Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Time is a river that tells no lies...

A Zen Koan I'm partial to, that was featured in an episode of Stargate SG1 reads like this:

"The river tells no lies. Though standing on the shore the dishonest man still hears them."

Taoism teach us about "Wei Wu" which is, over simplified, knowing when to act or not act.  Mind you it's not just the Tao, the concept of action, or not, is littered liberally through Eastern thought.  In various forms of martial arts for example it is often better to flow rather than block, let an opponent over extend, become unbalanced in stance and energy and use that to your advantage instead of a hard block.  Sometimes refereed to as using an opponents energy against them, it's all about knowing when to act or not to act.

Taoism will teach us not to fight the river, for we are certain to drown if we do so, but to let the river take us where it will, share with us it's lessons and then deposit us upon the shore when we are done.

Time I have known as an illusion for many years, because it either exists when I choose to observe it, or vanishes from sight when I am mindful and present.  I can and have actively in my own life chosen to absent myself from time by constructive use of mindfulness.  Doesn't matter what I was doing, the illusion of time vanished when I did not observe it, almost in support of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.  Simply stated, Heisenberg forwarded the concept that the act of observing a given event, would act to change the result of the event.  Almost like the butterfly effect talked about in popular culture.  Namely the suggestion that the flapping of a butterflies wings on one side of the world could cause a Tsunami on the other side.

Some time ago I talked about entropy being almost a safety value, working deliberately and intentionally at the quantum level, to help bring balance to the greater universe. How in that split second of the irresistible object meeting the immovable force, a timeless moment of pure peace and beauty can be had if one is open to it. 

Back to popular culture for a moment we find a subplot in the Star Trek movie "Insurrection" where Picard is being taught about timeless moments by a woman hundreds of years older than him who looks like she's younger than him.  Picard later uses what he didn't think he learned to stop time long enough to save this woman's life.  I'm reminded of Hamlet at the moment.  

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." -- Hamlet Act I, Scene IV

Which I've always understood as a particularly salient point that alludes to truth being far stranger than fiction. Having had my share of timeless moments, and mindfulness taken to the point where entire days simply vanish without effort I turned my mind toward time once again.  Especially given that I know at a quantum level it is simply a means of measurement, no more real or important than length, width or depth.  In a universe not limited to three (four) dimensions, there are multiple dimensions of time.  Going out a step further, the Multiverse (or M-Verse) theory suggests that everything and anything that possibly can happen, has happened, somewhere, somewhen.  The TV series Stargate makes great use of this concept over it's 11 year run where time is simply a vehicle for story telling, and regular crossings into alternate, parallel universes is common place.

Another "popular culture" reference that inspired this post is Garth Brook's song "The River" where he talks about the dreamer being a vessel;

You know a dream is like a river 
Ever changing as it flows 
And the dreamer's just the vessel
That must follow where it goes 
Trying to learn from what's behind you
And never knowing what's in store 
Makes each day a constant battle 
Just to stay between the shores. 

"And I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry 
Like a bird upon the wind 
These waters are my sky 
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try 
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry."

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away 
'Til what we put off 'til tomorrow
Has now become today 
So don't you sit upon the shoreline
And say you're satisfied 
Choose to chance the rapids 
And dare to dance the tide. 

(Chorus see above)

And there's bound to be rough waters
And I know I'll take some falls 
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all. 

Yes I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry 
Like a bird upon the wind 
These waters are my sky 
I'll never reach my destination
If I never try 
So I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry.

Yes, I will sail my vessel
'Til the river runs dry 
'Til the river runs dry 

I woke up with this in my head this morning, it's a beautiful song in it's own right, but then it came to me, Time is a river too.  If we fight the river, we may drown, or at very least not learn from what it wishes to share with us.  If we simply stand beside the river, and let the water's slip away, we also may not benefit from the wisdom the river wishes to share with us.  Likewise, mindfulness, a form of meditation allows us to open ourselves up fully to what is around us, and simply take it all in, not judging, not shaping or forcing our will onto whatever may pass, but simply being very present in a given moment that becomes two, and four, and more, for however long one wishes to experience it.  Wu Wei, or better still, Wei Wu Wei.  Action without action.

Another Koan that comes to mind: "Put no distance between you and where you are."

In part it's about mindfulness, about being present, about the gifts the river will bring you.

Time will take one on a journey, and it will share with you what it will.  It will tell you no lies, but if you attempt to force your own views onto it, you will miss the beauty in the moments shared.
"The river tells no lies. Though standing on the shore the dishonest man still hears them."

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