Pondering Time at Year’s End

As I post this in Minneapolis it is just after 9 p.m., December 31, 2014. In Antarctica, at the Amundsen-Scott Station, it has been January 1, 2015 for 16 hours. How can that be? This most southern point of our planet contains all time zones because the 24 time meridians meet there. Is that spot devoid of time? Or does it contain all time?

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and the Ceremonial South Pole with flags for the original 12 signatory nations to Antarctic Treaty.

A number of years ago, I read about the New Year’s Eve celebrations of a few people stationed at Amundsen-Scott. To have a little fun with their unusual location, they stood at the Ceremonial South Pole at midnight 24 times. Each hour, they faced into the zone that clocked-in the new year. I wonder how many New Year’s Resolutions were made.

So what time is it at The South Pole? What is time?

I can’t speak with more than introductory knowledge, but I understand that there is essentially no solar time at The South Pole. The sun is either perpetually above the horizon or perpetually below it, with the exception of the two equinoxes. There is no day to measure by a sunset or sunrise except on those two dates.

There are measurements and equations of phenomena that are used as a basis for our language of tracking and tally. Round the world, with few exceptions, we’ve come to an agreement on the measurement of time so that commerce can occur and milestones can be acknowledged. Clocks and calendars can be synced.

So what is time? Is it something to spend? Does it have a beginning? If it ends, where does it go? What is it we are counting, tallying?

We are usually measuring ourselves against time. Or perhaps we are measuring time as it streams past. Usually…

We live in the present time fretting about the future.
We live in the present time regretting the past.
We live in the present time judging the present time against what we rather it to be.

These habits of mind assume a constancy of an individual self—an assumption of own-being that moves through or past time, as if time was something in particular too. It is with this understanding of time, that the typical New Year’s Resolutions arise. We seem to be in need of improvement. That improvement will come to fruition at some “other” time. We often don’t succeed.

What if a thorough understanding of time is not measured by clocks and equations? At the earth’s poles canned time is implemented for measure and utility. Beyond that function, there is an expression of time that is timeless, eternal, and filled with possibility. To discover that ever-present, ever-changing possibility, we need only arouse curiosity, openness, attention. It is in that found expression of time that we find true life, timeless life, ageless life. Time as constancy. Time as being.

Time that is being has never been apart from the time of measure and utility, but the ordinary life of measuring time against self or self against time becomes a distraction. Time-as-being can be aroused. Seeing time as identical to being opens the heart of response. Time-as-being is living and responding openly to the life that is showing up right now, constantly.

What shows up in our life is our life. What if we really cared about and attended to what was showing up as our life right now? What if we seriously and responsibly took up time-as-being in the midst of measurement and utility.

Making a resolution to attend to this aspect of time-as-being is the resolution that supports any and all resolutions. It’s called waking up, and it happens the only time possible—now.

© 2014 Bev Forsman and Letters from Emptiness. If you share this material, please include direction to the original content. Thank you.


8 thoughts on “Pondering Time at Year’s End

  1. Steve Remer says:

    Thanks for that, Bev. You’ve motivated me to stand up and walk four feet across my room and pick up my well-worn copy of Katagari’s “Each Moment is the Universe” for some “non-sticky” Zen reading.

    Best to you and Steve and the whole crew up there in Minnesota.

    It’s been 10 years since I’ve been up there, but I’m feeling a need to maybe move up there. Cold doesn’t bother me. I’ve steadily followed the goings on up there via your blog and Dharma Field’s newsletter.

    Good evening to all from “Steve’s Georgia Student.” Let him know I’m still down here..


  2. Joe Duffey says:

    Dear Bev, I live in an area without any nearby Dharma Teachers and am thankful to have found gifted Dharma Teachers at DharmaField like yourself. You are very good at explaining (pointing to) the Dharma, will we ever see a book?

    I am a little confused about the Buddhist understanding of cause and effect through time.

    It would seem that the conception of time creates a psychological past, present and future. With this arises a view of separation, of particularness and of endless causes and effects, and the question of freewill.

    We observe impermanence, and also this impermanence appears to have a “direction” (Arrow of time) and in that mental time stream, we “conceive” of packets of “cause and effects” which happen across time. Yet when we look, we do not find a beginning or end to anything, no original cause and no final effect. So is there really myriad causes and effects, or is there is only one event going on here? That event being ceaseless Impermanence from beginningless “time”.

    If this moment is the sum of everything that has happened in the cosmos thus far, then the events of each moment are “pushed” or decided by the preceding moment, and in turn the preceding moments where pushed by the arrangement of yet “earlier” moments, like dominoes. For instance, anything you can do right now will be based on your past conditioning and the conditions at that time, you cannot escape this. We have free will (you can do what you like, try it), and yet we don’t have free will as we must always act out of our prior conditionings, our “script” if you will. Both seem opposite yet both are true.

    We are not outside of time watching it go by, and we are not in time riding along, rather all dharmas are time (impermanence) itself.

    Bev, many schools of Buddhism state that Buddhism is about “cause and effect”.
    This has always confused me since I see no independent causes or effects outside of our packaged imaginings. Could you say a little about this sometime?

    Thank you Bev, I always look forward to new entries in your blog.
    -Joe Duffey


    • Bev Forsman says:

      Hi Joe,

      Cause & effect teachings are pointers (as are all the teachings). Rather than try to meld linear relationships with ideas of the vastness of interdependence, simply live right now. Treat whatever arises with openness and tenderness. Realize that any action or inaction ripples without end, and can never be re-done.


  3. john lavery says:

    Dear Bev Thanks for your words of wisdom. Where do your ideas-thoughts come from? Having just “spent” 74yrs worth of “time” on this planet Earth l wonder if l’m headed for the timeless eternal. l have just been reading one of D T Suzuki’s articles on Shin Buddhism & Amida Buddha which l found quite interesting. Any thoughts? Tks again—-Jacko.


    • Bev Forsman says:

      Thank you, Jacko. Happy 74th!

      I cannot pinpoint a source for ideas. Arising takes myriad forms.

      Life is constantly, newly arising, while neither accumulating nor holding still. This constancy is right here as the base for our ability to appreciate and give meaning to the milestones of conventional time. As we realize the constancy that is our life right here, we forget about concerns of after. What is after eternally now?

      My vow is to bring attention to life as it arises here-and-now. Sometimes I can say a little about it. Since I have no experience with the practice of Amida Buddha or Shin, I have nothing to offer. I’m sorry.

      Thanks for reading. Happy New Year!


  4. Jerry says:

    No Bev. It’s all a made thing. Well, except for the New Year thing which is all quite exact ……. Unless you aren’t on planet Earth In which case all is not lost. Still 2014 in Tucson where Steve H. and I will turn 70 next year. YIKES!!!


    • Bev Forsman says:

      Yes, Jerry. In the realm of the ordinary, I agree with you completely. By agreement, humanity has settled on a near universal conceptual model of time for measurement and utility. This includes birthdays in cultures where such markers are acknowledged. But while you are in a setting free from the models, (as you proposed) away from the planet, or (as I proposed for ponder) at one of earth’s poles, Reality is continually showing up as you. It is that constancy of showing up that I invite readers to ponder as the only time that life is lived.

      As a manifestation of Reality, our showing up is never apart from direct experience, nor is it apart from Reality’s relative expression. Constancy and change are not two. Vibrant, fresh, always new, becoming is the only time life takes place. There are hints of this in Winter Solstice.

      My writing style is to invite inquiry, to invite a questioning of the assumptions that are held as fixed truths. Time as an object or concept is an overlooked aspect of human suffering. To offer time as being could be dismissed as yet another concept, depending on how one has realized Reality’s expression of being. I invite readers to discover the subtlety and profoundness of time-as-being.

      And, I invite you to ponder the exactness of a new year as anything other than the minutia of concept. Even if our base for measure is the earth’s rotation, every moment is the beginning of a new year (and life itself). At the same time, I will embrace and enjoy the celebration of that holiday.

      Happy 69.089283872089372876458237th birthday! Or, expressing the heart of the matter: wishing you awakening to this arising-ceasing without measure.

      Thanks for reading.


Comments are closed.