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Timeless

by on March 31, 2017

                                                                             Timeless

                                                                    by Marco M. Pardi

What time would it be if all the clocks were stopped?” Zen saying. In John Kane, ed., Moving Forward, Keeping Still: The Gateway to Eastern Wisdom. 1997

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on “uncategorized”. Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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Many readers have by now seen my interest in probing common currents of thought. As I have written previously, I view such currents as frequently superficial and use the example of the Keystone Kops.  The Kops chase a bank robber crew into a building. They search the building from first to top floor and back and, finding it empty, leave. The crew then emerges from the building to go on to the next robbery. How and why did this happen? Because, from the outside the building did not appear to have a basement no one thought to look for a door and stairway leading to a basement. Too much of what we conclude is based on externals. My intent here is not to take issue with what people think, but rather with how they think.

One common current of thought is that “afterlife” is a non-material state, usually described as eternal but, for some, a period between incarnations into the material world again.  I have written extensively on this subject, and on the internally contradictory concept of a god. I will not reiterate that here. However, I will address the common projection of material features onto a non-material existence.

Last night I sent an email to my very dear and close friend, Jamie Butler (Google the name and you will see she is a world famous author and medium). In this email I asked her, if the “afterlife” state is non-material and therefore one to which the concept of time is inappropriate, how one can speak of change and growth? (I told her to take her “time” responding) These are measures appropriate to a material state, one in which I can say I was that way before and this way now.  Indeed, we measure time by change, or at least the perception of change.  Without change, such as the position of the hands on the clock, the place of the sun in the sky, or my state of mind, etc. how would we “mark” time?  Some readers may have read my piece on Korsakoff’s syndrome, the eternal now commonly described in chronic alcoholic “wet brain”, other drug user “fried brain”, and more recently in TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury. These people are in the eternal now because impairment prevents them from recalling even an instant ago. Likewise, they cannot project a moment into the future. Since every instant is a new moment, they apparently have no sense of suffering any loss. They are in eternity. Yet, they are living, breathing material beings. Many people, when probed, explain their fear of being dead as fear of loss of self. But who else is the self but who we have been, are now, and expect to be in the next moment?

On a related note, while studying advanced Criminology, with the emphasis on the mental state of prisoners, I was at first surprised to learn that at least some prisoners feared Life Without Parole more than the Death Penalty. They preferred oblivion, if it came to that, over the sameness of an “endless” life in a cell.   

So, imagine yourself in a bare windowless and soundproofed room with no clock. Imagine this as being yourself in the “afterlife”. You cannot count your breaths for you have no lungs. You cannot count your pulse for you have no heart. You cannot count your paces in the room for you have no legs. Yet people talk about “afterlife” experiences such as personal growth. Some, speaking through mediums, even talk about attending classes, perusing the great cosmic library, interacting with great philosophers, and on and on.  How marvelous. But each of these is an event with a beginning and an end; we can “time” it.  How do we time an immaterial world when there are no “things” that change?

Complicating this further, modern physics tells us “time” and “space” are two different ways of saying the same thing.  So, if I have a sense of a discreet non-material “me” – as opposed to a discreet non-material deceased family member or – more happily – non-human animal companion, doesn’t that imply each of us has space, each of us has defined boundaries beyond which we are not and something else is?  If so, do we not occupy a space, implying it takes time to get from one space to another?  If so, how does time apply in a “timeless” state?      

These are not just idle word games. (I say that presuming some readers will say, “This guy has too much time on his hands”). Of those who think there is an afterlife in some non-material state, how many actually probe their own thoughts to discover the contradictions, the projections, the wishes that may motivate their conclusions?

Now, speaking of projections, am I guilt free in this?  Perhaps I’ve bought into the religiously based stuff about eternity, forever, and all that. Gosh, could it be Western religions are wrong about something?  Perhaps, in attempting to reconcile what logic and science tell me with what Western religion claims I’m projecting science concepts appropriate to this universe onto a differently structured universe – or no universe at all. Perhaps there is a co-existent universe, or dimension, in which our “Laws” of science do not apply.  

Ah, well. I’m once again in 5th grade Religion class as Sister Cornelius glowers in response to my questions.  Her answer: “It will all be revealed after you die, Mister.” Sorry Sister, not good enough. And then in 6th grade Religion class Father Sean pulling me aside after class with a stern warning to not ask further questions as “other students might lose their faith.” What, you think I believe this?

It’s time for my daily walk around the neighborhood with my Philosopher-Dog, Plato.  For over a mile (time varies with how much pee-mail he has to read) I discuss these questions with him. But, he’s not giving answers either.  Hopefully, readers will chime in. After all, we don’t have much “time”.

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7 Comments
  1. Afterlife sounds good as does even brain injury that would have one not know what is happening in the now. Unfortunately that is where I am. And we need to capture any spirit, energy, or person present to fight and bring this world together, in peace, and save us all. We are hanging on the edge of a cliff.

  2. Thanks, Mary. I definitely agree. Some have said physical life is Hell. I used to laugh at that, but not anymore.

  3. Upon first reading this, my initial thought was that a non-material afterlife sounds both boring and, in some ways, terrifying. Time and space (or their measurements, anyway) are man-made concepts, but if the afterlife denies their existence… I don’t know what to think. I tend to believe in serial incarnations, but how one goes from one existence to another has never been part of my thought process. Does one spend “time” in the eternal before returning, or does one simply fall out of one life and into another? Do we, as some believe, know the main points of the life which is to come? Did some soul really choose to become Hitler? Mussolini? Trump? or is it all completely random?

    The major reasoning behind anyone’s belief in an afterlife, or in reincarnation, is certainly the desire to believe that some part of us goes on after this life is done. If we are simply dead and gone, what point is there to having been at all? Even if we teach others, and help others, they, too, will be gone once the body ceases to exist. Perhaps that there is no point is the point; do the best you can in the now, because there is no more.

    Newly returned from a memorial service, I am affected in ways I would not have imagined. It’s not the “who” of it (I barely knew the deceased), but seeing how others reacted to his going. “He was a good man” they said, and I honestly believe he will be missed for as long as he is remembered. A part of remembering him will include how much he helped others, and a part will be the mess he left behind. It makes me wonder how I will be remembered. It makes me wonder if I will be remembered.

    So, perhaps it’s less accurate to say that I have not thought about eternity, as I have not been able to come to any decisions about it. Adding your thoughts to my own doesn’t make the afterlife seem particularly appealing, but then, the now isn’t necessarily so good either.

    • Thank you, Rose. “Now” I’m really caught up in your comments, especially the example of the memorial service. I expect to be caught up in these for some “time” to come. When I was much younger I heard peers repeat the popular mantra, “Live fast, die young.” I recoiled from that, thinking them rather shallow. But maybe the deep end of the pool is merely an illusion, and one day when I dive for it I will crack my head.

  4. Mark Dohle permalink

    As wonderful and marvelous as language is, it is still very limited. All you need to do is to get two people from vastly different perspectives and you see how that is true. So when speaking of time, the afterlife, and god (I will use small case because you did), we have a big problem.

    I have always had trouble with time. As I age it seems to get worse for me. The past and the future don’t exist, at least in this realm, we really only have ‘now’, except in our imaginations when we get caught up in worries, desires and fears etc. They take us from the only place we have which is ‘now’. I once told a woman who worried about when she was gong to die that you will die ‘now’. She blinked, flushed, gasped, and then relaxed; I think she understood what I meant. After saying that, I have no idea what time is, but as far as I am concerned, all things happen ‘now’. Yes, I know there is really a future and a past, but to live in them is not helpful if over done.

    Quote–On a related note, while studying advanced Criminology, with the emphasis on the mental state of prisoners, I was at first surprised to learn that at least some prisoners feared Life without Parole more than the Death Penalty. They preferred oblivion, if it came to that, over the sameness of an “endless” life in a cell.–Unquote

    I don’t necessarily agree with the above Marco. It all depends on the meaning that one can give to being locked up. I am writing a prisoner who is in for life, without parole, he killed a man when young. He has been in prison for 25 years. His deep faith and his personal experiences that flow from that faith, gives meaning to his life. One thing he has learned is that his connection with humanity has not lessened but actually deepened. I do not think his faith is an illusion but something real. I would also say the experience of those who find their time in prison meaningless is also real, they choose. One last thing….I do believe that those who are put in isolation for long periods of time is truly cruel and unjust, no matter the crime.

    Quote—Now, speaking of projections, am I guilt free in this? Perhaps I’ve bought into the religiously based stuff about eternity, forever, and all that. Gosh, could it be Western religions are wrong about something? Perhaps, in attempting to reconcile what logic and science tell me with what Western religion claims I’m projecting science concepts appropriate to this universe onto a differently structured universe – or no universe at all. Perhaps there is a co-existent universe, or dimension, in which our “Laws” of science do not apply. —Unquote

    I think we are all wrong about a lot of things Marco. The modern mentality is most likely missing the mark just as much as was done in the past, both by religion and science. Yet I believe both are important. We exist in a very large cell that is limited by our senses and intelligence as well. What if we had an intelligence that was boosted to the 100th power, I doubt we would be living in the same universe. I have a fish, in a small tank. It lives there, it is its world, I feed it and it seems happy. I wonder if it ever thinks what is beyond the plastic barrier. Probably not, only now, no past, or future, just an endless present.

    I would say, of course you are projecting. We have to project; it is done without thought and beyond our control I believe.

    Quote—Ah, well. I’m once again in 5th grade Religion class as Sister Cornelius glowers in response to my questions. Her answer: “It will all be revealed after you die, Mister.” Sorry Sister, not good enough. And then in 6th grade Religion class Father Sean pulling me aside after class with a stern warning to not ask further questions as “other students might lose their faith.” What, you think I believe this? —Unquote

    Eben Alexander stated that the other world is ‘more real’ than this one and that it get even ‘more real’ the deeper we go into it. Perhaps we will always be finite beings with an infinite ability to grow…..one womb, into another larger one, etc. I do think that many books coming out about the experiences at death are important. Eben’s books are essential. The book you recommended God and the Afterlife: The Groundbreaking New Evidence for God and Near-Death Experience by Long, Jeffrey is a very significant book I believe. However I do think it is important for all of us to have the humility that we really know very little. Perhaps we are just children now, beginning an endless journey……unknowing is just as important as knowing. For us once we think we actually ‘know’, it is then that we die, for we stop searching. Fundamentalism is an ideology, a frozen one, be it religious or from people who believe that all truth will be discovered by science.

    You always get my brain itching.

    • Thanks so much, Mark. Can’t say I’m sorry about the itchy brain, I receive great benefits from it when you scratch. I’m sure you remember Baba Ram Dass’ book Be Here Now. It was so simple, yet so profound. Unfortunately, it spawned a subculture of people looking to erase their accountability for their deeds. I think that is still too much with us.

      On the choice of L W/out P or death, I was merely citing what I had learned from interviews. I do not know how I would have faced such a choice, especially when younger. Indeed, we can cite many examples of people who have served Life sentences, even released such as Mandela, and find lives that have been richly lived in ways we usually do not understand.

      I quite agree with you about the self delusion of “knowing” and, as you have often seen, criticize “Scientism” as much as religion. In some ways, despite a lifetime of questioning, I’m still that 5th grader churning these ideas and thoughts around.

      Thank you very much for commenting, and developing thoughts I am sure will be beneficial to readers. Marco

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