Carlos’s Comments on “Present Tense” by Alan Burdick

“More and more I find I want to be living in a Big Here and a Long Now.” — Brian Eno

I ambled down a narrow steep slope, and I lost my footing and slipped on the muddy bank of the stream. I looked toward the far side and noticed the jagged remains of a fallen tree in the water. I found a moss-covered root at the base of a beech tree and sat down. The breeze was rattling the dry leaves on the branches overhead. My breathing slowed. I began to notice more. I could see the trees and the sky reflected in the water, the slick rocks scattered on the river bed, and lazy leaves meandering downstream – lost in the current. To be lost in the current is to feel eternal and timeless. To be lost in the current, lost in the here and now, is to be truly free.

My favorite way to lose track of time is in a forest. There are moments when I am surrounded by the underbrush and enclosed by the canopy of trees; moments when I feel clarity and quiescence. Ramana Maharshi believed that these fleeting instances of peace are akin to the timeless bliss of deep, dreamless sleep. If there are no symbols, labels or measurements to anchor us to the world around us, time reveals itself in different ways. When I venture far into the woods, time appears in the subtle shift of sun and shadow through the trees, the wind on my skin, the cadence of the birds, and all of the cyclical rhythms of flora and fauna found in a world without material culture.

Although “The Secret Life of Time” is fascinating and thought provoking, for me, the death of time is far more profound. And just as I can bury time while hiking aimlessly in a wooded grove, I can annihilate time in other ways as well. I often feel a sense of timelessness and calm contentment when engaged in movement arts. In my yoga practice, time dissipates while I am holding an asana; I become completely aware of the pause at the end of every inhale and the pause at the end of every exhale. I feel relaxed and free. And in Argentine tango, there is “the moment” when the past and future fall away, and the connection I share with my partner seems everlasting. Artistic endeavors give me a glimpse of the same mystery that I encounter when I am embraced by the beauty of the natural world. The tranquility I feel in nature and the joy I find in the arts allow me to be part of a creative process that is so much bigger than myself. Then I am awake to here, alert to now, and the current guides me downstream.

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