Understanding Time

One month ago, I was turning in my MFA thesis on the history and development of Indian food in America.

One year ago, I was walking past the white graduation tents set up on Columbia’s campus, thinking about how in a year I’d be receiving my diploma underneath them.

Two years ago, I was getting ready to leave small-town Pennsylvania and head back home to Texas after receiving my bachelors degree.

Ten years ago, I was thirteen and consumed with anxiety regarding my imminent transition to high school.

Time is constant, but we aren’t. Humans stop and start, rise and fall, obey patterns and shatter them at a whim. There are small consistencies (like getting an undergraduate and a graduate degree within two years of each other), things that line up if you organize them linearly, but those parts are not indicative of the whole. A person is more than a list of achievements, but furthermore, a list of achievements does not define a person’s internal quality. The degrees, honors, accolades and praises one receives are worn entirely on the outside. Time is what changes the inside.

And how much of this time passes in the lifespan of a single person? A hundred years. More than four times my current elapsed time on the Earth. Already I have gone from being a howling baby to a howling adult. I have lived in three states, eaten on three continents, conversed in three languages. I have moved forward in space (and backwards, I guess), but in the matter of time–that big, endless wheel of time–I have not gone that far.

Our universe is incredibly old – infinitely, uncountably old. Our Earth planet is not as old as the universe, but is similarly beyond our comprehension. Even mankind’s existence is dated on an unfathomable scale. Time is counted on these larger playing fields, in spans the length of empires, nations and dynasties, but it is also measured by the heart. Our attachments and our desires follow our personal histories. What we feel can move with lightning speed, changing us from one moment to the next, or we can remain the same for years and years, feeling no need to change. It’s our choice.

Which is why it makes what we choose to do with the time we have all the more valuable. We live in a blink of time, something infinitesimal and meager next to the whole world. In this miniature space, we are capable of amazing things – not just how we can affect others or our environment, but how we can affect ourselves, our hearts. We have this incredible, tiny chance to make devotion to God happen inside of ourselves. We have the temples, we have the philosophy, we have the chance. All we’re missing is the feeling. Time is going to move forward, there’s no denying that. All we can decide is whether we want to move forward too.

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