idea of who and what we are. The challenge/opportunity to step outside of time would therefore require that we step outside the confines of our identification with our collective history, and our identification with our personalities. Anyway, perhaps we cannot do one without also doing the other.
Really interesting piece, as usual! And as usual, I have an Eastern Christian perspective to offer on time. I actually wrote my master's thesis on this, so I have a fair bit of reading on the subject. Basically, the East never really got into linear time in the same way that the West did, and even today, I would argue, doesn't operate on linear time. (For what it is worth, the Eastern Church also holds Augustine lightly for a number of reasons. He is considered a saint, but a lesser one, and is called Blessed Augustine, rather than Saint, as in the Western Church).
The East understands time like this: all of time is contained within a sphere, past, present, and future, and God is outside that sphere in the Eternal NOW. When we participate in the rites of the Church, we are reaching into that Eternal NOW, where everything is occurring mystically at once as for God. So when we celebrate Holy Week, we are not merely recalling the events, but in some mysterious way, participating in them happening at that moment. The events of the past are always present for us (I like your idea of time as place; it describes this rather abstract concept very well!)
As to inflation/shortages, they are here in the U.S. and they are hard. My city had major supply chain issues even before Covid, and it just got worse after the lockdowns. There was a six month period there were you literally could not buy bread (and flour to bake your own was hard to come by). Talk about existential crisis! Food prices are through the roof ($6/carton for eggs, as another commentator mentioned), $7 for a box of cereal, and meat, just forget it--close to $10 a pound usually. I never know what I'm going to be able to find when I do the shopping, and we have a large family, so that's hard too. And the shelves are empty in a Soviet revolving door sort of way. I've been saying for a couple of years now that the U.S. is basically the USSR circa 1976 in a lot of ways right now.
I love this essay. AND, I have this one question: Isn't a sense of linear time built into our existence by the immutable order of birth, growth, aging, death?
Wow. That’s a lot to think about. One more minor note though:
“ Inciting fear and hysteria in people is a deeply violent act, whether done by murderers, the media, politicians, or activists.”
It seems to me that there have been far too many people over the years claiming that ill -intentioned others have incited people against them through fear and hysteria, and that because of this, it is justified to use physical violence in response to words or agitation. So some trans activists think it acceptable to threat or use violence against “TERFs” because “TERFs” supposedly incite hate for trans people. There are many other examples of this phenomenon- returning violence to those who are believed to incite fear or hate. In fact, in many ways, it is the basis for witch-hunts of all types- the belief that someone can influence another’s actions or force them to commit crimes simply by speech. Communists were fair targets of Joe McCarthy whether or not they had committed a crime because they influenced others to crime (supposedly). Rob Halford had to “prove” that he didn’t force two young men to attempt suicide through subliminal messaging. The idea that some people or groups of people can influence others and are responsible for other’s actions is a sort of belief in witchcraft. Of course, what I think you are getting at is that there is a very real sort of influence and a real sort of witchcraft at work in the working of Meta algorithms and corporate- government propaganda collusion. And there’s an interesting conversation to be had there on the extent to which modern humans living in such a controlled world have true free will.
I think saying dreaming is “the only realm where truth and knowledge can meet each other” is an overstatement. The transverbal reality of truth - what Jesus called “the Spirit of Truth” I regard as being more accessible and present than that. Yes, when it is verbalized it is not complete, though it may be accurate as far as it goes in the telling needed at that time.
Brilliant piece that gave me a lot to think about, thank you! I am becoming increasingly worried that the climate crisis (and I say this as an environmentalist) will be used in the future as justification for global surveillance.
I am very fond of the writings of Tibetan buddhist teacher named Dilgo Khyentse. In one of his essays he points out that many people with a desire “to help” the rest of humanity cannot realistically do so in the idealistic way that they wish for, but one very basic thing we can do for each other is reduce one another’s fear. I think about that a lot and what that might look like on a small scale.
One thing I want to challenge is the idea that the average American is unaffected by and always benefits from American global imperialism. My generation (millennial) have had peers dying or coming back with severe mental illness in overseas wars that are largely unpopular. American media tends to export a story about what America is and what we care about in a way that is heavily dramatic, sensationalized, and fictional, that can often cover up a lot of the suffering and poverty that is actually going on here. I know there have always been tensions between Americans and the UK/Europeans because of the role our government plays in the world over the last few decades, but as an American woman with a Norwegian husband, I am hoping to see more dialogue between Americans and Europeans that can lead to an increased understanding of what is *actually* happening and how it is affecting us in different ways.
Great stuff, keep up the wonderful writing!
I wonder if the idea that Christianity created the concept of linear time is actually true? I can think of many ways in which the Bible and church teachings contradict linear time. E.g
- the idea that as Christians we are surrounded by 'a cloud of witnesses' of people of faith who have lived before us - this sounds much more like 'ancestors in the room next door' than people who lived once and are dead and gone.
- God being the God of the living, not the dead. i.e., those who have gone before us are still alive
- actually the Bible does not end with the destruction of the earth, but with the joining of heaven and earth, i.e., the end is just the beginning of another dimension of life
- Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah on the mountain top - again, the ancestors are just next door.
- prophecies which have multiple fulfillments.
- the cyclical nature of festivals and rituals - every year Jesus is born among us again. Sure, most people will see that as symbolic, but maybe that's just our culture talking. Also, some Christians believe that every time we sin we are nailing Jesus to the cross, again and again.
I could go on, but you get the point. My hunch is that our current western culture is very linear time focused (case in point the theory of evolution) and that this has coloured our reading of the Bible rather than the other way around.
Interesting read. I have long thought about the 'shape of time'. You framed the differences in shape as pagan and Christian, which I both agree with, and believe cut deeper. If you will indulge me, here is a short excerpt on my thoughts on the 'shape of time':
How do you get conceptual, abstract time from perceptual time? By changing the geometric shape of perceptual time. Time is the shape of our experience, the shape of our existence. The shape time takes dictates the structure of our shared, perceptual reality. And our perceptual reality, when bound to our living universe through sensation/awareness, is round, given the fact that the earth, moon and sun are round and endlessly encircle each other with extraordinary consistency. So this ‘round’ time was the framework for indigenous existence in their ancestral environment, which further framed the daily perceptual reality of time. Time as 'eight sleeps', time as 'when the grasshoppers chirp the yams are ready to harvest'.
All of existence is bound within the ‘round’ confines of perceptual time in a perceptual universe. Conceptual time, therefore, alters the shape of perceptual time, all the while existing in the same ancestral, perceptual reality. Earth, moon, sun, universe. And the ‘shape’ of perceptual time changes to conceptual time simply by choosing a random point in perceptual, round time as a beginning point, which instantly turns cyclical time into linear time.
This change in the ‘shape’ of time would have a corresponding change in the structure and function of memory i.e. structure of perceptual reality and eventually the structure and function of language. The linearity of time would alter animism as well, turning it into religion. Moving from animism, perceptual worldview, to religion, conceptual worldview, has to do with the shift in perceptual time and conceptual time. Animism perceives all things: animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather, human handiwork, even words, as animated and alive. Perceptual time is embodied time, conceptual time is disembodied time, disembodied space.
The ‘roundness’ of time is inclusive, all things, all of life, all relations are held within the eternal cycle of round ancestral time. The linearity of time becomes exclusive in a peculiar way. Linearity lends itself to division, fragmentation, and individuality, all of which accrete to such an extent as to create a ‘separate consciousness’, which is a simultaneous arising, meaning, consciousness itself emerges, and it emerges as an isolated, separate, personal phenomenon.
Hope this adds something to your own thoughts. Again, really enjoyed your writing.
Very beautiful work, thank you. I will savor it for some time.
Isn't our first experience of the world one of Jetztzeit/now-time? I have observed that my children have no real sense of linear time until maybe about the age of about 7- they live entirely moment to moment. Often their imagined worlds and the material world are one, there is no differentiation between the two. It has been difficult for me to reprogram myself back into that state, probably because my early environment and conditioning robbed me from having experienced this fully. Probably few children do experience life outside of linear time for very long in our modern world... keep dreaming...
It is interesting to interweave these concepts of time with the experience of those of us who have suffered abuse/trauma. The past is for some of us IS a timeless place that we revisit again and again, even if it is only unconsciously. It is never behind us, we carry it with us in our bodies/minds. I am told that it is the present moment that offers us the healing we need to free ourselves from our pain or our painful past. Our world then, will heal, as we move towards path of the jetztzeit...