This essay appeared in our Fall 2010 Print Issue 13. Click here to purchase the entire issue in Kindle format.
The Nature of Now
The center of the universe is not only the point of the original springing forth of the cosmos; it is the place of continual creation. The stuff of the material world comes into being NOW, and recedes at the speed of light. Essentially, a new universe is being created every moment, and the old ones make room by shifting a bit further from Now. There! Another universe was just created. There! Another! There! There again! And as each shell of momentary universe recedes from the center, the Now, it necessarily enlarges— consistent with the observation that the three dimensional universe is expanding.
There is no such thing as the future.
The engine Now exhales a vapor trail jettisons debris of history
(amongst which we reside, swirled in the spreading patterns,
thinning, fragmenting, disappearing.)
Tied to Now by a tether of light I try to pull myself forward
to the center of the universe, but always I lag a little behind,
deafened by the chatter of chafing brain buffeted
by the turbulence of mind.
Our rational minds have been conditioned to view time as a stream flowing from past through present to future, linking cause and effect and making free will seem like so much wishful thinking. If we shift our frame of reference and make NOW the center, the chains of the past are broken. Envision NOW as a jet soaring through the atmosphere, leaving behind in its wake a vapor trail. The trail is played with by the wind; it diffuses and dissipates. At any given moment, the pattern of the trail seems to be a consequence of what was there previously—a locked-in chain of cause and effect. But follow the trail forward and find where the jet is located. There is the pilot, the agent of free will, flying crazy loop-the-loops. The vapor trail does not control the actions of the jet—it’s the other way around. We have ultimate freedom to the extent that we reside at this center, in this NOW. “BE HERE NOW!” was the admonition of Ram Dass, a leading interpreter of Eastern thought for Western audiences.2 Spiritual practices such as meditation and yoga that quiet the mind help us to reach this place, to Be Here Now.
It seems that in our ordinary lives, we mainly exist as part of the vapor trail and not as the pilot of the jet. We reside at a little distance from the NOW, our minds busily chattering away, oblivious to the fact that we are living in our own pasts. Every event in the Now triggers a cascade of images and emotions from our psychic reservoir.
And for the most part, we live in each other’s pasts as well. Even if we stand only a few feet apart, the experience we have of each other is an image in the past, because light takes time to travel between us. And then there is the nervous system circuitry that slightly delays our perception of every physical sensation. The only common ground that we really share is our ability to perceive and function in the NOW. Most of us rarely attain this level. But when we do, it is a magical moment of union with all of God’s creation, as it all participates in the NOW. Meister Eckhart, a Christian mystic of the thirteenth century, wrote:
The Now in which God created the first man and the Now in which the last man will disappear and the Now in which I am speaking—all are the same in God, and there is only one Now.3
Our unconventional analysis of the Big Bang model illuminates the ultimate source of one of the core confusions of existence—the question of determinism vs. free will. The image of the universal mechanism for change depends of which of two frames of reference we select—the frame of reference of the Creator or that of the created. Determinism and free will are mutually exclusive but still equally valid, somewhat akin to the dual images (vase and faces in profile, crone and beautiful girl) found in compilations of optical illusions. But ultimately the jury must find for free will, for ultimately there is the choice of frame of reference. The ignorance from which the samsara of suffering springs is the illusion that we do not each of us have this choice of frame of reference, for who, given the choice, would not select the freedom of NOW over the bondage of cause and effect?
I hear everybody say it— “I’m so busy all the time.” I haven’t reached peace and contentment yet, But I’m tryin’, hey, I’m tryin’!
Or am I busy dyin’?:4
RICHARD KREPSKI is retired from a career as research scientist and educator. His poetry has appeared in Oberon, Tiferet, Bolts of Silk, Mobius, Still Crazy, JesusRadicals, and Parody. His essay, “Center of the Universe”, won the Tiferet writing award in 2009. It is based on a chapter in Mr. Krepski’s book, Alchemical Gold–Exploring Substance to Realize Spirit.
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