While reviewing my previous post on seven-year cycles, two other writings came to mind. In their own ways, both hint that our concepts of time, and and things like cycles, are just that – concepts.
The first of these writings comes from T.S. Eliot’s epic poem, The Four Quartets.
You cannot face it steadily, but this thing is sure,
That time is no healer: the patient is no longer here.
When the train starts, and the passengers are settled
To fruit, periodicals and business letters
(And those who saw them off have left the platform)
Their faces relax from grief into relief,
To the sleepy rhythm of a hundred hours.
Fare forward, travelers! not escaping from the past
Into different lives, or into any future;
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus,
Rodney Smith says something similar in Stepping Our of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self (2010). Smith founded the Seattle Insight Meditation Society and is the author of, Lessons from the Dying which grew out of his years of hospice work.
He says, “future and past have no reality outside thought…no true authenticity other than the validity we give an idea or image.” Smith does not deny our experience of past and future, but suggests that it’s not what we usually imagine. Past and future, he says, are ideas we entertain in the present moment: how could they be anything else?
His comments remind me of crossing one state into another. The sign says, “Welcome to Oregon,” but you find no lines on the earth as there are on the map: one instance of the difference between a concept and the experience made visible.