“Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ into the future.” Fly like an Eagle, Steve Miller Band Ain’t that the truth! And there is little we can do about it. Or is there? There is an obsession we humans have with time. Are we wasting it, are we making the most out of it? Are we moving towards some inevitable point like time wave zero or are we moving around in circles repeating all the things that ever happened before? These are the mysteries, these are the wonders of our ability to remember and thus project… It all comes down to circles and lines.
The linear perspective of time is simple. Things are born, they progress and they die. There is constant change through that period of time. With the linearists there is an obsession with things being done correctly, because we can’t back up and reset the clock. With this in mind, there are many who feel the imminence of time as though we are headed for some point where things will ultimately resolve. This has its roots in the Zoroaster who essentially said that history is made up of two opposing sides that are in constant battle until the final battle when all will be decided between good and evil. The linearity and down-right morbid obsession with this future forces humans to constantly consider the morality of their actions in the present – great for social control don’t you think? There have been numerous off-shoots of this initial tree of thought including heaven, hell, and battle on the plains of Megiddo, Jihad, and even the dissolution of the Buddha’s teachings at some point when the future Buddha will be required to return to set the dharma right. This list is too numerous to illuminate here, but the essence of the concept is that time moves towards some inevitable conclusion and our job is to behave and do our best to make it to that point, hopefully being saved from the worst potentials of those times when they occur.
The other side of the equation is circular time. This is an older way of seeing time and often very tribal or indigenous peoples work in this manner. It is related to the day passing, the months passing and the year passing. There is a cyclical nature to nature. Things grow and die and grow again. We see things recycle into other things, it’s the natural law. As humans we can see if we look at this everywhere in our lives. The question is how big a circle or cycle do we want to track. There is the cycles of the planets, there is the moon, there is the galaxy itself which moves in a circle. Again the circles within circles start to add up and there is a certainty and predictability to the repetition. This is also applied to human life for reincarnation is in essence a circle. How many have heard that you have to get it right this life or you are condemned to repeat it until you do? Like the movie Groundhog Day, eventually we must fall in love with the essence of life on one repeated day until we get all the details correct.
Circles and lines are the essence of how we track time. Of course there is the initial issue, we would not even worry about it if we did not have these memories, especially the memory of death, the impending memory of what is inevitably going to happen, because it has happened to everyone we know, and will happen to everyone. Whether circles or lines work better for one depends on the culture and manner one has been trained to experience the world.
What’s the point?
First of all, the linear theorists believe that it all adds up to some conflagration or end times that become the obsession of their lives. They see patterns everywhere as a reflection backwards which indicates that inevitability. Into this category I throw the new age obsession with 2012 and Time Wave Zero of Terrance McKenna. Either way, whether you buy that we are being drawn towards some point or creating it because the calendar is coming to some end, it adds up to Salvationism in its darkest most virulent form. It’s the hidden agenda in this believe structure that bothers me. These are the ones who believe that things are imminent. This is not to say that things could not get really bad. At no other time in human history are we more on the verge of our own, and the earth’s destruction! But is time actually linear with a story that has a point? Not sure.
Likewise, the cyclists can be just as obsessed with the salvation of the planet. Like a game where we are not in charge of all the cards, we are set adrift and some action, even a small one, may lead to us repeating things all over again. Uff da! At that point, oblivion looks inviting. Yet this is the very thing that has been misinterpreted from the 2012ers. They forget that the native tribes of Mexico and most of America believed in the cyclical aspect of time. In fact everything was related to the circle and the cycles of life. So to say that the Mayan’s predicted a point of destruction is a fallacy, what they predicted was the cyclical nature of their counting system and when it began and when it will restart at zero again. But for Mayans there is no cataclysm, at least not in the sense that a westerner believes in Armageddon. These cycles were an opportunity for the people to give sacrifices (which means letting go of something) to deepen into the next period of time. And this was done throughout the long count, not just for or on one day of the long count. Repetitions of Venus and the Moon were often more important than even the shorted 13th part of the long count.
As a thinker within time and a Toltec artist, I cannot buy either the full scale circle or the line theories of life. Personally I see that things are constantly evolving in my life. Some of these patterns are tied to the seasons passing and the moons moving through the year. And if I pay extra special attention, I can intend more intensity when certain things happen like an eclipse on a solstice. Some are related to intention and moving forward with some linearity. I am not the person I was as a child! So I prefer the image of a spiral constantly moving upward and outward as I live my life through time. There are things that are similar to before, and there is much that is different. I also cannot bend my sense of freedom and intent to the idea of the immanence of time as though I am headed somewhere specific, like heaven or hell, enlightenment or repetition. These things are self-created dramas of attachment to the lines and circles. I see much more randomness within the great patterns, and a universe that wants to be open to the possibilities.
We can create what we want, and we will often create our own demise with the obsession of time. I offer a simple warning; don’t buy into the end times unless you want to end your time. Freedom is an open ended equation… tomorrow is always a surprise, yesterday is always fading… now is indeed a livable lovable mystery.