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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Have you ever wondered what drives time or, rather, our sense of time? Philosophers have pondered this question for millennia? I think it was St. Augustine who put the riddle into memorable terms: When he's meditating on time he knows, but when he tries to record what he knows, it eludes him.

Norman Fischer, a Zen Buddhist teacher I quoted from his book, SAILING HOME, in the previous post, has this to say about time and it's relation to death:

But what is death? We can't say. And yet this unsayable fact
--that fact of absence or unbeing-- is what makes time flow
and life go on.

It never occurred to me that what is unsayable is what calls time into life and keeps it going. Of course! Unbeing and life go together, so the fact of death or non-existence is what sets time in motion. We ordinarily think it is birth that sets the clock in motion, but insofar as death and life are inextricably related, as I maintain they are, it is death no less than life which generates time. It all depends on which direction one is facing: to view birth is to see death; to face death is to encompass birth.

I am relieved to hear Norman acknowledge that, if asked, we cannot say anything definitive about death. The most complete and accurate thing we can say about death is that we can't say. Thus, those who have had near-death experiences are describing, not death, but their near-death encounters. I can live with that til I get there myself. In the meantime, I content myself with a poem:

vibrating madly
in the spider's web
the last flutters of time

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