As I was rereading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, a particular passage struck me that hadn’t earlier done so:
“Keep in mind how fast things pass by and are gone — those that are now, and those to come. Existence flows past us like a river: the “what” is a constant flux, the “why” has a thousand variations. Nothing is stable, not even what’s right there. The infinity of the past and future gapes before us — a chasm whose depths we cannot see.”-Meditations 5.23, Marcus Aurelius
On rare occasions the human mind can craft such words. These have resonated for millennia among the halls of men and will continue to weather many more.
Heraclitus too proclaimed, “You never step into the same river twice.”
Time as we are aware is progressive in nature. We also view time as exhibiting a continuous characteristic outlining and defining our lives. Flowing like a river – smooth sometimes and rough at others, but always continuous.
Instead of describing time as continuous, it may be worth quantifying time as a series of separate but sequential — “fleeting moments”. This is analogous to the principle of light not being a continuous wave, but discrete packets/ quanta of energy.
How does this change our perspective?
Like the definitive energy each quantum of light carries in itself, the fleeting moment has only so much to offer. They surround us for a moment and they vanish. Owing to their subtlety, often we are unable to detect their presence.
But, when we immerse ourselves in each fleeting moment we may experience it in its entirety. As a consequence, we may also observe every moment objectively — perceiving the moment as it is.
We lament over our past actions and obsess over what the future holds for us. In doing thus, each fleeting moment passes by to never return again.
How then do we immerse ourselves in these fragments of time given the everyday pull of life?
The answer, comes from an unpretentious source – Infants.
- are able to define what time well spent is. Without myriad distractions that plague an adult mind, infants have the ability to discern time well spent. Time well spent gives them joy and satisfaction.
- focus on that which they love. They love the company of family, engage in playing the whole day and are smiling and giggling most of the time.
- focus on that which they need. The preceding activity only seems to pause when they take time out to eat, bathe, pee/ poop, or sleep. They are ruthless about giving away their time.
We can draw parallels to this by defining what each of these mean to us. We can define what time well spent is, focus on what we love and focus on what we need to judiciously use this precious resource.
Bill Keane said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” A present that never loses its sheen over time.
We can leverage time to be Achilles’ body or Achilles’ heel. The choice is ours. Be a miser with time, but a spendthrift when it comes to experiencing it.