It’s About Time
Dad gave me this. Fifth birthday. He said, “Childhood’s over the moment you know you’re gonna die.” ~ Michael Wincott as “Top Dollar” from The Crow
We have been considering and concerning ourselves with awareness. The concept of awareness is simple; we each have a choice. We can either choose to be aware and active in our experiences, or we can be unaware and ruled by happenstance. Much of the oppression we feel is directly proportional to the amount of effort we make to be active in our experiences, to be more aware. Freedom, or being more free relative to as we are now, is the desired end-result of cultivating greater awareness.
Our pursuit of awareness, of choosing to not allow ourselves to be dictated by happenstance, has lead us in numerous directions, all very important and required. We have explored practical matters; the laws and values of society, our roles in the workforce and the economy, how we acquire those things which are substantive needs… We have explored matters of importance to and from the perspectives of the esoteric and exoteric; our relationship with others, our responsibility to ourselves, our society, our species, frivolity… We have pursued issues of a spiritual, or mystical nature; the meanings of words like “awareness” and “freedom”, personal evolution, weighing our relative connectivity and distinctiveness from all that surrounds us…
In this pursuit of awareness, I am wondering if perhaps all these divergent potential directions are rooted in one commonality: Time. I wonder if an exploration of the concept of Time may be an exploration of the foundation of all other efforts.
We are born, and from the day of our birth, the clock is ticking. If an individual lives out to the fullness of their lifespan, they have roughly 70 years of time. All spiritual arguments aside, based on what we can observe it is safe to assume that those years will be all that one ever has. When we consider what the mind of the individual is capable of, what wonders it has the potential to explore and questions it can conceive, 70 years seems like a paltry amount of time, like a cosmic joke on the sentient being. Your biological function; to reproduce and make your genetic mark of future generations requires neither sentience (as made evident by the thousands of people who reproduce in droves) nor the fullness of the potential lifespan. With this reality before us, our sentience seeks a purpose beyond our biological function to our species.
We’re not here because we’re free. We’re here because we’re not free. There is no escaping reason; no denying purpose. Because as we both know, without purpose, we would not exist. It is purpose that created us. Purpose that connects us. Purpose that pulls us. That guides us. That drives us. It is purpose that defines. Purpose that binds us. ~ Hugo Weaving as “Agent Smith” from The Matrix Reloaded
The issue of purpose is a question of whether or not purpose is predetermined by happenstance or “fate”, or if self-determination is possible. Three kinds of people seem to emerge in relation to this question. There are those for whom the question has no meaning. They are completely ruled by happenstance, guided solely by internal impulses and external influences. Awareness as we understand it is not present within them. Others have awareness, but have concluded that the thread of their life has already been measured, that they are fated, to one degree or another, to whatever end or whatever events may come their way.
Then, there are those of us who rebel against that idea, who seek to be free of happenstance and to be self-determined. “Fate” for us may exist, and it is something we can succumb to, but we have concluded that it can be resisted, or that “fate” is for those who lack the will to escape the gravity of happenstance. Awareness is our lever, the manner by which we seek to determine our “fate” for ourselves.
The issue facing us in this pursuit is time. We only have so much time to achieve our ultimate goals. In the short amount of time that we have, we must first develop to a point of physical and mental maturity where we can recognize the discrepancy between our potential awareness and our actual active awareness. The first mark of maturity of awareness is the comprehension of the fact that eventually we will die. This is, in my opinion, the end of our mental childhood and the beginning of our mental adolescence. Awareness that we have only a limited amount of time is often within us only cursory; we know it, but we do not understand it and therefore do not act accordingly. If we were aware of our limited amount of time and understood it, much of the frivolity and wasted effort that dominates our lives would cease.
We would have no time to waste.
Full mental maturity comes when we not only are aware that our time is limited, but also when we embrace that fact and begin living our lives accordingly. Those who believe that their lives are predetermined to a greater degree than what is self-determined embrace their limited amount of time with a marked serenity, a peaceful acceptance that I can only equate to sheep being herded for slaughter. Their arguments for this perspective may be sound, even convincing, but they are arguments that I cannot abide. When I look at history, when I look to the greatest examples of our potential as humans being expressed (those individuals who’s efforts and ideas shaped the course for our species), repeatedly I see examples of self-determination, people who did not go gently into the night but raged against the dwindling light of their short lives.
Time is neither our enemy nor our friend. If we are aware of it, the limited quantity of time we have, and that ultimately we do not know when our limit will be reached, then it is simply a motivator. Time is the reason to take action, to be decisive, to cultivate awareness and to seek self-determination. We cannot be certain of anything other than that our time is limited. Even those who conclude that there is the potential for some other manner of existence beyond this life cannot deny that this life is limited, and that our time in it must be of some importance, if only to ourselves. All time is now. Each moment is a precious stone which we can either use in building our monuments to ourselves in history, or which will be pulverized into dust.
Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time I do what I have to. ~Tommy Flanagan as “Cicero” from Gladiator
Time is the commodity which we all have that we trade for the things we want. Do you want a new car? You have to trade time for the money to pay for it (or time used to steal it, something I would not recommend but include for the sake of being thorough). Want to have sex with someone else? You need to take time to convince a partner (or to engage in an even more criminal activity than car-theft). All pursuits, all acquisitions, all goals require time. Our lives equal a quickly shrinking means of exchange for experiences, pleasures, and material goods. We all may have time, but due to its limited quantity and extreme importance for each of us, it is the most precious commodity we will ever have.
Time, like other commodities, has a variety of different values. We all talk about “quality time” and define that kind of time in different manners based on our drives and interests. I would suggest a scale that includes a transition through five distinct types of time.
Dross is waste metal, impurities purged during the smelting process. Dross Time is time that is wasted. A person may waste time in an ever increasing number of ways, but this particular kind of waste is due to a person not having the means to act on the time that they have. Their inability to use their time is due to pressures which are either internal or external in origin. The internal pressure which creates Dross Time are those feelings of helplessness, when it seems we have nothing but time but no means with which to use it. We may recognize a need, yet we cannot fulfill it. Internal pressures are usually due to a limited perspective, an artificial set of parameters we believe dictate our options. “We have no money, therefore there is nothing we can do” is an example of the kind of thinking which contributes to the internal creation of Dross Time.
The external pressures resulting in Dross Time often are due to having the means to use the time, but being kept in some fashion from doing so. A literal incarceration is the best example that comes to my mind of this kind of Dross Time; you could do anything, but you are limited to your particular cell. This literal interpretation is frequently and figuratively experienced by nearly everyone in our society. The limitations and walls placed around us that guide and define our behaviors encourage a feeling of oppression. We end up in a prison of the mind where apathy and complacency are encouraged. Our time is wasted as we are encourage to conclude that nothing we could do would matter.
The only value of Dross Time is to serve as a reason to cultivate better qualities of time.
Copper Time is better than Dross Time because it is time that is ours to spend, but it has little inherent value because it is spent frivolously with no particular direction. Copper Time is the kind of time we have been convinced in our society is “quality time”, time when we feel we have no demands or obligations, time spent doing nothing of value for ourselves or others. We are a society where mediocrity is the highest pursuit for the majority; where we want nothing more than to sit on our couches eating fast food and watching American Idol, as if time was limitless. The demands upon us, external and internal, and the obligations we have are not suspended, but during this time we struggle to pretend that they are. Still, we are encouraged by social conventions to resist having a direction or use for our time. The “norm” is to spend our time pursuing meaningless frivolities. Copper Time is unfortunately often “purchased” with a higher-quality time, Iron Time. The majority of us tend to trade that which has value for something that has less or no value at all.
Iron Time is time spent acquiring the things we need. “Need” here is being used in the “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need” sense of foundational needs: sustenance, shelter, and so on. The way we acquire these things that we need are either external, by performing a function for another, or internal, by producing something of ourselves that is of value to others. Without regard to other nuances in method, the internal Iron Time is of a better grade than the external. Those who produce Iron Time through service to others tend to take on the mentality of slaves, “buying” with their Iron Time the Copper Time with which they temporarily and artificially part from their masters and try to enjoy a moments respite as “free men”. Those who produce their Iron Time internally tend to invest it in time that is of a higher quality, seeking to improve themselves and reduce their reliance on Iron Time to secure their needs.
Silver Time is a grade of time spent in intentional action, not simply sustaining the self, but improving the self in order to reduce the amount of time required acquiring those things which sustain us. Silver Time is “bought” with Iron Time, time spent laboring, either for the self or for others. Silver Time is time spent increasing our skills, developing better processes, or shifting from Iron Time as labor for another to Iron Time producing things valued by others from our own resources. The more Silver Time we tend to produce, the less Iron Time is necessary. Silver Time is the beginning of self-determination.
Gold Time is time spent improving ourselves, like Silver Time, and is often purchased with Silver Time. The difference is that Gold Time is completely self-determined and is time spent improving ourselves as a being, not improving our functions as a gatherer of sustenance. Gold Time is the time invested in developing what Gurdjieff refers to as “the soul”, or what I would suggest is the monument we will leave in history in the minds of others about our deeds and our life. Both are concepts which carry the idea of self forward in time beyond our lifespans. Gold Time has aspects of all the other times except dross. Like Copper, it is time spent without external demands; like Iron it involves labor; like Silver, the time is spent improving ourselves. The results of Gold Time have the potential to evolve us and also evolve our species based upon the innovations we develop and our example. Whereas Silver Time improves that which exists already, Gold Time develops innovations and new functions of the self.
Every man dies, not every man really lives. ~ Mel Gibson as “William Wallace” from Braveheart
Time, from this perspective, is something which can be cultivated and bartered, not just for those things we need, but to actually improve ourselves and the quality of time we have. Being aware of our time and how we are investing it, each moment, we begin to “buy” our freedom and become more self-determined. To do so requires a commitment to ourselves to struggle to be more aware. Awareness of time can lead to few other conclusions than that its nature is precious, and that it should not be squandered lightly.
Life is for the living. Responsibility to the responsible. These are two concepts drawn from Satanism which address awareness and, in particular, the use of time. Life is for living, for the experience, because it is brutally short. Its brevity is what should inspire each of us to live it heroically and defiantly, seeking to become immortal through our actions despite the mortality inherent in our existence. Freedom is a life lived without fear of death, but with full awareness of its inevitability. Responsibility for our lives is ours to take or to ignore. We suffer either at our own peril. With freedom comes risks. Do we face life by taking command of our time and living it intentionally, or do we succumb to happenstance and squander the moments we have?
Choice. The problem is choice. ~ Keanu Reeves as “Neo” from The Matrix Reloaded