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The Problem of Time

--by Jacob Needleman (Nov 09, 2009)


It is necessary to realize that technology itself is not the cause of our problem of [not having enough] time.  Its influence on our lives is a result, not a cause -- the result of an unseen accelerating process taking place in ourselves, in our inner being.  Whether we point to the effect of communication technology (such as e-mail) with its tyranny of instant communication; or to the computerization, and therefore the mentalization of so many human activities that previously required at least some participation of our physical presence; or to any of the other innumerable transformations of human life that are being brought about by the new technologies, the essential element to recognize is how much of what we call "progress" is accompanied by and measured by the fact that human beings need less and less conscious attention to perform their activities and lead their lives.

The real power of the faculty of attention, unknown to modern science, is one of the indispensable and most central measures of humanness -- of the being of a man or a woman -- and has been so understood, in many forms and symbols, at the heart of all great spiritual teaching of the world.  The effects of advancing technology, for all its material promise they offer the world (along with the dangers, of course) is but the most recent wave in a civilization that, without recognizing what it was doing, has placed the satisfaction of desire above the cultivation of being.

The deep meaning of many rules of conduct and more principles of the past -- so many of which have been abandoned without our understanding their real roots in human nature -- involved the cultivation and development of the uniquely human power of attention, its action in the body, heart and mind of man.  To be present, truly present, is to have conscious attention.  This capacity is the key to what it means to be human.

It is not, therefore, the rapidity of change as such that is the source of our problem of time.  It is the metaphysical fact that the being of man is diminishing.

--Jacob Needleman, in Time and the Soul


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8 Previous Reflections:

 
On Nov 17, 2009 Ganoba wrote:

Time, like space, just is. It does not come or go.

It is the same with life it does not begin or end.

So with love, It is, neither more or less.



On Nov 16, 2009 mahendra n. parikh wrote:

SIMPLY GREAT



On Nov 14, 2009 sophie wakeman wrote:

I guess what i want to say is that so many times in our lives things happen and we think things could not get any worse but then something happens to someone else and you just want to kick yourself that you ever said 'life's not fair' in the end you cannot imagine walking in their shoes and if ever faced with that situation you simply believe you'd give up!!!! Next time something happens to you thats perhaps just a small test of character please take some time to look around you and imagine a day in the shoes of someone really suffering please smile and overcome it because one day you really will need help to carry on!!!!! Thank you



On Nov 13, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

This was a very deep passage. When reading the second paragraph, I was in a hurry and remember looking for the word after being. Being what? Reading it again, I realized my mind was so conditioned to reading about being something or the other, that just "be-ing" was surprising (pleasantly so). Be-ing something else is not be-ing myself, and hence is untrue. It sounds so simple - all I have to do is stop stop being something else, and yet is extremely hard to do, because it is about not doing. I find myself engaged in being something or the other, in other words, engaging in self-deception. I loved the fact that this passage was about "The Problem of Time," because a misconception of time is probably one of the leading causes of self-deception. "I don't have time to be here" is one of the biggest lies I tell. With the evolution of polite social language, an euphemism for lying, our minds are trapped into believing our own lies leading to stress and unhapp  See full.

This was a very deep passage. When reading the second paragraph, I was in a hurry and remember looking for the word after being. Being what? Reading it again, I realized my mind was so conditioned to reading about being something or the other, that just "be-ing" was surprising (pleasantly so).

Be-ing something else is not be-ing myself, and hence is untrue. It sounds so simple - all I have to do is stop stop being something else, and yet is extremely hard to do, because it is about not doing. I find myself engaged in being something or the other, in other words, engaging in self-deception.

I loved the fact that this passage was about "The Problem of Time," because a misconception of time is probably one of the leading causes of self-deception. "I don't have time to be here" is one of the biggest lies I tell. With the evolution of polite social language, an euphemism for lying, our minds are trapped into believing our own lies leading to stress and unhappiness.

My inspiration on keeping my thoughts clear about time is my Professor. Whenever I meet him, I find that he is in a state of "be-ing," which manifests in tremendous attention to whatever I have to say. Every meeting with him has a magical touch to him, and I come away inspired, believing in myself. Once, he revealed his secret behind the ability to be. After attending a Zen workshop, he had convinced himself that, unlike the common perception that we form our beliefs from our experiences, he had discovered that his experiences were coming from his beliefs. Therefore, he reformatted his operating system and installed new beliefs. The first one was, "I have time." 

Before and after this installation, he has used To-do lists and technology to manage his time. However, after installing this belief, he now finds that he has time. When you stop him in the hallway, he has time to smile at you and greet you with great presence and intention. When something unexpected comes up in his schedule, he has time to receive it with his full awareness. 

I always wondered how he would respond when he had many demands on his time and really needed to be doing something else. It is rare for him to say no to someone's request for time, but the way in which he did it earlier this week thrilled me. I would normally utter a lie, "I don't have time" out of habit. But when I popped my head and asked him, "Professor, do you have some time?," he looked at me with a smile and replied, "I always have time. The question is, how am I going to spend it?" We agreed to meet a little later, but upon reflection, I realized that I'd been handed a gift. This answer was so beautiful because it had two great truths in it. The first - he had time. The second, it was his decision on how he would spend it, just like the rest of us are free to choose. We have physical constraints and cannot be somewhere else because we chose to be here right now. We have to continue to use our intellect wisely and harmonize with our hearts to make the most of our time here.

There is another common confusion about time that he once clarified in class. When a loved one says, "Oh, you don't love me because you're not spending enough time with me," his response is (my paraphrasing of it), "What does love have to do with time? When you love someone, you are never in deficit - it'd be silly to say that I have no more love to give because I gave it to such-and-such person. But with time, you cannot be doing two things at once, and so you need to be wise about how you use your time."

For those who are curious, the second belief he installed was "I have all the help I need." And he finds that wherever he goes, people are always ready to help him, so he never has to worry about anything. 

I loved the thoughts that people shared. Chris' comments on how often we look at the clock when someone is speaking was striking. Bhoutik's story of the 3-hour meeting with Nipun where he didn't once look at his cellphone for the time. And I loved the polar views on Facebook and other social networking sites. While many found that was the space in which they could give high quality attention, others felt such tools took away attention from the environment they were in. Guri's closing thoughts were remarkable, for she shared them with great joy and laughter. I hope she will post the mail she received about the internet (which really cracked her up) in an iJourney comment.

I liked Nipun's final story, where as a child, he was serving food in a temple, and wanting to connect with each receiver, he kept saying "Om." Although nothing was said in response, the resulting connection and presence, brief and perhaps never to be repeated again with the same set of individuals, was something he has not forgotten. 

In summary, after hearing everyone's comments, I felt that the author's insight holds true - it is not Facebook, Twitter and Orkut that are a problem. It is about us. The medium has changed from physical presence to an online presence. We should not be surprised to find that the presence however remains the same. I am present right now as I write this online comment and I feel great love and goodwill. My mind is focused on being true to my intention. I do not know if anyone will read this comment  and connect with my intention. But, I have already been rewarded in a way I cannot explain, for the act itself. I have a smile to carry with me for the rest of the day. And I know that..

I have time. The question is, how am I going to spend it? :)

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On Nov 10, 2009 Chuck Gribble wrote:

I offer a quote from Anthony de Mello that seems apropos:

“People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is actually done by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it.”



On Nov 10, 2009 r4 wrote:

Well I agree that some part of the article did not have much relevence and it was overstretched. Communication technology has definitely helped in going beyond many boundries. There is still lot more to come with regard to innovation.



On Nov 10, 2009 Ijiekhuamhen wrote:

As the water reflects you face. So your mind dictate your world. Your mind is your life and Real self.  The wise Solomon said keep it diligently.

Austin.



On Nov 9, 2009 Saqib wrote:

Author of this article is kind of stating  the obvious, mixed with personal biases and bit of a stretch.  I will explain why I say so - Technology especially communication technology has helped in a humongous way the acceleration of human connectednes and have enables global consciousness. Internet is breaking down the bariers of previously created human borders and silos and enabling all kinds great people to connect, heal, express, learn, invent, innovate, and create a future of humanity together. It is ironic that the author uses the communication technology and is beneficiary of the same conscious evolution that he seems to have a problem with. Spirit is not a disconnected matter from the form. True that email and IM messages are out of whack, but it is a process. It is already getting better, and with the invention, innovation and evolution of human race, it might even further improve. Whose to say we won't learn to "instantly communi  See full.

Author of this article is kind of stating  the obvious, mixed with personal biases and bit of a stretch.  I will explain why I say so -

Technology especially communication technology has helped in a humongous way the acceleration of human connectednes and have enables global consciousness. Internet is breaking down the bariers of previously created human borders and silos and enabling all kinds great people to connect, heal, express, learn, invent, innovate, and create a future of humanity together.

It is ironic that the author uses the communication technology and is beneficiary of the same conscious evolution that he seems to have a problem with. Spirit is not a disconnected matter from the form. True that email and IM messages are out of whack, but it is a process. It is already getting better, and with the invention, innovation and evolution of human race, it might even further improve. Whose to say we won't learn to "instantly communicate" without the use of any external electronics, but with the sceintific use of perceptory sensors. :-)

There are many great human beings out there that are constantly looking to improve and innovate in communication methods. Innovation and evolution, spiritual or physical, doesn't happen in a vacuum. It is not even a linear process. Current state of technology represents the current state of humanity and its bottled up desire to connect, to know, to seek, connection, and relation with other beings. There are hiccups in the process, but so what. Appreciate what is so :)

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