Home / Deep Trip Series / Ask THC / Can we be free of the illusion of time?

Can we be free of the illusion of time?

Is time nothing more than an illusion? Can we free ourselves from the constraints of this illusion?

                                                                                            -Ashwin Ramesh

You may have heard several scholars, philosophers and even ‘sadhus’ talk about how everything exists only in the “Now” and that the present moment is the only thing that is actually real. They even mention that the “Now” is timeless and eternal, and is not bound by the constraints of time itself. But, how much do we actually know about time? Is it something more solidified and profound than an illusion, or is it an illusion which is so profound that we have no idea of how deeply conditioned by the time we are? To answer this, we need to first understand time as being a completely subjective experience in itself. This is a concept by Philip Zimbardo, where he talks about time perspectives and how each one of us has a different time perspective towards our reality, owing to which we experience the “now” in very different ways from each other. Simply put, time is purely a psychological phenomenon. This is owing to the fact that our thoughts are what create the perception of time itself. Each thought of ours that enters into our mental space in the now has either an emotional charge from the past or an emotional charge directed towards the future. If you look at the present moment and compare it with an event from the past in order to contemplate your actions in the “now”, you are inherently using a past-focused time perspective. If, however, you base your actions in the now by thinking about the future consequences of the same, you are inherently using a future-focused time perspective. On the other hand, when we indulge in acts of intense pleasure or pain; or when we lose ourselves by immersing into art or something else that we are passionate about, our sense of time is lost as we are completely focused on the present moment. This is something that an artists or two individuals involved in passionate intercourse may experience, which may result in time dilation, i. e. when time seems to go either really slow or really fast.

Each thought of ours that enters into our mental space in the now has either an emotional charge from the past or an emotional charge directed towards the future. If you look at the present moment and compare it with an event from the past in order to contemplate your actions in the “now”, you are inherently using a past-focused time perspective. If, however, you base your actions in the now by thinking about the future consequences of the same, you are inherently using a future-focused time perspective. On the other hand, when we indulge in acts of intense pleasure or pain; or when we lose ourselves by immersing into art or something else that we are passionate about, our sense of time is lost as we are completely focused on the present moment. This is something that an artists or two individuals involved in passionate intercourse may experience, which may result in time dilation, i. e. when time seems to go either really slow or really fast.

A person called Robert Levine actually studied the phenomenon of psychological time and wrote down his findings in his book “The Pace of Life”. His experiment essentially consisted of him travelling to different countries in order to see how the people there perceived time in their everyday life. It was seen that people in different countries perceived time differently, at different paces. It was also seen that the inherent pace of time that these people perceived was in lieu with their external reality; for instance in developed countries like England and the US, people perceived time in a more rapid phase than the people in less developed countries did. This shows a direct correlation between advancement and psychological time. The more rapidly we advance, the more amounts of information we take in through our IPhones and MacBooks. The more information we take, the more crowded our head gets, due to which our mind incessantly looks for constant stimulation in order to either project itself into the past or the future. This is why people are driven to fast-paced lifestyles (future-oriented time perspectives) and even psychological ailments such as depression (being too past-focused on bad memories). 

time and illusion

Imagine what it would be like if we just looked at everything around us in the present moment without labelling anything on the basis of past experiences and neither projecting anything into the future. I think this would somehow be similar to looking at the world through the eyes of a newborn child. You will be hit by the invariable degree of novelty and beauty that exists in the “now”, something which is obscured due to the countless judgements and perceptions that contaminate the present moment. This intense awareness is what we can call as freedom from time in the literal sense. But, this also gives us an essence of how mind-identified and time-oriented we have become. Try breaking free from the illusion of time by giving into the present moment without any references to the past or the future in your head. That is when true beauty will be understood.

P. S. To know how much you can truly learn in the present moment, try clearing your mind and observing something as simple as a tree in front of you. You won’t believe the amount of information a tree will give you if only you stop labelling it with your past “tree-gazing” experiences as well as your future projections. 

Further Tripping…

 

About Ashwin Ramesh

Check Also

Comparative movie reviews of two courtroom drama movies - Pink and Wrong Side Raju

Pink vs Wrong Side Raju: Comparative movie reviews

Last week I happened to watch two movies which can be loosely categorized as courtroom …

Leave a Reply