I’ve recently been reading a book called Making Time by Steve Taylor. The tagline for the book is: Why time seems to pass at different speeds and how to control it.
I bought it just before we all departed for Beijing. While in Beijing and on the planes I read a little bit. Then after we got back it sort of laid around… maybe I glanced at a few pages, but two weeks or so ago I decided to finish the book. It’s been quite phenomenal actually. It’s totally restructured my sense of time and how it affects our lives. I know everyone says that stuff like: “Live like it’s your last day, for tomorrow might never come”, however, just by stating that they corrupt their view of time to a disadvantage.
The concepts of past and future are human inventions. Humans invented abstract units of time to present life in a uniform way so that we can perceive the passing of time, but all of these time “units” are mostly all abritrary. Yes, one day is one spin of the earth, but it’s a reification of the “unit”. So when people say “Live like it’s your last day, for tomorrow might never come” they essentially create the future. They’re aware of it, and thus it impacts your present time. Yes, the future is never for certain, that we know by now, but bringing the future into your present is task that completely inhibits your present. I don’t even want to start talking about the past, that’s even worse.
What I’m trying to get at is, that all we have for certain is the present. I know this sounds so immensely corny, but it’s something that in my opinion, people need to grasp to “live” life. The present is the complete awareness of your senses at given moment, without having other thoughts (or thought-chatter/ego as the book describes) floating around your head. For example the “ego” is when you’re walking to the shop and all you can think of is when the cooking’s done, where’s the kids, what do I have to buy, what can I wear tonight etc etc. Thus, riddance of the “ego”/thought-chatter makes you consciously more aware of the present. It leads to a higher state of consciousness that normally alludes stressed people.
I’m not saying, you should stop thinking, but think of it in the ways of child. They’re often extremely interested in all their surroundings. Touching things, putting objects in their mouth, looking in strange places etc. That’s the kind of place where we need to be, to be truly in the “now”, if I can use that vague term. It’s the conscious decision to become more aware of your senses. For example next time you’re walking somewhere, look up, look around, try spotting something you’ve never seen, listen, listen, listen. Do you hear sounds in the distance? Birds chirping perhaps? Did someone just close a gate? Feel the wind, feel your clothes touching your skin. Smell the air, is it fresh? Clean? New?
The morning commute, just as an example, becomes fascinating. We take in new fresh information everyday, instead looking at your feet going on a mission, letting your thoughts run rampant. The ideal here is that when people say “Live like it’s your last day, for tomorrow might never come”, they’ve got it all wrong. Being “happy” with your life is not trying to make the future better or making up for the past, it’s the destruction of the concepts of future and past. If I may use another extremely corny methapor: life is not a destination, but a journey.
What I’m saying, might sounds like a really placid perspective, but it’s actually the acceptance of that all you have now is NOW: time is actually timelessness. They way to live in the “now” is to become more aware of your senses, for they tell you what’s happening in the “now”. I use a personal example: my walk to class is usually a very short 5 minutes walk from my flat. I usually rushed to class thinking what we’re potentially doing. My destination was to get there on time. I didn’t look around I just mission to class. It’s as if the class was already in my mind. Now, however after reading the book, I’ve made the conscious decision to become more aware of my senses. I walk slower, look around, see leaves dangling, hear people chatter in the distance, look at their clothes and interesting demeanours, look at passing cars, perhaps seeing something interesting on the dashboard, or I look on the nearby bushes as the light reflect on it, or a piece of wrapper that wasn’t there the day before as it floats in the wind.
I hear the different sounds car engines make, I hear lorries tooting in the distance, I hear the sounds of my feet shuffling etc etc. I had an awesome moment this morning when I walked up the three flights of stairs I walk four days a week to get to my Mandarin class. Usually I just wanna get there as soon as possible, skipping steps and groaning the repetition, but now this morning it was amazing. I walked on every step listening intently as the sounds of my footsteps echoed around the chambers of the stairs. Somewhere in the recesses of the building someone opened a door.
All this awareness has a strange feeling. You lose sense of time, for you’re in the “moment”. This is what I’m trying to get at. Your senses and thoughts create your sense of time. Mundane tasks need not be mundane anymore. That’s why people want to “Live like it’s [their] last day, for tomorrow might never come”. They hate the boring parts in between and want to create “memorable moments”, but that’s the problem. Don’t despise the “boring”, savour it. In this way you truly experience time and life.
Your ego doesn’t control your perception. Your ego tells you this is a waste of time, but nothing really is. That’s why time have different speeds. It’s flies when you’re having fun, that’s because you’re engrossed in the situation, or time goes slowly when you’re stuck with your ego, such as waiting in line or something similar. However if you make the conscious decision to highlight your senses, waiting in the line, is now interesting. Time becomes a constant heightened conscious awareness where time is timeless.
I would just like to stress, this is not an excuse to while away your time doing nothing, but rather whatever your situation is, that you should savour it. Up until I read the book, I had the exact same perspective as that corny quote. I thought it would be great to have a “death” date so that I can maximise my time and not waste it, but now I found my ways were erroneous. I was focusing on my “future”, not living in the present. Thus, I implore people to become more aware of their senses, leave the past and don’t project the future, it inhibits the present.