Neither past nor future

February 21, 2024

Overheard on the Internet a conversation between a teacher and a student who asked why we seem to lose track of time when we dream. Through a game of questions and counter-questions, the teacher led the student to realize that we only live in the present moment.

Even if we want to follow the path of the past or the path of the future, our consciousness can only do so in the now, as Buddhists tell us at length. There's no escaping the present; it's our only reality.

Our brains constantly tell us a story, interpreting it according to our perceptions and reasoning. After all, physicists have imagined many universes with time as a variable. The past, the present and the future are but one datum among many, and this mathematics gave rise to the atomic bomb, spaceships and artificial intelligence. We have to do it all the same, inundated as we are with illusions, and manage to create a semblance of terra firma.

Civilizations have been built out of this constant stream of thoughts, both solitary and shared. We believe it's all authentic. It's a vortex that guides and deceives us. We must keep telling ourselves that our memory is a sediment, an accumulation lining the immeasurable ocean of a reality that has no end because it never began.

No past, no future, only the present. How, then, can stars and torments be born? How can wars exist? Why do we kill each other if we can't grasp our ignorance?

Of course we exist. We bury our ancestors, mourn our passing time, and feel a weariness that wasn't there just a few minutes or years ago. Some thinkers believe that the universe dreams through us. But why does it dream? Why so many volcanoes and eternal restarts?

It seems that the only answer we can offer ourselves is to keep asking questions, because we're going round in circles, that's the only geometry possible.

I'd like to have the power of my prayer; I'd like my will alone to stop this illusion that takes the place of certainty. But I'm just a clumsy thought. The others, in their brains, invent beautiful things, give us medicine and concubines, arts, apotheoses, and discoveries that never cease to amaze us. I only weave a garment of phrases...

And even then, I can turn the mirror against these beautiful inventions, which turn into anguish and humanity. I really don't understand anything, and I'll die without answers.

But will I be dead? Echo of my birth?

The present is our only astonishment.

Illustrations generated with Midjourney