Flowing Forward

The flow of time is due to entropy. Entropy is flowing from a state of order into disorder, and we perceive that as the arrow of time. But, on a true scale, time is truly relational: it is a matter of motion and change relative to other things (ultimately, light).

What does this mean phenomenologically? How do we experience time? We seem to perceive the past as something that is solidified. The past happened. The future, on the other hand, is ruled by probability. Points and events are not located and defined. At best, we try and predict using information gathered from the past. The past is continuously shaping the way we view the future. But, the past is also not static. We can influence the past through the way we think of it. So, can we change the way we think about the future by changing how we think about the past?

What would changing the future do, though, but give us control over the future? What would you do with complete control of your life? If you could map and stage out the events of your life, how would you make it: Would it be easy and relaxing for the entire duration, or challenging and arduous?  Would you choose to live leaping from one high to another or sprinkle dashes of both extremes of highs and lows? The real question underneath this has to do with growth. There must be some form of transition for anything to grow or a change resulting from some disequilibrium. This transitional period may be perceived as suffering and uncomfortable, or merely different and strange—possibly even exciting due to the novelty of the unknown. If something were in constant equilibrium, then there would be no growth because how could something change without at some point disrupting the balance.

Why are we afraid of change? We fear change because it reminds us of our inability to be certain of the future. We fear what the future might bring and fret about how to prepare ourselves for the multitude of scenarios conjured in our imaginations. At the core of these worries is our fundamental need for self-preservation. Additionally, it could include other cardinal characteristics of ourselves that we’ve wrapped our identity around; in either case, the point of rumination revolves around the question of what happens when those areas break down or are threatened?

Furthermore, why is it that we assume our sense of self and identity are unified to begin with? If we utilize our mental energy for analyzing futuristic what-ifs, then when do we make the necessary mental pivot from gazing out into the future to reflecting backward into our past? Without self-reflection, we operate as entities merely floating down the river of time, anticipating what might present itself to us next and striving to respond accordingly. By remaining in this state of assessing and predicting, we simultaneously avoid the task of reflection and contemplation necessary for a consolidation of the self. Moreover, this future-focused mentality is quite easy to continually justify as one need only cite that the river’s perpetual motion as the reason they are unable to shift to a different mental viewpoint. The challenge lies in the question of when? When will do we feel it’s the appropriate time to engage in self-reflection and, by then, can it even serve the same purpose?

It is so alluring to become caught up in the constant motion of time that we can forget entirely about what rhyme or reason motivates us to continue pressing forward—also, forward to what? If we focus solely on the future, then doesn’t it stand to reason that we will continue to do so in the future? The challenge becomes to determine where and what the threshold is for enough: What constitutes enough money to merit reducing work? How many followers on social media are enough to shift this from one’s central priority? When will there be enough safety measures in place that we feel protected from the uncertainties of the future?

Meaning in Repetition

The only way to determine significance is to view the contents within their context. We live an embodied cognition, meaning we are intertwined, psychic and physical experiential states enmeshed. To separate the two, for study or any meaningful inquiry, requires a degree of acknowledging at the onset that error will occur and, indeed, already has merely due to limitations of the observer and the infinitesimally small uncrossable separation between me and it. This and that. Object and subject.

We always have a personal and collective aspect of our life; we cannot separate one from the other even if we have convinced ourselves of the lie that we have successfully performed this task. No. You may never escape that which you don’t know; because how would you even know what it was that you were escaping? The most blind individual is the one who only understands themselves as an individual and never as an object in context.

To maintain such a psychic position requires a strong degree of hubris willpower. It is effortful and painful to push against the currents of life—yet, that is by no means a declaration that we are not allowed to try! In fact, many of us, myself included, have spent significant portions of our life striving against ourselves. Like an auto-immune disease attacking its own body, we utilize our mind to attack the very roots that hold us up.

Then, when we imagine ourselves to have succeeded in such an absurd task, we reverse course in a dramatic fashion, worrying about our isolation and complaining about our separateness. Given enough time, this mindset begins to take hold as the default position. It extends a step further, lamenting the initial act of severing one’s own roots—then, another step, vilifying the agent that could carry out such a horrendous action against our body—the body wherein our personal, individual mind resides.

And, with the small steps of each movement, the fact that we were the initial cause and agent that cut us from our roots slips into the unconscious, where the forgotten and repressed mingle and plot their schemes for returning to the light of our conscious mind.

When looked up from the depths of this dark, bottomless abyss, the stream of consciousness appears as an illuminated flow crossing across the mind of the liver. And so the process repeats: unconscious content vie for life in the spotlight of the stage of consciousness, and we go about operating from this place of awareness, left once more with the choice of acknowledging the existence that there exists far more within ourselves persistently knocking at consciousness’ door, or relying on more effortful and convoluted measures to attempt in vain to seal this unknown door.