To employ foresight and wonder what decision would be best for our future selves; to live according to what’s best, not for today, but for tomorrow; to keep close the lessons learned from yesterday; to work with the past and future self in order to optimize the present
“Time is the wisest counselor of all.” — Pericles.
I’ll be the first to concede — it’s an overly fantastic statement to make and a very fluffy idea, but if we open our minds just a bit and employ some out-of-the-norm mental meandering, we can begin to expand on our enigmatic relationship with time.
We know, already, that time is relative. We know that it moves differently for everyone — in a subjective way and, to a much lesser degree, an objective way; both from a physical and mental standpoint as well.
For it’s true that we physically move through time at different speeds — some of us will have spent more time on airplanes or in different parts of the world in such a manner as to have experienced more or less time — though the variations are so minuscule that they’re not noticeable, it’s still crucial to note that we can physically experience time on an individual level.
Subjectively, things are a bit more drastic, and we know this too. An hour spent in boredom feels substantially longer than an hour spent in amusement. Time moves at a snails pace for those waiting to be older and lightning-fast for those wishing they were younger. In other words, time flows wholly different on an intangible, mental level.
But what if we could toy with the boundaries that time seemingly imposes on us? What if we could overcome some of these barriers and communicate across these lines of time, lines that aren’t all that understood to begin with?
“Love is the one thing that transcends time and space.” -Brand, Interstellar
We need not enter a different dimension like McConaughey in Interstellar, literally reaching through the fabric of space-time to influence the past. We need only employ a committed sense of awareness, foresight, and retrospection to begin to make the linear line of time bend a bit to our will.
It’s cheesy, sure, and even a bit hokey, but it’s definitely worth saying: we can, really and truly, communicate with our future selves. We can extrapolate information from our past selves. We can use such techniques to benefit our present selves. It’s hard to fathom but that’s what makes it all the more intriguing.
Philosophers throughout history have pointed to the unfathomable as a means to underscore that we don’t know as much as we think we do. Immanuel Kant, for instance, pushed the notion that the world is not only composed of the physical but also comprised of mental and intangible ideas — that our minds contextualize and limit our reality, rendering us unable to ever transcend these boundaries of interpretation.
“Metaphysics is a dark ocean without shores or lighthouse, strewn with many a philosophic wreck.” -Immanuel Kant
Like most people — I have boxes full of Christmas and Halloween decorations. Every year, I go back to these and I’m still somehow surprised to find a note to myself left from a year prior, prompting me to leave a note for my future self. Something that encapsulates the feel of that certain year, maybe a prompting to be grateful, maybe a reminder of some kind.
These notes, along with those in my calendar, along with souvenirs and tokens on my bookshelf from trips or events in the past — they’re essentially points of communication across the waves of time. My past self, finding meaning in an object taken from halfway across the world is reverberating a message through my temporal reality to my future self.
While it’s imaginative thinking, it may be worthwhile to step outside the box in terms of our general comprehension of how we perceive time. Under this context, it’s little efforts like these reminders and souvenirs, retrospective glimpses and forward-looking plans that serve to animate and expand our presence in time.
“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” -Nathaniel Hawthorne
The past is not necessarily a material thing. It floats in the echelons of memory and history. Detestably put, the past wouldn’t necessarily exist if no one was there to remember it. And so the things that have happened that we deem meaningful are only memories and, while I don’t intend to say that we can change the past in this regard, we certainly have control over our perception of the past.
A rather ominous example but we can look at those who plant false memories as a manipulation tactic to illustrate the point. In our own spheres of existence, we can assign meaning to previous events, we can take from them what we previously didn’t think was there and instill significance into a previous happenstance that has an influence on future considerations.
What would our 20-year-old selves say to us now? What would we say to our 20-year-old selves? What about our 90-year-old selves?
To employ foresight and wonder what decision would be best for our future; to live according to what is best, not for today, but for tomorrow; to keep close the lessons learned from yesterday; to work with the past and future self in order to be optimizing our position in the present.
For our occupation in time doesn’t have to be a single point, moving in a linear way — it can be a single point that moves in a linear way with a circular awareness and, imaginatively, an influence across the motions of time.