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Time Is Elastic, But Timelessness Is Fantastic
By Martin LeFevre
Special Contributor
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist.

As Einstein proved, time is elastic, slowing down as the speed of light is approached. Given that’s true of physical time, how much more elastic and illusory is psychological time?

With sufficient unpremeditated attention, the observer ends. Then, in observing the movement of thought without the infinite regress of the observer, psychological time ends. And with the cessation of the continuity of thought and time, the brain is renewed.

So what is the observer, and why is it, along with the self that’s fabricated in thought, such a dominant thing in human consciousness?

Simply put, the observer is the ancient, universal human habit of psychological separation. At best the observer is a functional illusion, a mechanism the mind constructed to give us the ability to perform intentional activity. Without an observer, there could be no science.

However the ‘original sin’ and ongoing mistake of man’s consciousness, and the tragedy of the human condition is that the mind’s arbitrary separations are taken to be the truth, producing untold individual and collective egoism, division, conflict and war.

Conscious thought is a mechanism that allows us to intentionally remove ‘things’ from our environments and recombine them for use. A tree is not a separate object until we perceive and name the tree as a tree. In nature, there are no separations: matter, energy and life flow together in a never-ending succession of seamless totality.

If you sit still and watch your mind for more than a few minutes in the mirror of nature, you’ll notice that there is always a watcher, a self that seems to stand apart, interpreting, judging and choosing.

That is the observer, since the observer is the mental activity and habit of interpreting, judging and choosing. Functionally, the observer makes technology and science possible; psychologically, the observer lies at the root of man’s greed and rapaciousness of the earth, as well as division, conflict and war.

When one simply, passively attends to the stream of thought (including and especially the observer that judges and chooses), awareness naturally and effortlessly quickens.

This passive watchfulness, this action of inaction, allows awareness to overtake thought and catch it in the act of separation. The self plays no part in awareness, since the ‘I’ is part of thought. (So Descartes got it totally backwards when he said, “I think, and therefore I am.” In truth, I am only when ‘I’ and thought cease. )

What perceives and has insight, if not the self? The brain, which is aware of the movement of thought as a whole without separation as the observer. Awareness and attentiveness alone ends psychological separation! (AI can never have passive awareness and unguided attention, because AI is and always will be a thing of thought.)

In short, one perceives at an emotional level that the watcher and the watched are inextricably part of the same movement of thought. The mind sees through the trick of the observer, ending the divisive habit, if only for a few timeless minutes. When there is just observing, and no observer, that’s the moment when true meditation begins.

Our birthright as human beings is to directly perceive, without symbol or interpretation, the beauty and wholeness of life. The word ‘whole’ has the same root as ‘holy;’ the direct, uninterpreted perception of what is, which allows wholeness and holiness to be.

I drive through an ugly strip of rebuilt structures after the hellish fire five years ago that swept through the ironically named town of Paradise. Turning off the main road toward the lake, I pass innumerable charred stumps of the pines that had graced the road to a small lake.

It’s actually a man-made reservoir, though a beautiful one, given its forested setting and emerald color. And though the elevation is less than 1000 meters, the conifers confer a feeling of being higher in the mountains. The jewel is deserted, and I walk a mile in on the wide path that circles the lake.

I descend a partially charred slope (on one side the fire was only halted at the lake’s shore) to sit in the sun at the water’s edge. The spot overlooks one of the narrow fingers of the deep green reservoir. The sun is at about 45 degrees in the western sky, and so bright off the water that I cannot look in its direction without shading my eyes.

There’s a palpable silence. An occasional vehicle pulling into the gravel parking is as audible as if I’m sitting on one of the benches around it.

I look up to see someone standing across the inlet about two hundred meters away. We greet each other and exchange a few pleasantries in a normal voice, as if we were in the same room.

At the end of an hour alone (an hour that passes as swiftly as a minute), my ears, mind and heart are fully attuned to the wondrous place. Suddenly I hear a strange whirring sound behind me.

Ten or fifteen seconds later, I look up to see a single large bird flying high above, its wings rhythmically beating an audible path through the air. Each wing beat takes a second to reach my ears, but the observer and time have ceased to exist.

Driving back down the hill, a poem by Silesius comes to mind:

God, whose love and joy
are present everywhere,
can’t come to visit you
unless you aren’t there.

Obviously that presence isn’t everywhere in this godforsaken world; indeed lately it seems absent everywhere. But there are still places, even scarred places, where one can hear its whirring whisper…if one ends the observer and time.

Martin LeFevre

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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue.






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