All of us experience our existence as time-bound beings. Our perception of time is based on our neurophysiology and the dynamic nature of our planet.
Earth is a spinning planet and this sets our daily rhythms. The tilt of the axis provides the seasons in the hemispheres, creating a diversity of life that has adapted to varying temperature changes and light levels. Everything living experiences birth and death. Even the rocks are melted and reformed through the motion of tectonic plates. The calcified bodies of sea creatures become the stone of majestic cliffs. Our dynamic Earth system is what produces and sustains life. Destruction and renewal are the way of our planet, the ticking of the clock of Deep Time.
It is because of the delay in our neural processing, and the fact that it takes wavelengths of light time to reach our eyes, that we experience our visual world a few milliseconds in the past. Our brains have an astounding potential for creative thought, so we project ourselves into the future with our hopes and worries. We rarely react precisely in the present moment.
There are oscillatory cells in the basal ganglia of our forebrains that act as an internal clock mechanism (Gozlan, 2016). These cells keep the body’s internal sense of time. A decrease in the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain has the effect of speeding up our perception of time. Less dopamine in the brain causes us to perceive time as passing much more slowly. Our brains must match the biorhythms of the body and the artificial time zones that we have agreed on. These internal and external clocks drive our lives forward within the 14 billion-year-old arrow of time that is our expanding universe.
Considering all of this, very few of us are grounded in the present.
The motions of life are not to be feared. We should instead make a commitment to live as fully, wholly, and lovingly as we can in the present moment. It is love that transcends time and transience. Love is a choice.
Photo: The top photo of this Maple tree was taken in June 2016, and the bottom photo of the same tree in October 2016.
Gozlan, Marc. “A Stopwatch on the Brain’s Perception of Time.” The Guardian. January 01, 2013. Accessed November 09, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/jan/01/psychology-time-perception-awareness-research.