Circle of Time

Anachronism: Origin, mid 17th century. From the Greek: anakhronismos, from ana-, ‘backwards’ + khronos, ‘time’.

I carry a pocket watch. I do not use a cell phone except in emergencies or when traveling and use a land line to make phone calls. My rarely used cell phone is a flip phone that has no internet connecting capability. All of this places me in an ever shrinking population of folks who choose a simpler life, free from the wireless tether.

Being somewhat of an anachronism by my choices is not always easy, since technology seems to be in the cultural driver’s seat these days. When I see teenagers who cannot tell time on an analog dial, I feel sad. Time is becoming even more linear and it has an effect on the mind’s perception of cycles. Assigning a digital number to a moment in time is quite different than seeing a circle of time and noticing a moment.

If we cannot recognize the world of cycles, we are doomed to repeat them. In Buddhism, the word samsara is a Sanskrit word that means “wandering” or “world”, with the connotation of cyclic, circuitous change. When Buddha woke up, he saw infinite cycles of suffering repeat in a never ending circle of time. His awakening is referred to as attaining Nirvana, ‘snuffing out’ or being released from the cycle of suffering. The basis of Buddhist thought is recognizing the nature of cyclic existence and then liberating the cause of suffering.

We create a very intimate relationship with the world when we notice everything moves in circles. The earth rotates, seasons repeat, winds swirl, galaxies spin, and we breathe. Everything moves in relationship to everything else in a kind of endless spiral. When we recognize our place in the cosmic dance, we can choose to align with the natural arising and liberating qualities inherent in that movement.

I hope we are not entering an era of digital myopia in which we cease to recognize the beauty of our place in this inconceivably vast interconnected circle. Today, the call for change is loud, but we seem to be repeating the cycle of suffering in our responses. Protesting closely together in the midst of a pandemic, violently pulling down statues, donning riot gear and tossing tear gas and flash bang grenades—none of this seems like we have learned anything about cyclic existence.

But this is samsara. Maybe it will be painful enough this time for us to wake up—at least a little bit. It is important that we do our part by settling our mind and helping where we are able, transforming the cycle of suffering into a circle of love. May we aspire to metaphorically reset our analog clocks, let time fly, and become holy anachronisms for the benefit of all beings.

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