Something funny is happening to my understanding of time. I noticed it starting to shift when I started taking my NLP course and the instructor asked where the past is. I pointed to my right, some people pointed behind them and others pointed to the left. I used to view it to be located to the left, but since I teach so much and spend a lot of time directly across from other people that I’ve reversed the location of my past.
I didn’t think it mattered much until I notice that I didn’t understand time.
Time is a word, it isn’t a thing. Most people have an understanding of time, an abstract odd kind of thing that they can’t put into words very well. We’re all good at using cliché to create a feeling of what it is, but these don’t move us closer to an actual understanding of what, if anything, it is.
I maintain that time is simply a way of looking at past, present and future. A shared understanding of an imaginary line in our heads which goes right and left, or forward and back from a point in the middle that we consider now. It helps us organize our memories in a way that allows us to see events as happening before or after other events. It seems like a straight line and there are nicely spaced increments understood to be minutes, hours, days, weeks, etc….
But this understanding isn’t very accurate for me anymore. It implies that there is a future and a past, and that the past is an unchanging thing existing somewhere to the right, left or behind us. It implies that there is one future laying in the opposite direction of the past. The only thing I like about this understanding is that there is a point on the line called now which seems to move magically along the line.
What no longer works for me about this model is that the past does change, it isn’t set in stone and the future is made up an billions of possibilities. The line is a cone shaped in the future and an imaginary cone shape to the past.
The abstract piece of my developing understanding is that while we cannot go back in time and alter what happened physically – in the case of the above time cone, what the light does – we can go back in time and alter what we think about what happened. Doing this will shift the location of now and create new possibilities for the future. And we are free to go back and alter whatever we like, whenever we like and make it whatever we want. All of this is possible because of the nature of time. Remember, time is a word and not a thing. Things don’t change, words can have many meanings.
Making the decision to see the history as changeable and not static opens up a world of new possibilities. For example, the crappy things that happened to you, they can be lessons instead of moments of victimization. The great things that happened can be moved back into the future and experienced over and over and over again. Your strongest moment can be cut and pasted into any times of weakness, and your weakest time in the past can have present or future resources carried into it. You can take the resources from someone else, even someone make believe, and add them to your past, present or future. All of this can happen if you accept that time isn’t a line but a ball of possibilities branching off in all directions.