When you hear that word, what images, sounds, or feelings pop into your head? I see timelines, calendars, transparent scenes on top of the opaque field that we call “vision” (Or, perhaps, both the scenes and the visual field are transparent, and neither is on top of the other?), digital clock faces, and a giant flip book, among other things.
I hear sounds like “past,” “future,” “container,” and the ticking of a metronome.
As for feelings…well, there’s a feeling of externality about it. It’s hard to clearly explain what that feeling is, but there’s something about the sound of the word, “time” that triggers the feeling, “There’s this something called ‘I,’ of which time lives outside.” In other words, if this “I” were to disappear or to lose its concept of time, then time would keep on keeping on. Also, at the point that we label, “now,” this feeling seems to spit off into two directions. On the left side of the timeline, the past (Why is it always on the left?), there is the a desire to change it, the feeling that this “I” (whatever that is) doesn’t have any control over the past, of nostalgia, of pride, of shame, that this “past” is constantly growing, and a whole host of other related emotions. Alternately, on the right side, the future, there is still a desire to change it, but this time, it feels like “I” both should and also cannot help but change it. There is also excitement, worry, the feeling that “I” am an ant compared to this “future,” that it is constantly shrinking (yet, it does not seem to get any smaller), along with countless other feelings. It’s interesting; time triggers mostly negative feelings in me. I wonder if the same is true for you.
Either way, it’s kind of weird that one sound can trigger so many reactions, isn’t it? It’s as if the word, “time” is a bomb—a “timebomb”—that goes KABOOM! whenever someone thinks about it, and releases a metric ton of perceptions.
But are those perceptions inside of the time, or are they somewhere else? Because when we say, “Thing A releases Thing B,” what we typically mean is, “Thing B starts off inside of Thing A…but then Thing A forcibly ejects Thing B.” Hmm, well, it would be very odd to think that the first block of text in this post (the word, “Time”) has all of the ideas from the rather lengthy second, third, and forth blocks of text cleverly stashed within it. No, all of those things must be outside of the word, “Time.” Those things are perceptions, and whatever time is, it cannot be a perception. Perceptions are internal, time is external.
But if, whatever time is, it’s NOT a perception, then how can we move closer to understanding what it really is? Whenever we try to imagine it to be something, we conjure up a perception in our mind. However, we can only have an understanding of the term “not a perception” because we attach a perception to that too. And, if we say that time does not exist, we run into a similar problem. If we cannot paint a coherent picture of what it would mean for something to exist, then what are we expressing when we say that the thing does not exist?
What is time?