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Spring Book Sale

April 6, 2015

Look, the first quarter of the year is already over, and since humans are generally unreliable with time—which may well be a mere illusion—I shall remind you of two important dates in the future.

First, the library’s Spring book sale will be Saturday, April 25^th , from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The usual prices prevail, unchanged since 1989, which means you’ll effectively enjoy a 47% discount. Don’t miss it. Book donations are accepted everyday.

A second date is April 30^th . This is the registration deadline for the library’s challenge art show. The theme: “Below the Surface.” Visual artists, writers, poets are all welcome to enter. More information is available at the library.

There seemed to be so much time to work on a submission back when we first announced the show in January. Homo Sapiens seem to have no reliable clock organ. Time is largely an idea, something we construct and experience both forward and backward.

Even the idea of living in the moment is nothing more than an idea. You can’t really do it, unless you are unable to accumulate memories. The role of memory in the experience of time is crucial.

I spent a long time reading a book titled “Time Warped: unlocking the mysteries of time perception” by Claudia Hammond not because it was a slow read but because I only read it at night in bed. It took a while, but then the book was over before I was ready.

An important aspect of discussions in the book is the “Holiday Paradox.” It applies to more than a holiday, but you might have noticed that during a vacation life is full and time seems to go quickly. Then, after arriving back home, the reverse happens and the period of the vacation seems to have lasted a long time.

Conversely, routine days can sometimes drag on and on, but after a week of them, time seems, retrospectively, to have flown by: “I can’t believe it’s Friday already!” Or, I can’t believe it’s September already! Or, I can’t believe I’m already 59!

What seems to be important to the experience of time passing is the accumulation of new memories. Thus, when you’re on vacation in a new place, many rich new memories are accumulating, and one’s focus on these experiences is not clocked in anyway. Suddenly, it’s time for dinner, and the day seems to have flown by.

But revisited, the same period is full and long in your memory. The same thing happens with deeply engaging experiences, perhaps a hobby on which you are intensely focused. The clock is simply not part of the measure.

When stuck in routine—or worse perhaps, a bureaucratically imposed wait in line—the author suggests making an effort to be mindful. This is not a book about mindfulness at all, but she addresses one effect, which is to heighten awareness and create new memories that change our experience of “time.”

Interesting is that the old Pali word in Buddhist texts translated as “mindfulness” actually has its root in the word “to remember.” I think people tend to think there is some irreducible aspect of themselves that is outside “time,” while examination of our experience points to a continually new construction of ourselves based on experience and memory, which is always changing.

Neat, huh? Our memory also seems to be the source of our ability to engage in future thinking. Without memories, one has no material with which to imagine the future, something that humans do constantly without even being aware of it.

Imagine this future: Book sale April 25^th ; art show submission April 30^th .

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