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We are all extremely sensitive to time. It is measured out for us almost everywhere we look. Alarms wake us up and clocks suggest when it is time for bed. We eat around noon and again around 6pm. Work is expected between 9am and 5pm and is often half-expected anything up to two or three hours either side.

Of course, we are not alone in our dependence on time. My dogs are fed every evening at 5:30, and from 5:20 they will gently remind me of their presence so they can be sure I won’t forget my duties.

We might make time to sit and breath during the day. Sometimes for ten or twenty minutes. Many people use gentle alarms to suggest when this time is over. And then we spend our days encouraging our minds to stay present in the moment. But what do we mean by that? How long is a moment?

A moment is usually thought of as being “a short period of time”. We think of it as being here now. But now is a tricky concept. If we say the word now out loud it only takes a fraction of a second, but the start of the n is at a different now than the last lingering w.

And thought usually precedes action. So if we think, “I am going to say “now“”, and then we say “now“, which is the moment we are interested in. The thought? The action? The start of the action? Then end of the action?

We’ve quickly fallen into Zeno’s paradox territory, where trying to break down a continuous flow into it’s instantaneous parts leads us in an infinite spiral towards zero.

If time is a continuous flow, then now is just a point in that flow. Trying to determine the position and duration of a single moment is like trying to isolate a drop of water in a great river. All we can be certain of is that we are looking at a huge mass of moving water.

But time is tangled up with space. There was no time before the big bang at the beginning of the universe. Time has flowed along with space ever since. So as the two concepts are so inter-twined, why don’t we instead consider moments in space rather than moments in time? We may be extremely sensitive to time, but we have an even greater connection to place.

When I am at the sink, I need to concentrate on doing a good job of the washing up. When I am at my desk working, I have to just focus on the task at hand. Let the moment be determined by the place, not by the time.

But now I have to run. I have a train to catch.

image by Magdalena Roeseler

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