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Beyond simple time

Time is a strange concept.  It doesn’t really mean anything but it defines everything.

When I was a child, Easter was about white table-cloth, coloring eggs, making wydmuszki, baking babka wielkanocna, finding the first przebisniegi (galanthus nivalis) along the river. It was about going to church, about family gatherings and conversations about a better, one-day-post-communist tomorrow.  This is what I remember.

This year I spent the Easter weekend with friends in Durham, North Carolina.

On Saturday we visited the beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Cherry trees, camellias, and first magnolias filled the air with an aroma of sweetness.  Terraces of multicolored tulips and pansies in full bloom, reminded me of the tangible things in life.  Children throwing Frisbees on the lawn, a weeping willow tree at the pond, and college girls in bikinis on blankets next to the children — these all reminded me of the passing time.

At evening we watched two movies by George Pal, Jasper and the Watermelons (1942) and Tulips Shall Grow (1942). The most exciting part of the experience was watching the movies on a white cotton sheet hung over the window curtains. The 8 mm projector, clacking noisily in the background, was a Eumig Mark S 810 D made in Austria in 1975.

It reminded me of the projector for slides or still picture movies I had as a child.  The movie from my childhood that I remember vividly is The Elephant’s Child, based on Rudyard Kipling’s story with the same title.  I remember the feeling of being enchanted by the pictures and the lightness of my child’s body sitting on the floor.

The two movies I saw with my friends last Saturday were confusing because the longer I watched them and thought about them, the more I believed that I had seen them before.

I felt I knew Jasper from Jasper and the Watermelons and his love of watermelons that turned into a nightmare.  I could imagine the boy’s disappointments and the fears of the scarecrow.  I felt I knew Janette and Jan from Tulips Shall Grow and I understood the simple explanation and the happy ending of the unjust war.

Watching the movies, I realized that I exist in a strange and exciting place that I need to define for myself.

Some people live in their past, unable to connect with the present time.  They are the ones who struggle with painful memories and are unable to escape.

Some people live in the future, unable to connect with the present moment.  They are the ones who struggle with overpowering fantasies, unreal realities they create for themselves.

The past Easter weekend made me ask the question: Where do I exist?

I live in the present that is saturated with my past: I exist as layers of remembering, as layers of pictures and smells, as layers of people I carry in my heart.

I live in the present that is filled with my imagination of the future: I exist as feelings, emotions, and thoughts about the tomorrow.

And I exist now, today, with every single stroke of my fingers above the keyboard.

Where do you exist?  Do you exist in the past?  In the future?

36 Responses to “Beyond simple time”

  1. Khaled says:

    I loved it, especially the last part, I read it over and over again..

    I live in the present that is saturated with my past: I exist as layers of remembering, as layers of pictures and smells, as layers of people I carry in my heart.

    I live in the present that is filled with my imagination of the future: I exist as feelings, emotions, and thoughts about the tomorrow.

    And I exist now, today, with every single stroke of my fingers above the keyboard.

    Where do you exist? Do you exist in the past? In the future?

  2. blogolicious says:

    In physics, theorists have seriously questioned whether time exists at all. There are permutations of relativity theory in which time essentially drops out of the equations. Other theorists see time as a convenient fiction humans invented. Google it and see…In any case, the older I get, the more I dwell in the past–either in the reverie of past pleasures and adventures or regret over mistakes and roads not taken. It is very difficult to live in the present and not to fear the future.

    • danutahinc says:

      That’s the point. It’s all a matter of perception. How can one fear the future and someone else be excited about it?

      The other point/question is: how to communicate our perception in a way that is understandable to others …

    • shawn mccreary says:

      I agree, we live in the past alot because we want to learn off the mistakes that the human race has made in the past. Also you see alot of times humans living just re,emising about old times and loving it.

    • David S says:

      I agree, though it does a little deeper. Time, as with a God, and pretty much everything else in our modern world, is a matter of perception. Everything that exists in our language exists because “we” as a species allow it to. Does the tree frog fear a God or conceive time? To live in regret would leave you always wanting, always wishing you did something different.

  3. Colleen says:

    I try to always live fully and stay present, and I’m grounded in a faith that helps keep fear at bay. However, I’m undeniably shaped by elements of my past that I would not wish to let go of for anything in the world.

    My parents were older when they had me (they always said I was a beautiful surprise that kept them young!), and while I enjoyed growing up with mellow parents who’d already seen it all through my siblings’ antics, I also lived in the shadow of knowing that they would not live forever, and that they were, in fact, aging before my eyes. I was Daddy’s Little Girl…his Cookie. No one has called me Cookie since he died in 1992 at 75; they wouldn’t dare. I miss his knack for a good joke, his yelling at the TV about politics, his wonderful smile. My mom died in 2000, also at 75. She was a complicated woman, and while not always easy to be with, she had a way of lighting up a room with love. She had a particular tender spot for my husband, and never forgot to bring him chocolate. Her love for him endeared her to me all the more, and revealed a side of her I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

    I keep 2 special pictures of them in my bedroom: one is of the two of them about a month before my Dad’s catastrophic stroke that left him partially paralyzed for his last 5 years, and the other is just me ‘n Daddy, with my arms wrapped around his neck. I guess I do live in the past to some extent, seeking to keep memories of them alive in the present for both me and for my children, one of whom never knew either of these wonderful people at all. I remember paging through their wedding album (circa 1947) as we packed up my Mom’s house following her death, thinking that all those happy post-war smiles were so vivid just a moment ago, and somehow now, they were all gone. I have framed one of those wedding pictures as a tender reminder of just how quickly life goes by.

    I live in the present by keeping lessons from my past in mind. Those lessons lend a sense of poignancy to the sometimes mundane matters of day to day life. Those lessons remind me that a loving God is in control, and so even though the world seems insane, He will cause it all to work out for the good. Because I love and am loved, I know that He is real.

  4. Pamela says:

    Danuta — I feel as if who we are is a sum of all our past experiences. Those experiences shape us and the path we followed make the person we currently are in the present. The past is just that, and people and things that we long for still do exist in our memories. My Easters used to be filled with my Mom dressing me up in my “Easter Best”, placing my then straight hair into pigtails, braids or dressed up with fancy barrettes. We would go to my Dad’s parents for lunch, and then a few towns over to my Mom’s parents for an Easter Egg hunt and dinner. Those memories are precious, and so vivid in my mind. I still go visit relatives that live on the same street as my Mom’s parents used to…and long for their house to look the same. It brings back many memories. Some so beautiful that my heart aches, and sometimes the final ones of my grandfather dying Easter Monday to having to move out my Grandmother shortly thereafter due to the sudden onset of Alzheimers…

    Being present is the only way to truly exist.

  5. Tyler says:

    You bring an interesting point up that I really never thought about. I would have to say we ultimately all subconsciously live in the past. Maybe its not the same for everyone but every experience good or bad has molded us into who we are today. Although if we are living, were technically in the present but even dreamers with constant thoughts of the future still live in the past. You cant escape your past because we basically are our pasts.

  6. shawn mccreary says:

    Time is about the future and in this day in age i live in the future. You can tell because human being have a desire to expand and grow with knowledge. For example as a human race we advance in technology so fast that we have almost impossible bounds. I believe that i live in the future because what i am doing is for my future and how i plan to live. The ideas that we have as a human race are what propels us to move forward and create new things. We are bound by imagination and our ideas.

  7. Kaitlin says:

    I exist in the present with memories of my past. I take time as it comes to me, I try not to think about the future too much because I like to go with the flow of life. Whatever happens, happens, everything happens for a reason and you can’t change your fate. I don’t really live on time in the sense that I schedule my day around what time it is, I just go through my day ready for whatever might come to me next. I do like to think about the past though, great memories that I will never forget. There are also bad memories that I would like to forget so I also don’t like to think about the past too often because there’s no sense in dwelling on it, it’s done. I also don’t like to take life too seriously because someone once told me if you do take life to seriously, you’ll never get out alive.

  8. Ella Anderson says:

    Your reflection on what Easter was about to you as a child reminds me a lot of how I feel about all of the Easter’s that I had when I was young. My mother would always put me in a beautiful dress with a hat and purse and dainty white gloves; we would dye eggs and have Easter egg hunts and go to church. Mainly, it was all about being with family and creating memories for years to come. To this day, memories of the past provide feelings of warmth and happiness. I am not quite sure where I exist…I think it is quite possible that I exist in the past but in the present as well. Although one may believe that existing in the past in not always a good thing, it can enrich your life to think about the years past and the experiences and memories that you grow to treasure as time goes by. Living in the present and enjoying the moment now for what it is can often be difficult; sometimes, the more time that goes by, the more we can be appreciative and fond of past memories. I also believe that the past shapes us into who we are now in the present and without living a little in the past, we wouldn’t be who we are today. I think it’s okay to live in a little of everything; with fondness for the past, appreciation for the present, and hope for the future.

  9. jaleel dabreo says:

    Time for me is the keeper of all things and a way to perceive change.

    When i think of time i think of the present and the future, of all the memories i hold closest to me, sometimes wishing i could relive them. I think of time as a way to put bad experiences behind, whenever i am in a present bad situation i always remind myself that tomorrow is another day which may turn out to be wonderful. I can think of how i will prepare myself for what the future holds and learn from past mistakes and what steps i can take so that i don’t repeat them. I think its true that time heals everything, because as time passes it gives us a chance to learn let go of bad memories and hold onto new ones, it lets us know that there’s something better if we just hold on.

  10. Matt Bloom says:

    I agree that time is a very weird concept, but I believe that time is defined by what we do with it and how we use it. I exists right here and now and am defined in the way I use the time that is given to me. I am the kind of person that doesn’t think that far ahead into the future, and sometimes that is my downfall that I don’t plan ahead enough. But I live my life in a very spontaneous here and now concept. I just go with the flow and take life as it comes to me but I also live in the moment. I feel that if you plan every step of every day you take out the mystery of what could happen in the future. I’m not saying it’s a terrible thing to plan ahead I just like to have some sort of anything could happen tomorrow outlook on life. I always feel like at the end of the day I never have enough time to complete everything that I want to do so I say I’ll just do it tomorrow. Time is such a significant part of every one’s life it’s too important to waste a minute of it.

  11. Tyler Finn says:

    I agree with what you said about time being a very strange concept. I just recently had a conversation with a friend about how I don’t have enough time in my day to complete all the stuff I want to do. With school, work, friends, family, eating, sleeping, I can barely find enough time to sit down and play my guitar. He on the other hand isn’t attending school and spends most of his time at work, skateboarding, or playing his drums. He often tells me about how he’s the happiest he has ever been because the pressure of having to excel at school has been lifted off his shoulders. I really often find myself envying him for his ability to lay back and enjoy life. He always tells me “Man, you need makes some time for you, and stop worrying about everyone else.”

    I would say that I exist very much in the future. I tend to be someone that rolls with the punches and is always looking ahead as to what has to be done. I often roll over in the morning and start to stress immediately about what I have to do in the day. Before I put my feet on the floor I start to make a list in my head of all the things I have to do that day. I truly feel like this is a product of the society that we live in. I know that this is not how I want to continue living my life so I am working on making improvements so that I can sit back and enjoy the fun in life.

  12. T-Aslam says:

    There is a saying that “Money can buy anything in this human world” but it cannot buy time. I agree with the author that time is a precious thing and we regard it as a blessing, when we get older. We often think about our childhood memories, when we were free as a butterfly without even knowing that time has no limits but we have limited time. If we see the time clock every second that is passed cannot be reversed back and becomes memory. Think?

  13. David S says:

    I appreciate your idea of time, but I do differ in how I see the world and how I observe time. My views may even contradict with each other, though that is to be expected with an idea as abstract as time. I view time as an idea, one birthed thousands of years ago to create form from the chaos which is life. Time, in all its modern glory, exists because it is allowed to exist; it exists because we accept it does. If you were never told what time was, you would never be able to envision the concept of time. Each cycle of the Sun and moon would continue as the Earth spun, but it would mean nothing to you. This being said, the question you asked goes more into personal time. I forget my past, ignore my “future,” and attempt to live in the moment. To think too far ahead will stop you from moving, to think too far in the past, and you will never move on. To fear life, to fear death, to fear anything is ridiculous. My opinions are my own, and will not affect you in the least, though I do hope this all made even one bit of sense with the concept of time, and how much of yours I just wasted by making you read this.

    One more thing… in paragraph 10, you mean “exciting,” not exiting.

    • danutahinc says:

      Thank you for pointing out the typo, David!

      And, no, I don’t feel I have wasted my time reading your comment … quite interesting one!

  14. Mike Grenfell says:

    Time is a very confusing concept. It does not exist, yet it represents the aging of the earth and everything that inhabits it.
    Although time is abstract, it explains the way things are and why they are. Time cannot be seen or touched or heard, but it embodies every aspect of life. People get old because of time, beaches erode because of time, people are late because of time.
    The world is a chronology of events that occur everyday. The sun rises in the morning, and it sets at night. Because of time, the earth completes one revolution around the sun in 365 days.
    The reason time does not exist is because if one were to really dissect time, he or she could say that half of one minute is 30 seconds. Then half of 30 seconds is 15 seconds, and half of that is 7 1/2 seconds, and the time of that minute could be divided in half an infinite number of times. If there is no set minimum amount of time, then there is no maximum, and if every event that occurs can be broken down into time, which has no limits, then time cannot exist because all things on earth that are living and functioning have limits.
    Time is very confusing and it represents something ambiguous of which every person has a different perception. One could look at time in another light: as soon as somebody is born, he or she begins dying. It is a very cynical perception of time, but it shows that time has no limits and no boundaries, and it makes one question if time really exists.
    I live in the present. Past occurences in my life shape the kind of person I am today, and they affect what kind of person I will be in the future.

  15. haymi says:

    I would say I have both way of existence that I can place in to. I live in the presence that changes the way I see things in different way that I used to. I picture myself in the future based on what I see and believe in presence. And also I would say I exist in the past because whatever I see that I had memory in the past take me back to the past days. For instance, when I see some old way of movies as you mention in your short essay, it takes me back to old days. Because technology wasn’t fast enough to be seen in a place where I came from, when I see old days black and white TV show, I remember watching that type of movies. Even the TV itself (the shape that is seen in black white TV show movies) takes my memory back to the days where my family had that type of TV. However, I think I weigh my existence more in the future than the past. So I agree with your point of reflecting what you see in the presence takes your memory to the past because I also have the same experience as I mentioned above.

  16. Melanie B says:

    Time for me has always been in the past. The experiences I have encountered with people and life trials. I am constantly thinking about the past and what I can learn from those experiences by relating them with the present. I agree with you that time is indescribable. I do agree with you that time is a familiar but unfamiliar process that everyone goes, remembering situation that mean the most and cherishing everything about life. When I was little Easter day I would get all dressed up and go to church with my family. I remember hearing the stories and doing crafts with the other kids in Sunday school. I also remember getting a Easter basket full of candy. This Easter felt deferent to me because it seemed to have a deeper meaning as to what this holiday is all about and also was a time for me to reflect on my life and where I wanted to be years from now. I will never forget the memories and what the holiday meant to me.

  17. Summer says:

    I believe I live in today. My past is filled with tons and tons of memories. During some parts of my past that were bad I chose not to remember and I simply did not. However, during the good moments of my past I remember excitement and joy and passion about life. Today, I am eager to fulfill my dreams but I am in no rush because I know the reality in life is that there will always be something more to look forward to or achieve. I try to not worry about tomorrow because I already feel my life is flying by. I wake up every single morning before the crack of dawn and I always feel excitement and joy for another day. Since graduating high school in 2007 the years have literally flown by and I have seen things I would have never believed would happen in my life and the lives of my friends and family. It has taken me a while to get to the point where I am now where I realize that I have to take things at my speed because I cannot change anything from my past I can only choose to live each day as best I can. I am in no rush for things of the future and although my plate seems full today, I choose to be grateful for everyday and remember that I can only do so much.

  18. brenK says:

    Time for me is a moment right now. Then all those moments get put together. What am I planning to do during the time of this day — the present. Then, the time that hasn’t happened yet — filling my calendar with what I plan for those days, and then make the lists of what to do with my time. I am looking to have in my time, things that matter, and joy. Unfortunately, other things go into those times also. The times of the past, get fuzzy in my memory. And I know that. Thus, I had a picture painted of my beloved dog “Niki-Tu” as I wanted to remember her as I knew her. I wrote on the back of pictures I had of my mother and me, some of the things she said, so I could hear her voice and know her love. There are different times in our lives related to who we are “child, teen, spouse, friend.” Some of good things that happened during those times can be treasured, and may be gone in the present and the future. Some of the bad things that happened, probably still influence us, but we don’t need to be controlled by them. As I get older, I realize we have only a certain amount of time on this planet, and I cherish it.

  19. Jami Jordan says:

    🙂 I don’t think any teacher in HCC has made me think so much in her class before. That being said, this is another one of your many interesting questions that has made me ponder deeply before answering:).
    I hope your questions never end up on Jeopardy if I were ever lucky enough to go. lol.
    I agree with the way you analyze time with the question; “Where do you exist in time?” in regards to your perception of time. In regards to my perception of time. I agree that I too do not live in the past because many things are no longer applicable to today and even if they are they must be moderately adjusted to fit within today’s beliefs and practices. I also agree with understanding how the past beliefs ,behaviors and practices effect the present ones. Thus, I believe that I also try to live in the present time with an understanding of how the past effects the present to reach future goals.. If that makes any sense.

  20. Michael Leonard says:

    Time is the measurement of events and distances between events that have already occurred, ones that are occurring and those that have yet to occur, which to us, human beings, is viewed in a linear fashion. Throughout history we have found ways to measure time, whether it through where in the sky is the sun located, how much sand is left in an hour glass or where is the hand in the clock on the wall. We use such tools to measure time because our sense of time, the ability to measure it, is somewhat unreliable. For example, being in a class you don’t like or doing an aggravating job may seem like hours to the one experiencing it, but in reality it has been not even a minute. Or, if you are doing something you really enjoy like playing a video game or something of that nature, your mind might say it has only been a few minutes, but the clock on the wall says it has been several hours. The amount of stimuli in the brain determines whether the mind over measures or under measures events and their distances between one another. As for the case of how things are different in one event than they are in another, the world around us in constantly changing, whether it be things of nature like the weather or manmade thing like buildings or society, something is always happening, and most of these things like doing something every Easter are so gradual to the mind that it doesn’t even notice until it looks back and realizes the changes that have occurred. Human beings are able to notice such changes in large distances in time because we are the only species on the planet that records what is happening or we dig back by finding other recordings that tell us what has happened. Even though we try so hard, we will never be able to fully map out the distances and events in time because is so large and infinite that eventually everything, even our own recordings, will become lost in it.

  21. zac says:

    i exist in the present, the past, and the future.

  22. Susan says:

    Thinking about all the things I have to do today, tomorrow next week combined with a touch of hurt when I think of someone I miss and would like to share my day , it is really hard to be in the moment. Sitting back and watching the phone ring, the caller id shows answering would be an invitation for drama but even when the ring is silent I am still feeling the vibration in the air. Taking a deep breath and closing my closes, clearing my thoughts and listening for the song of the birds singing in the holly tree. It is not easy for me to live in the moment but when I do I feel in tune with everything around me

  23. David says:

    I feel as i live in all three also, I live in the past knowing where i came from, the present of seeing where i am today, and the future by looking at where i could/would like to be

  24. Ian Otto says:

    “The present’s just a present, interruption to the past.”
    -Something Corporate, ‘Konstantine’

    I will admit that for almost all of my life I have been burdened with past memories, false futures, and scattered collections of both traveling the highways in my brain. However, I am currently focusing on being AWARE of these thoughts, and NOT letting them take control of my being. It is important that we live in the present moment at all times, for this is shaped by our past yet will shape the future. We must not attempt to break the barriers of time within our mind. Allow yourself to be completely involved with the power of now, and life will seem to be much more care-free, and definitely less stressful.

  25. Ian Otto says:


    “The present’s just a PLEASANT, interruption to the past.”

    Random thought:

    Why would we call the present “present”, if it wasn’t meant to be a thoughtful gift from the mystery of time?

  26. Felicia Tuttle says:

    As I read this I realized that, on top of my belief that people change constantly with time, I used to be one to dwell on the past but now I am one who is obsessed with my future. For example, I used to hold on to past relationships so tightly that it was impossible for me to move on. Now, I see the good in what I had learned during that relationship and move on. My mind is frequently set on my aspiration of being a paid performer. It hinders me constantly; night and day I think about what else I can do to improve my acting, singing, and dancing. Now, I do not waste time thinking “what could have been…”. So i do not think that everyone is always one way or another. I believe some people at some points in their lives struggle between the two: living in the past and obsessing over the future.

  27. Brandi P. says:

    I’ve thought about your question.. Where do I live? I’ve discovered I don’t know. Then I aaked myself, Why don’t I know? And I realize I don’t know because I don’t care. Time is everything and nothing to me. It doesn’t matter to me where my mind bounces to in terms of past, present and future as long as I get to my goal. In a way all of these thoughts are needed, the love and pain or the past. The hopes and fears of the futur and the current reality of the present. All of this makes us individuals and makes us one. Its all of these times that shape us towards our goals and even create them.

  28. Leslie says:

    I simply exist. I know my past has shaped who I am today and serves as a guide for my actions in this moment and tomorrow. I can only be aware of what I choose in the moment and hope that I’ve made the right choice. Life and our experience of this existence is always changing. I’m actively being mindful of my journey to be aware and open my being to what ever might arise because I don’t quite know who I really am.

  29. Anita R says:

    After suffering the loss of my Aunt Doreen to pancreatic cancer, at the age of 67. (From DX to death was a total of 8 weeks) I was having a rough time emotionally dealing with the DX and the future, bleak picture for my aunt and family.

    My sister Maryjean sent me a statement and I think it capsizes what time means to me.

    “Yesterday, Today and Tommorrow.
    There are two days in every week about which we should not worry. Two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension. One of those days is yesterday with its mistakes and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control.
    All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed. We cannot erase a single word we said.
    Yesterday is gone.
    The other word we should not worry about is tommorrow with its possible adversities, its burdens its large promises and poor performance. Tommorrow is beyond our immediate control.
    Tommorrow sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds. – but it will rise. Until it does we have no stake in tommorrow – for it is yet unborn.
    This leaves only one day – today.
    Any person can fight the battle of just one day. It is only when we add burdens of those two awful eternitied – yesterday and tommorrow – that we break down.
    It is not the experience of today that drives people mad it is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tommorrow may bring.
    Therefore, by the grace of God, live one day at a time.”

    • Danuta says:

      Is it possible for us to replace Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with yesterdays, tomorrows, and today(s)?

      I think it would be very wise to try.

  30. lauren merrill says:

    Hmm. Naturally in our society we are trained to always think towards the future. What will my career be? Will I be happy? Where will I live? We are always preparing for something that hasn’t even happened yet. And in doing this, we miss out on life. Right now. I live in the past; I miss a lot of the way things used to be as a younger person without so many choices and responsibilities. But this is life and I’ve slowed down and realized we make life move much faster than it needs to.