A line is a series of connected points existing in only one dimension, and that is more or less how we build our lives. We segment our days into parcels, points if you will, organized by our calendars. We move from one scheduled activity to the next, often with very little time for reflection or unstructured being. Our conviction that time is linear, unidirectional, and unceasing causes us to move through the world in a straight line, forward-focused, and goal-oriented with our eyes on the prize. We become the line that connects the points, pushing ourselves to jump from one thing to another, and exhausting ourselves.
As events and travel and meetings have dropped out, leaving big empty spaces in your schedule, have you also felt it? That time isn’t what we thought it was? My mind keeps drifting back, to my own ancestors many generations ago, and all the indigenous peoples who tended our great green Earth since humanity was a thing. They lived in a circular way, intimate with the turning of the seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon. If you take a tiny segment of a circle, it looks like a line. But these wise ones backed way up, took in the whole view, and understood the cyclical nature of time. A drought and subsequent famine, although dire, may not have necessarily pointed a straight line to unavoidable disaster or end of times. It may have been understood as a dip in a cycle comprised of dozens, perhaps hundreds of years.
Some of this cyclical understanding of time has survived, preserved in our manners of speech. We talk about rhythm, and ebb and flow. These terms depict a moving expression that changes direction, that is fluid and undulating. But we so rarely live that way, largely because our linear schedules are the containers for our lived experiences. Now that my schedule has become less like a drum and bass track and more like an ambient Enya song, that liminal, timeless space has felt more available. Whole swaths of my life are reappearing in my awareness as if they were yesterday, with detailed access to my actual lived experience at those times. Relationships with loved ones are feeling less like a series of disparate conversations, and more like living, breathing life forms that stretch forward and backward in time. I’ve had many moments of “forgetting” where I am in time (“What day is it again?”), and in those moments the falsity and utter made-upness of our calendar is palpable.
I’m surprised by how a relatively brief break in routine can reveal the malleability of time. In a way it is comforting to know that this grand edifice we as humans have created to fend off the expansiveness of Reality begins to go transparent after just a month of withdrawing participation. I wonder what the future would look like if we embraced the omnidirectionality of time, if we looked to indigenous time keepers and our own, encumbered experience instead of the digital clock face on our phones. I have a feeling it would be wilder, freer, and way more fun.