Why Are We Running Out of Time?

Jacob Needleman


Image of the WeekTechnology itself is not the cause of our problem of 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 innumerable transformations of human life that are being brought about by new technology, 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 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 the great spiritual teachings of the world.

The effects of advancing technology, for all the 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 moral 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. In the world as in oneself, time is vanishing because we have lost the practice of consciously inhabiting our life, the practice of conscious attention to ourselves as we go about our lives.

by Jacob Needlman, excerpted from "Time and the Soul." 

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion that being truly present is to have conscious attention? Can you share a story of a time that you felt truly present through conscious attention? What does the practice of conscious attention to yourself mean to you?

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2 Previous Reflections:

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    On Dec 28, 2015 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

     Wisdom traditions have taught us how to be free from our self-created and complicated spider web. We want every thing new and instant right on our palms. We as human beings have created high tech and are being allured and captivated by fast connecting, fast moving and fast changing innovative devices. It is my observation and experience that we hardly find time for ourselves and for others to be connected on a deeper level. It is almost like jumping from one branch to another branch of a tree without being rooted. There is an excitement about such swaying at a high price-the price of losing in-depth internal and inter personal connectedness.We need to be mindful of what we are losing by gaining something. We need to be still to contemplate, meditate and reflect and transform.

    May we learn and cultivate the art of hastening slowly and mindfully!


    Jagdish P Dave

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    On Dec 26, 2015 david doane wrote:

    I think what Needleman says is profound.  To be truly present is to be consciously bodily attentive to what is happening.  To be is to be consciously present, aware in the here and now.  I think it is the same as mindfulness, being aware of my thoughts, feelings, actions as I am doing them.  Consciously attentive being, or being with awareness, is being in the fullest sense.  The less consciously attentive and aware I am, the less is my being.  There have been times in meditation that I have been consciously present and attentive  to breathing, my body, and my being.  There have been times in relationship with another that I have been consciously attentive to what I am experiencing in the moment and processing and utilizing at least some of that in relating to the other.  The practice of conscious attention to myself brings a fullness of being that is special.  Being without conscious attention is diminished being. 

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