Clock Time Metastasizing Toward 2012
© 2004, 2008 Jonathan Zap
Edited by Austin Iredale
“Time is what keeps the light from reaching us. There is no greater obstacle to God than time. And not only time but temporalities, not only temporal things but temporal affections; not only temporal affections but the very taint and smell of time”. —Meister Eckart . (c. 1260–c. 1328)
Eagerly awaiting 2012 feels like hurrying toward tranquility. We are beset
with time sickness, and the reset of that orientation is not to be found in time, but beyond time.
In his book, The Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley points out that the religions and political philosophies that are framed in linear time are the ones that cause violence and generate suffering. The progressive may seek radical means to create a future world where conditions are more ideal. The reactionary may take repressive measures to turn the clock back to some imaginary earlier time, when “traditional” values reigned. Both seek to find their salvation in time, in the temporal world, and both will employ temporal means to get there, usually claiming that the ends justify their dubious means.
The more we identify with our mortal, aging bodies, the more we descend into clock-time, as our bodies are bound to clock-time in so many obvious ways. Conversely, our spirits are timeless, and therefore our psyches, which might be said to occupy a middle plane, have an inherently amphibious nature. Huxley describes the duality of our psyches as being able to live in both clock-time and eternity.
I’m trying to ground this distinction, and find a way to integrate it into my awareness while living in this clock-time driven realm. I’m not much of a meditator, and can’t recall any definitive experience of release from the temporal into the eternal. If I were to adopt an ambitious program of meditation to achieve that goal, I would, of course, be binding myself once more to a linear time track. I can’t travel toward eternity; as John Major Jenkins suggests, attuning to eternity is more comparable to breathing in or out than traveling toward a destination.
The method I’ve found to be the grounding, integrating conduit for withdrawing from clock-time can be expressed in a two word phrase I coined some years ago: existential impeccability. Existential impeccability means being impeccable right now, not striving to achieve some distant aim or goal. but simply to be impeccable for its own sake. When I seek to transform myself using the temporal, it always seems to back fire, just as when intelligence agencies seek to control the temporal they encounter blowback.
Let’s consider the issue of nutrition and eating. Diets are notoriously unsuccessful, and this may have to do with their heavy-handed temporal aspects. One has a future goal, say an ideal weight or improved health, and therefore accepts privations or excessive asceticism for a period of time to reach that goal. Trying to secure a future, one attempts to live in a projected timeline, an uncomfortable flatland that many aspects of the self will usually rebel from. We do violence to ourselves in our eagerness to achieve an end, and ultimately there is blowback, a rebound of some sort. The alternative to the diet—or any other time bound regimen—is existential impeccability, where one chooses this moment to eat in a healthful manner, as a gesture done for its own sake without regard to a future result. From the stance of existential impeccability, we are path oriented, not goal oriented. We stay centered in an axis mundi of empowerment and actualization by focusing on impeccability in our relationship with ourselves in the now. With this focus, we are always at the center of our circle of influence and inner independence. With our focus on existential impeccability, we are also as effective and harmonious as possible with all outer relationships.
The forms of violence done by temporally bound imperialist governments and evangelical religions each have their analog in our personalities. If I focus on capturing the Hottie, I descend into the nightmare of history, in this case the personal history nightmare of the adolescent soap opera. I live out of the moment in anticipation of the phone ringing, etc. This is the insight shared by an 80-year-old woman who said that she had now learned that striving to be loved was less fulfilling than to be love. When I get ambitious about anything: capturing the Hottie, becoming a celebrity, or making writing a book, I step out into the flatland clock-time world; I find myself rushing toward a Precious in search of a wholeness that, had I but slowed down and turned inward, I would have found within.
I trick myself with clock-time when I accept galling privations now to achieve a goal, or when I indulge now and imagine that tomorrow I will turn over a new leaf. Reaching for a stimulant like coffee can be a way of binding metabolically to clock-time—I sacrifice existential impeccability to get something that speeds me up now and slows me down later. This is the classic pattern of temporal means. There is always the archetype of the Devil’s bargain: buy now, pay later; and you always pay more later than what you got now. But really you don’t just pay later, you pay the instant you make the decision, even before you act on it, because you have damaged your inner relationship to yourself and tied another binding knot to Maya or the linear time bound matrix. Tie enough of those knots and, as Jung put it, “the life giving rhythm of the aeons becomes the dread ticking of the clock”.