Once Upon a Time There Were Three Times

Young children and animals appear to live in the present with whole-hearted exuberance—as we adults wonder at their lack of regret for past actions and their freedom from the complexities we feel bearing down on us.

Yet most of us would not choose to experience the distress of a crying child or the boredom of a dog waiting all day alone in the backyard.

Instead, carried along in a flying moment, we can look out across time’s vast expanse and cast our lines over the gunnels into the sea of an unknown future.

Who would not wish to explore this great field of time with a mind that allows us to plant our dreams there?  Yet, we typically have an uncomfortable relationship with these three faces of time: relating to the past as dead and gone, to the future as out of reach, and to the present as an isolated point of light that winks out as soon as we try to hold onto it.

Time’s triumvirate of past, present, and future allows us to develop our human potential.  Yet most of us act as if this gift were also a curse.  Instead of making friends with who we have been and inviting those incarnations of ourselves to join us in a present community, we find ourselves alone in a moment too small and unstable for our dreams to fit inside.  And instead of greeting the future as a domain of unfolding possibility—infinite and unknowable—we stare at a blank screen, which we call the future, and proceed to project our needs and fears onto it.

No wonder anxiety rules our modern times.  Confined to a tiny moment–sandwiched between a dead past and an unborn future—we rarely notice that we are alive in a vast sweep of time which runs through everywhere and every when.  Segregating time into past, present, and future, it’s as if we watch the dynamic rhythms of an infinite sea of time from a small tollbooth on the shore.  But time is no more inherently divided into past, present and future than knowledge is split into what we’ve forgotten, what we’ve memorized, and what we’ve never learned.

Time, space, and knowledge are inherent in all that arises.  If we refrain from corralling these universal components of Being into our rigid categories, then they can feed and nourish us.

After all, we are not lesser beings than the trees patrolling the centuries—last night’s rain swimming in their leaves, tomorrow’s blossoms gathering in the ground beneath, and the morning Sun never more than a day’s ride away.

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