I spoke of the body and time: it is the platform with which you experience time. Your body is the most important thing.
The most important part of your body is your mind. It is the only irreplaceable part*. Let’s talk about how it interacts with time.
We are often not precisely conscious of our mind**, merely living through it. But we can perceive it as a system that produces artifacts such as perceptions, thoughts, feelings, impulses, memories, and so on.
Each of these artifacts are incredibly sensitive to time.
Consider perception. Each of us has experienced the few minutes that seemed to pass as slowly as an hour, and the hour that flew by in a few minutes. Memory is our mind’s attempt to grapple with looking backwards in time. Imagination helps our mind look forward.
Memory and imagination are very fallible. When we remember an event, we basically make it up from haphazard signals we stored, and then store than made up version, resulting in severe copy error over repeated memories. How many of your prejudices about things are based on anything that actually happened?
Our imagination of the future is powerful, but often powerfully wrong. Everything around you was once someone’s imagination, a testament to what imagination can create. However looking only at what imagination has wrought is a profound fallacy. Most imagination results in nothing. Much imagination is harmful – we stifle ourselves with fear, or hurt ourselves with overoptimistic thoughts leading us into risks that are realized upon us as loss.
Finding ways to improve our record of past time, or our prediction of future time, is immensely valuable.
Audit yourself. Am I engaging in practices that allow me to better know what actually happened? Do I keep a journal? Do I make videos on my iPhone to myself about how I am feeling – an action that takes just a moment i.e. has almost no cost to myself? Do I review these things periodically to get a clear window to what I knew in the moment?
Am I engaging in writing down my predictions to see how amazing or very sorry they in fact are? Do I learn from this, spotting patterns of bias and habit of false thought so that I can catch myself in the act of neurotic fear or arrogant blindness?
Imagine how beautiful and strong you would be if you had a better grip on the past or the future. It would be a superpower!
Imagine if you practiced and slowly got better at teaching this to your children. They would have a far better chance at thriving. Since we don’t generally teach this, it’s like we choose to blind our children before sending them into the world.
You could argue that progress on thinking about the past and future is the hallmark of civilization. History. Planning. When we had neither we were savages. It’s amazing how much upside remains at taming our baser instincts and modern biases to better place ourselves in time.
You might still have some time left to improve on this, and reap the benefits.
* “…only irreplaceable part”: today only certain parts of our body are replaceable by synthetic, human designed parts. But all parts are replaced – by you – at the cellular level within 10 years, except the mind. The cells in your brain are never replaced and exist for your lifetime. This is telling. You can transplant a stranger’s heart and they are dead but you live. If you transplanted their mind into your body, they would live and you would die. With enough engineering all parts will be replaceable by human-made synthetics. But if we designed a replacement for your mind, it would have to be,… your mind. The only replacement would have to be a Ship of Theseus replacement, meaning, replacing underlying components one by one until the ship is entirely new, yet the ship is essentially the same. Something so hard or expensive that even millenia of natural selection has never selected this, despite the obvious advantages of being able to heal the mind.
Your mind is irreplaceable.
Consider that when you next decide to take a mind altering substance.
** for the purposes of this article I explicitly reject any discussion about the mind/body duality. Is the mind our brain? Our brain plus our nervous system? Plus the hormonal organs and the hormones flowing through our body? Our whole body? Where the body begins and the mind ends I do not care. The mind exists, and it is supported by some infrastructure that we partially understand. That’s enough for this text.