The Essential Experiential Ingredient in Reverse
As most would agree, time is our most precious gift in this life. Sure, the other three dimensions are important, but we cannot experience them without our fourth dimensional friend, Time. Doesn’t really matter if it is rolling forward or backwards, we just need it moving in a direction in order to experience anything. Candidly, we are designed to handle time moving forward, but moving backward could be interesting, right?
Think about it. You would experience words that you spoke coming back into your mouth, things you would normally be smelling, you would unsmell. Let’s not imagine that trip to Taco Bell as you unchew a burrito and somehow neatly put it back untouched int the wrapper, and then as it would get unwrapped and disassembled back into the food bins, eventually going back to the farm and be unplucked from the plants as they ungrew back to the earth and turned into seeds… all while the sun unshined.
We’d be born in the cemetery, water from the sewer system coming up through our bodies as they undigested the food and we grew younger while we unconverse, unread, unlearn, attend networking events where we unmeet people, become supremely healthy only to end up as blithering babies who get sucked back into the womb. Family trees would be flipped upside down as generations collapse into fewer and fewer people, technology unwinds back to the stone age and eventually the whole of the universe returns to whatever state existed before the big bang.
Fun to contemplate, and maybe there are ways for time to roll both directions – maybe it is even possible to fold space in such a way that we can skip forward or backwards. The stuff of many science fiction stories. And we can contemplate the dimensions which exist beyond time, but our avatars are fairly hard-wired to experience four dimensions. . . and after contemplating reverse time, I am rather happy to experience it going “forward.”
Going Forward, Just a Dash Will Do
Like most things in our lives, we don’t get to choose how much time we get with which to experience the other three dimensions (or those beyond the 4th). In a cosmos that is measured in billions of years, where the totality of space is vast enough that it can take billions of years for light to reach us, and some would contend that there is light that may never reach us because some parts of space might be expanding faster than that light can travel. In this massive expanse of space-time (again glossing over other dimensions or the concept of the multiverse, or whatever exists beyond a multiverse), we are given a dash of time. At this scale, 1 year or a 100 years, or even a 1,000 years is just a blip.
I even recall someone writing about “what will we do with our dash”, a reference to the dash used when describing the year someone was born and the year they left this reality. We are given, comparatively, a tiny slice of time with which to experience everything. And . . . last I checked, even just the stuff we know about, there is a LOT to be experienced, explored and understood! A dash hardly seems enough.
And yet here we are.
Spending the Currency of Time
It’s on this canvas that we experience our blip. Some folks are really focused on various leader boards and legacies, and that can help with a feeling of accomplishment, but for me, maybe if there was a legacy that could survive the implosion of the universe back into its solidarity, maybe I would go for that. Right now, though, there is no tower, terraform, spaceship, history book, or even religion that does that. Some folks might disagree with my take on religion – that’s OK – I will totally eat crow in the afterlife if I am wrong, but that’s a blog for another time (ah, word play! Cannot enjoy the cosmos without it!).
All I want, in a universe of such abundance, is two fold: Equity and efficiency. This is a fairly recent turn of events for me – I hit this conclusion in 2015. I will hopefully describe that further, but in short, equity is about everyone being able to spend their time how they want to, and efficiency is about us being smart enough to shepherd this planet and get off world so we can tap into the infinite resources available to us. Sounds simple, but we are only just getting started . . .some would say we are late to the efficiency party and in denial about the equity party. I am one of those people.
For the rest of my blip, until I change my mind, I am going to do what I can to enable this notion of equity and efficiency, all while launching ventures, enjoying family and friends, exploring/celebrating our planet (and the miracle of life) and finally, pumping creative content into my various platforms which includes this sweet blog.
The title of this post is “Distilling Time” because that’s what all of us do – we get a blip, and there are a lot of things competing for that blip: working, sleeping, health, nutrition, learning, living, loving. There’s lots of other social programs that we’ve internalized which dictate how we should spend our time, and then there is the constant stream of content from print, television and online sources which beckons us to just give it our attention (and in some cases our money, which then we have to go work and generate more). All of these things take time. If we want to make the most of it, we need to distill it.
Distillation is technically the process by which we purify or condense something. In the case of time, we want to remove impurities/distractions and condense time into the experiences that matter to us – from the little things each day, to reaching for and achieving goals, to attacking those items on the infamous “bucket list.”
This can manifest in many ways:
- Mindfulness: One of the best way to remove distractions is to be fully present in whatever we are doing – no cell phone, no computer. If we are on a computer or cell phone, use do-not-disturb to minimize distractions
- Intention: There are many ways to incorporate intention into our lives, but for me it is about living a “purposeful life.” Yes, there is a book by that name, I got a free copy from my colleague Rick, and I’ve owed it back to him for like, 20 years, but the title itself says a lot. Everything we do matters, and so if we do even the smallest things on purpose, if we appreciate these moments which are so easy to gloss over, then, we elevate the experience whether it is holding the door open for someone, brushing our teeth or signing a peace treaty.
- Daily Reflections: Many of the practices I have read involve spending a little time, usually at the end of the day, to reflect and come up with the top 3-5 small things we can do the next day – usually a mix of tactical and life-goal actions
- Big Rocks: Dr. Steven Covey had a video about managing important life roles and goals. In short, if we prioritize and act on the important stuff, the less important stuff will figure itself out. I’ve used my own version of that concept for decades
- One Page Plan: Recently I have been enjoying content from Moe Choice, which is about taking whatever that next small step you can take toward your goals
- Find Synergies: Finding goals and roles that overlap is one of the best ways to distill time. For example if I have a hobby, friends I want to spend time with and a destination I’ve always wanted to visit… is it possible to gather those friends to partake in this hobby while at that destination? That’s 3 things all being done within the same block of time.
There’s plenty more, and of course there is an arc to the approach: introspection, planning and then taking action.
There are days I wake up and none of this stuff matters. I just want to wake up and ride life like a wave – purely an unplanned and experiential approach. Sometimes those days move me closer to my goals than anything I could have ever planned. Other days, they take me into crazy corners of this world. I liken these types of days to the Aboriginal right of passage, called a “walk-about.” Those can last months, but sometimes, I just need a few hours.
I remember riding my minivan into the Sonoran Desert one day for no good reason. I ended up hitting a bump on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere that cost my transmission and, ultimately was the end of that poor vehicle. That day, I traded my primary means of transportation for a few hours of free-spirited adventure with no particular outcome other than the memory of flying down a road in the desert in my purple minivan. To this day, I don’t have a good reason for why I did that. But we have to allow ourselves these moments of abandon. As long as nobody else gets hurt, right? Then we chalk that up to an “experiential day.” These days might feel like the opposite of distilling time, but they contribute in ways we might never understand.
Without that day, I wouldn’t have that story to tell about my purple minivan. I look back and think, maybe it was stupid, but I like my life better with that day in it. And then I was forced to ride my bike to the office everyday – which gave me awesome buns and thighs. Aww yeah. Beyond that, this day – the energy of it – has contributed to my life in unknown ways as well.
In Conclusion, Drunken Style
So many kung fu movies feature “drunken style,” where the fighter is a martial artist, but they are either channeling drunken energy or they are actually fighting while drunk. The idea is this blend of martial arts disciple with the willful and playful abandon created through inebriation. That about sums up this post’s approach to time. “Distilling time” by applying some tooling and systems, I truly believe this can help us get more out of our life’s journey. However, a life fully lived might also include moments where we abandon these structured approaches. We immerse ourselves into life in a more fluid manner which can be more risky – maybe we invite more suffering for ourselves, or maybe we invite more cosmic opportunities.
However, the idea comes back to “drunken style” . . . a martial artist can get drunk and still be a martial artist. Someone who does nothing but drink. . .is just a drunk. I think we need to invest energy in distilling time – apply mental discipline, introspection, planning and practice taking action. That will help guide us to make the most of these more immersive and less planned moments which happen in our lives (either by our own actions or sometimes by forces outside our control).