Time and Eternity: October 25, 2004
"Fear, where are you? I want to talk to you about 'time'."
"I'm a little surprised to hear from you," came Fear's voice. It's been so long, I thought you'd forgotten about me. Well, here I am. But why, may I ask, do you want to talk about 'time,' of all things?"
"Because of something you said when I first met you," I replied, "and because of something I realized in the Nubian Desert of Egypt forty years ago."
"And what's that?" inquired Fear.
"That 'time' is simply a trap of my mind."
"I'm not so sure I'm going to like this conversation," moaned Fear.
"Why not?" I asked. "You were the one who brought up the notion of 'time' when I first met you."
"True, but you believed in 'time' then."
"What you mean is that I believed in the 'future' then, isn't it?"
"Yes," said Fear. "Must you be so damn succinct?"
"Well," I said somewhat hesitantly, "that was during my days as a graduate student, and, as you well know, I was pretty mixed up."
"That's putting it mildly," chuckled Fear. "I would say severely screwed up."
"Guess I'll have to go along with that," I agreed reluctantly.
"Since we've that ironed out," quipped a delighted Fear, "what exactly do you want to discuss?"
"You said, as best I remember it, that the 'future' is only a figment of my imagination and therefore an illusion of time because time does not exist, except as a human construct, which is also of the mind."
"True enough," said Fear, "the 'future' exists only in your mind—as do I. Everything happening in the world right now is happening simultaneously in this very moment, which is beyond time because it's always the present—the eternal moment, the here-and-now, and thus timeless. Think about it."
"What am I to think about?" I queried.
"Well, knuckle head, think about eternity," retorted Fear. "If time is a trap of your mind, as you put it, why is it a trap?"
"I guess because…"
"Oh for pity sake. You're as slow as molasses in winter," chided Fear. "'Eternity,' the ever-present here-and-now, which you have so often written about, is all that's real, but humanity can't deal with 'open-endedness.'"
"Why do you say that?"
"Because," snapped an impatient Fear, "it's true."
"Explain yourself," I challenged with some irritation.
"Explain myself… Explain myself… Why do you think the mechanical clock was invented? Oh, never mind trying to answer that. It was invented to make ocean travel as predictable as possible because mariners must navigate sandwiched between a seemingly endless ocean and an endless sky, where everything is constantly moving and changing, which makes it extremely difficult to know exactly were you are in a fog or a storm when all your guide posts disappear. Only the mechanical clock is predictable in the face of ocean travel's uncertainty."
"That's fine and dandy for sailors, but how does it apply to me?"
"How does it apply to you? Hummm. Well, let's look at it differently. Do you remember the huge fields of bailed hay that you worked in as a young man?"
"Yes, of course."
"How did you pick up the bails?"
"With 'hay hooks,' obviously."
"Naturally you used hay hooks, but that's not what I'm asking about."
"Well, then, be clear."
"Did you pick up the outer-most row of bails one at a time all around the edge of the big fields?" asked Fear
"No," I replied, "I picked them up in small areas."
"Because I couldn't see any visual progress in the field if I just picked up the outer-most row."
"Precisely," enjoined a excited Fear. "You 'fragmented' the sea of bails in order to have a visual sense of accomplishment. That's precisely why people invented 'time,' to 'fragment' eternity and so have a measurable scale and some illusionary sense of control over their lives. And it's that very fragmentation of eternity that created the future and gave birth to me—a singularly spectacular event in the history of humanity!"
"More like a Greek Tragedy, I think."
"Be a sarcastic smart-ass if you want, but I'm here to stay," snarled Fear.
"Well, let's say your are, for the moment at least. But that notwithstanding, I can rid myself of you by embracing the eternal, timeless moment—like installing a computer 'firewall' between eternity and that artificial time-fragment you call 'the future,' which means that I can see you but you can't see me. Am I correct?"
"Essentially," admitted Fear. "As you know, I'm forbidden by the love of God to enter the eternal moment, where both God and Love abide."
"So, if I understand you correctly, anyone who stays within the boundary of the timeless, eternal moment is free of you—completely free of you."
"Yes," snapped a defiant Fear, "but how many of you humans ever stay there, huh, huh?"
"That, Fear, is not the issue. The point is that it can be done! That I can choose to so discipline myself—my mind—that I reside forever within the timelessness of eternity—the boundary between the present and the future, that which exists as reality and that which is but a shadow of the mind."
"Ah ha!" chortled Fear, "Beware the boundary!"
"What on Earth are you talking about?"
"Remember that old ranch house you found in Colorado some forty odd years ago?"
"Ya, I remember."
"Well, tell me about it."
"Why do you want to hear about that again?"
"Because," said Fear, "I'm not sure I remember all the details."
"I was working in the 'Brown's Hole Country' of northwestern Colorado, which is flat and open in every direction as far as the eye can see. One day, I came across an old house, which, long abandoned and weathered by time, squatted tired and rickety in the middle of nowhere, surrounded on all sides by seemingly limitless space.
"I drove over to the house, parked my vehicle, and got out. Only then did I even notice the one-rail fence and small creaky gate that surrounded the faded building with its haunting, glassless windows. Although I thought nothing of the fence as I approached the gate, once through the gate, I sensed a totally different feel about the house—almost a feeling of welcome, as though protective arms had suddenly been extended around me, but why? Exploring the house held no clue to the cause of this feeling of 'security' and 'friendliness,' and it wasn't until I went back through the gate to get my lunch that I understood. The house had nothing to do with my feeling of welcome and security; it was the presence of the fence!
"While the fence might have kept adult horses and cattle out of the yard in years past, it also defined the yard—and that was the point. The fence held the vast openness of unending space in abeyance and in so doing gave the people who lived in the house a sense of human scale, of definable proportion within a boundary they could both see and touch. They could, for instance, lean upon the fence and contemplate the vastness of space without being directly confronted by it, but only if the fence stood between them and the seeming void of eternity. And it occurred to me that I would have the same feeling of welcome and security within the confines of the fence were it to have a single stand of wire, string, or even a piece of thread, just as long as it was visible, and I could touch it."
"There, you have it!" grinned Fear.
"There, I 'have' what?" I asked.
"You have the reason I shall always prevail. And before you ask you infernal, pea-whited 'Why,' I'll tell you—the fence. You always think in terms of boundaries, such as the 'boundary of eternity.' There's no such thing. Eternity is timeless, like space is limitless, and sounds—words—are meaningless until you put a boundary, a fence around them and so create the illusion of understanding, the illusion of control, where none can exist. You people are doomed to fragment your world into smaller and smaller intellectual pieces because you cannot, you simply cannot accepted the open-ended adventure that constitutes life—as it is, right now, this instant. For you people, life is never okay as it is, right now. You're always wanting it to be different than it is, and so you miss life altogether."
"I'm not so sure people can't accept life's open-endedness so much as they're frightened by it and so refuse to accept it."
"Whatever! As long as people don't accept life as it is, a fluid, open-ended adventure into the nonpredictable realm of uncertainty and wonder, I shall exist and so rival Love in world domination—as you see today."
"If, Fear, I understand you correctly, you're saying that your existence depends on people's continued fragmentation of life in their bid to control the uncontrollable—change, the Eternal Mystery, the Universal Constant that embodies Creation itself."
"You got it! You got it!," chanted Fear with glee.
"I don't know what you're so gleeful about," I countered. "If I can 'get it,' as you say, then so can everyone else."
"But they don't, and that's the point."
"Why, in your opinion, don't they 'get it'?"
"Because of their insistence on fragmenting their world."
"Okay, 'fragmentation,' what exactly do you mean by that? Owning land and fencing it to keep other people out? Fragmenting habitat by the way in which people chop it up when cutting forests? What?"
"No! No! No! What I'm talking about has nothing to do with the world outside of your human mind. I'm talking about your inner landscape and the mental fences you build in my name."
"Yes, mental fences. What happens to a person's thinking when they're afraid."
"You mean, it becomes constricted as though you, Fear, are an astringent?"
"Precisely! They suck into themselves, become self-centered, greedy, selfish, competitive, and increasingly narrow-minded the more they project into the future and so embrace me. Every time they withdraw in fear from the outer world, like a turtle pulling its head into its shell, they construct another, smaller but higher fence around their minds, which increasingly blinds them to life's wonderful opportunities to experience the adventure of living—really living. You know, like the two, old brothers in the movie Second-Hand Lions."
"Then, in contrast, Love opens our minds to the expansiveness of eternity by dismantling the mental fences we construct in our attempt to keep you out—like tearing down our imaginary 'Berlin Wall' and reuniting our minds."
"Yes," came Fear's reply. "Love's theme song, should it have one, would be: 'Let me wander over yonder, wherever life allows, don't fence me in, etc., etc. You get the point."
"I do. And I also see that the more we teach about Love, the finer our adventures in life will be, because they, like eternity, will be timeless and so ever-present."
"That would be true, but first you have to tear down the mental fences—and my fencing business is booming. In fact, I can barely keep up with the supply and demand," said Fear with its usual, self-satisfied grin.
"I, on the other hand, will continue to…"
"Ya, ya, ya," interrupted Fear. "Since I've actually enjoyed this conversation, don't spoil it!" With that, a grinning Fear began to fade, much as the Cheshire cat did in Alice's Wonderland.
© chris maser 2004. All rights reserved.