“As bystanders, we start from a position of not-knowing and never really advance beyond it. Situated at a distance from what needs to be known, we cannot wholly bridge the gap.” Dynamics of Time and Space, page 173.
We usually think of ourselves as being located inside our body and its perceptions: the ultimate insider of our own experience. Yet we seem to only know the world in terms of spatial distances which separate subject from object and along a span of sequential time that keeps the present observer at one remove from events which have already happened.
Humanity is wedded to a sequential view of time and everything ‘real’ must be located on a line that runs through a vanished past, a moving present, and an inaccessible future.
We may think of ourselves as residing inside an awareness that makes experience possible, but once we identify ourselves as a self who is located in a single moment of linear time–facing off against objects at a distance–we become bystanders to the inner rhythm of time as it dances in space.
Franz Kafka put it this way: There is a point when the current catches you up. That is the point that must be reached.”
But the bystander in us has no desire to be swept away and ardently avoids any misstep that might endanger its familiar constructs.
When everything that arises has an already-catalogued identity, we are like coin collectors at the entrance to a toll bridge. Limited to a form of knowledge that only accepts images of the already known, fresh insights can only peek through gaps in the constructs we have carefully built around us.
If we try to sustain a state of wonder, before we pigeonhole our experience into pre-established categories, we will soon discover that the very language with which we encourage this aspiration reflects the polarity of a subjective self and its objects of interest (subject, verb, and object) and a linear, sequential version of time (past, present and future tenses).
So what can we do? Or not do? One thing is clear. As long as our looking is the act of a subject observing objects, we will remain in the perspective of a bystander, sidelined at one remove from the dynamic coherence of a greater time. Perhaps in order to sink back into an all-embracing wholeness, we will just have to “be”—prior to language and before the imposition of our temporal and spatial categories.
Once we become acquainted with this quality of “being”, we may find that our sequential journey is sheltered beneath a canopy in which the branches of past, present and future are entwined and a greater knowingness animates every gesture of our individual knowing.