Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Time: A Mystery & Problem

--by Jacob Needleman (Oct 22, 2007)

The question of our relationship to time is both a mystery and a problem. It calls to us from the deepest recesses of the human heart. And it bedevils us on all the surfaces of our everyday life. At the deeper levels, in front of the mystery of time, we are mortal beings solemnly aware of our finitude -- longing, perhaps, for that in ourselves which partakes of the eternal. But at the surface levels of ourselves, in front of the problem of time, we are like frantic puppets trying to manage the influences of the past, the threats and promises of the future and the tense demands of the ever-diminishing present moment. The mystery of time has the power to call us quietly back to ourselves and toward our essential freedom and humanness. The problem of time, on the other hand, agitates us and"lays waste our powers."

Five years ago (...) the uniquely modern form of the problem of time -- the astonishing fact that the conditions of contemporary life are bleeding meaningful time out of our lives—had already begun to assume epidemic proportions. Almost all of us—including even young children—were being afflicted by this new poverty, this time-poverty. [...]

In the world as in oneself, time is vanishing because we have lost the practice of consciously inhabiting our life, the practice of bringing conscious attention to ourselves as we go about our lives.

All clichés about "be here, now" aside, the fundamental fact is that, in ways we cannot imagine, the key to living the values we prize—freedom, moral will, compassion, common sense and far-seeing wisdom -- depend on the exercise and development of the uniquely human capacity to free our attention from its "capture" by the impulses of the body and the imaginings and automatisms of the mind and emotions. In the world as in oneself, everything depends of the presence of humanness—in oneself it depends on the presence, even if only to a relative degree, of the Self, the real I am, -- and in the life of the world it depends on the presence of people who have and can manifest this capacity to be, or even only who wish for it and who come together to learn from each other and to help each other for that purpose.

--Jacob Needleman

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3 Previous Reflections:

On Aug 22, 2009 Gina wrote:

I read the article about the importance of time. Through this, I was able to realize that in my own condition I need to value my time as I value my self. this will enable me to have improved or developed as a productive individual.

On Nov 8, 2007 Bev wrote:
read this just after sending email
and it seemed relevant, so forwarding on to you.....
I appreciate your being there to remind me to check in on myself


On Oct 23, 2007 Ganoba wrote:
The word in sanskrit for time is KAAL or Maha KAAL. It is one of the names of God.
Einstein has shown that space and time are synonymous. They represent the same phenomenon. Thus time like space is multi-dimensional not linear. Just as we cannot be outside space, similarly we cannot be apart from time. We are located within it like a foetus in a mother's womb.
Let us treat time (and also space) not as things outside us to be used, but as an integral aspect of our being. If we abuse time we abuse ourselves. If we waste time we waste ourselves. That is why misuse, abuse of time makes us feel disturbed.
Let us treat time the way we would treat ourselves, with love and respect.