When I woke up this morning, before my thoughts about the mundane had time to kick in, it just hit me how strange it is – this ever unfolding experience, what many call the passage of time. I mean, why and how does it keep unfolding? What propels it forward? Motion must have a cause mustn’t it? Are we what make it move? It could just as easily not move. It could just as easily be in stasis. We are kind of obsessed with stasis us human beings. We love to capture a moment in time. That is what art and photography is so often about. By capturing the moment, we are able to fully observe it and see how much we miss in the twinkle of an eye. Sports photography is particularly engaging in that paradoxically it captures motion and reveals to us the essence of it. The rippled muscles, the revealing expression of pure concentration and un-self-conscious effort. Sometimes it’s the devastation of defeat which in real time would just glimmer past but here it is frozen and palpable. It’s a cliché now in movies to freeze time except for the main character who has the freedom to walk around and inspect the statuesque and defenseless time locked creatures, even adjust them for amusement and their bewilderment. We are like that main character when we look at a photo.
But as I lay there not moving and not thinking that much, I could feel so acutely the passage of time. It was my experience. It had fabric to it. It was the very essence of my existence. If I were to die, this experience would die with me. Like the fallen rock stars, who are still locked into their 28th year. Forever young we might say. But what was this feeling? I was not moving and yet I felt motion. Unfolding is a good way to describe it but what is it that is unfolding? The witness of this experience almost seems like the movie star – outside of time – but it’s the mirror opposite – because the movie star is the only one for whom time passes – whereas for the witness of experience, it appears to be the one that is unmoving, outside of time, while all else around it is in motion.
It has been said that time is an illusion and merely a trick of the mind – in the same way that pixels flashing on and off on a screen give the very real illusion of movement. Could our experience be as illusory as that? It’s always interesting when watching a movie when suddenly you wake up so to speak and remember that you are in a theatre watching a screen. You look around at the others still caught as you were a minute before in their stasis of hypnosis. They do not exist for now. Their consciousness has become a channel for the stream of consciousness created by the movie. They are not the witness. It as if they have left their seat and climbed into the screen. That’s if it is a good movie, or what we call a “captivating” movie, a “spell binding” movie…”a rollercoaster ride from start to finish”. And when the movie is over, they walk out exhausted a little and slightly deflated and still perhaps feeling like one of the characters in the movie.
But when we do wake up during the movie and look around, we have added a dimension to our experience. Relative to the movie, we are outside of time, (even though we still have the movie of our lives going on). Is this perhaps what Einstein was pointing when he observed that time was in the eye of the beholder. Time may move differently depending on your point of observation.
And then there is the waking up from the movie of your life. The sudden gaining of a new perspective, entering a new dimension. Any time we are able to step back and observe experience, we have transcended it. So I can suddenly wake up and realise my life is a movie. I can then wake up again and realise that I realise my life is a movie and so on. I can know. I can know that I know. I can know that I know that I know….Is there an end to the transcendence? Is it possible that the whole endless loop of knowing can also be transcended. Is it possible that the witness, the knower, is also an illusion? Does that mean that the person who has climbed into the movie screen has by forgetting to exist discovered the secret of existence? The natural order begins with being lost in the movie – what you might call unconscious. The next stage is the waking up to the fact that it is a movie and you are the one watching it – what you might call self-conscious. Self conscious definitely transcends unconscious. The final stage is realizing that the movie and the person watching it are really not separate and are in fact co-dependent.