[Dear Readers: Many of you already know that I am at heart a metaphysician, so I hope you’ll indulge me this diversion from technical subjects. I’ll return to the nuances of ski design and the travails of bootfitting next week, which according to this week’s Revelation, has already happened.]
If you’re at all conversant with the consequences of Einstein’s theory of relativity, then you already know that time is not a constant. Among the discoveries along this train of thought is that the future is already over and done with. Not just yours and mine, but the future in general (and in its specifics) is a fait accompli.
This reality would suggest that such cherished beliefs as free will are quaint vanities spun from mankind’s massive egocentrism. Allow me to express an alternative view.
The fact that all history is already written doesn’t automatically annul free will, but it does require us to think about our intentions differently. History’s inevitable unspooling occurs as predestined not because we are slaves to destiny, but because we use our agency in its cause. We still must choose, we still must act, we still must pursue dreams, for that is how the path that leads to the future is made. Far from cancelling our personal agency, the pre-told future demands it of us.
This consoling thought still leaves open the question of the origins of our intentions. Even if we accept the idea of the self, if only to assign responsibility, what is the stuff the self is made of? It’s insufficient to reduce the self to just the sum of one’s actions and thoughts. There is still the matter of will, and agency and the origins of thought itself.
To taffy-pull on our given notions of time, contemplate how old is the light we see when we look at the stars? Where is it now?
In my role as writer, this everyday enterprise reminds me that my thoughts come to me. They are a gift that appear to well up inside me, but that doesn’t mean they’re mine. Rather, they’re provided to me, and if I’m lucky I can retain them and add them to the stockpile I’ve been blessed to house. For what exact purpose I don’t know, but I do believe that there is a power animating the universe that wants “me” – whoever that may be – to share the voices running through my head.
As I said, we suffer from massive egocentrism. It’s probably there so we don’t give up, as life’s miseries and misfortunes often suggest we do.
It’s in the nature of life as we know it to be able to look back more easily than look forward. Our beginnings seem more comprehensible and easier to reconstruct than our end. Yet all human experience passes through many sieves before it is expressed, so we don’t all experience the past the same way, despite (presumably) having lived through the same passage of time. The way we process it, the past becomes as murky as the future.
Yet we assume the past is knowable while the future is not. But as noted in the second sentence of this pensée, the future has already happened. It’s there for the visiting, if only we could find the portal to it.
Due to the fathomless generosity of the life force that animates us, the portal to the future is open to all. We call it the present, the ever-fluid moment of now, always with us but never sticking around long enough for us to understand its awesome power.
Thanks to Kierkegaard, my little ball of brain putty has been mulling the idea of the moment as the portal to the eternal – that which resides outside time as we perceive it – for fifty years. This activity has jelled into the realization that only through intense concentration on the now, this instant, this fractal of time, can we obtain a vision of where we are going.
Simply put, if you want to see the future, you must immerse yourself in the present.
To fit into this tiny space, you – the ever-nattering self – have to disappear. Your concentration must be so complete that all self-awareness evaporates. When the “you” in you is gone, when all you are is a vibration in the chorus of the universe, in this timeless state of grace we call the present, you can feel some sense of what lies ahead, and no longer fear it.
Easier said than done. Our self-focus is not so easily surrendered. Which brings us to the actionable, everyday lesson of this Revelation: skiing provides a portal to time travel. If you do it right, if your focus and intention are intense enough, you will disappear. By harmonizing with the flow of the gravity stream that flows down big mountains, we can, perhaps for the first time, peek outside of time’s tedious progression to find that everything will be just as it should be.