A Life of Time – how time awareness makes life better
So let me begin this one with what they call a Disclaimer.
Imagine that you were asked to write about the great historic landing of humans on the moon that took place 50 years ago this year. You might write about the history behind it, the international “Space Race” to get there first, some of the personalities involved, and almost certainly the famous words “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Great.
But would you also write about the minute details of the physics and astronomy and engineering that enabled this miracle to happen? Probably not. Probably you don’t have nearly the knowledge to do so. But that’s fine; you can still appreciate the historical majesty of the moment.
Well that’s what it’s like for me to talk about Time.
We dogs have NO sense of time, in the way you humans do. Or maybe it’s better to say that we have the sense of time you do when you’re around one year old. You know how babies go through that stage where they freak out the moment their mother leaves their sight? That’s us! “She’s gone forever! I’ll never see her again!” And that’s why we go so bonkers when you come home to us after a day… or an hour! You’re back, and our lives begin again.
Anyway, now that that’s out of the way, I want to talk about exactly this. About Time.
Humans develop a profound awareness of time by adulthood. That childhood mindset of “Why isn’t it Christmas yet” turns into an innate calendar that – most of the time – keeps a huge number of facts in great order. For example, to those of you who are fans of it, answer quickly: how many hours are left till the series finale of that TV show about dragons and kingdoms? (I’ll bet you can answer that in under a minute!). And to the rest of you, how long till you owe your next tax payment? Or till your next big test at school? Or, better, till vacation starts?! Or how long has it been since you first met that perfect someone?!
Now we animals are so connected to the Earth and Skies that we might pick up on things you don’t. Maybe your cat starts meowing right at the time you usually feed her – though of course she has no clock. Or your dog wakes you up if you’re not out of bed by 6:30, even though the sun is at different places at that hour throughout the year. And if you ever read the book or see the movie Lassie Come Home, it tells of a dog who always meets her boy right when school gets out, to such a perfect degree that people in their town set their clocks by when they see her walking to the schoolhouse.
But we are no good at all with long-term time. That way you can tell when your holiday will begin or you’ll learn who wins the Iron Throne. We can’t think that way at all.
Now as I said, babies have our sense of time, and it improves as you humans get older. But lots of people make the mistake of thinking that just because a person isn’t a baby anymore, they have a fully-developed time sense. Actually, a human’s conception of time keeps developing all the way into their late teens or early twenties!
For example, here’s something funny I see a lot. When kids are about thirteen years old, in the first week of the school year, they’re assigned some big project that’s due in four months. Now the super-motivated students (or okay, I’ll call you guys Nerds – it’s not an insult in my book!) will do the assignment right away. Good for you. And everyone else will mean to do it, but suddenly they’ll find that three months and three weeks and three days have passed and that thing is due in FOUR DAYS and it’s all a crazy crisis with tears and yelling and angry families and…
And it’s completely ridiculous.
Whether you’re that top student or the bottom of your class, NO one at that age has the time sense to plan out and do that assignment the way it ought to be done. I blame the teacher, not the kids. They should know better. (Unless the teacher consciously used it as a teaching tool, to help the students develop their time sense better. But I don’t usually see that happening).
Now you’ll hear about university students “pulling an all-nighter” to finish a project in time, but that’s usually because they should have planned out a week or two better, not four months. Their brains are further along.
What I’m beginning to realize, though, is that hitting that ability at age 19 or 22, where you can finally make long-term plans, is great – but it’s still not everything. There are actually MANY senses of time one can have. And the more you do, the better.
So there’s the sense we dogs have, through connection to the Earth and Skies, of time on a deep feeling level.
Then there’s the sense humans get by about age ten – “I’m bored, isn’t it time for school to get out yet?”
Then there’s the long-term sense one gets a decade later – “That’s great that I finished what I needed to do today. Now I should put an hour or two in on that long-term project, and maybe think a bit about what to get my girlfriend for her birthday, which is only two months away.”
Oh and then there’s a true sense of timing – like what a great musician has, keeping a perfect beat no matter how complicated an arrangement is. Now that one… I’m not sure that can be learned. It might be just a gift!
But I recently discovered another. One that can make an enormous difference in a person’s life, if they’re willing and able to take it on.
Sit where you are, reading this, and try to keep reading, while remaining completely aware of time passing.
Can you feel it? You might even feel something physically, like a breeze passing through you as you focus on it.
And now, if you can do that, try to also sense your body in its space. As you feel time passing, do you feel how your back, your butt, your legs and arms, your feet and hands, your toes and fingers, your nose and ears are all existing – in time, and in space. And every movement you do is just affecting where you are in both.
It’s a weird feeling, isn’t it?
Now imagine you lived that way all the time. Or at least tried to.
It wouldn’t be that anxious place I see you humans in all the time, “Oh I’m gonna be late!” “Oh we’re going to miss the movie!” Or “Oh I’m going to turn eighteen without ever having had a boyfriend!” That’s a pretty awful place to live.
But instead, you’d be aware of time… within the moment. And doing that, you’d probably make a lot fewer mistakes. You wouldn’t be late as often, because you’d know at the time that you were getting dressed too slowly or just right. You wouldn’t get distracted as often; or rather, distractions wouldn’t be such a problem, because you’d be aware of what you were being distracted from, and able to pop right back into it.
I think great dancers and athletes have a lot of this quality. An unending awareness of where they are in time and space. And butterflies – who are just the most awesome things that exist. Even if I try to eat them when they get close to me!
I envy you guys, having these abilities to experience and measure time, and to plan and show up on time, or even late! Yes, we dogs can’t “show up late” because we can’t conceive of when “on time” is!
But even more I envy those few of you who can really experience time as it’s happening. You ballerinas and goalies. You trapeze artists. You magicians.
Although, that’s what you all are to me. Magicians. And every bit of awareness of time you gain, the more magic you do, and the more you are.
Maybe, if reincarnation is real, I’ll have that ability in my next life.
But I have no idea when that’ll be! Hey I don’t even know when that show’s going to come on!
Loved your newsletter Shirelle! I so want to live right in the present moment like you do, but also keep my human sense so I’m not late for everything! Love, M.