Monday, February 20, 2006

Time and Permanence

Seung Sahn, in The Compass of Zen, describes time using the metaphor of a movie:

The film projector moves the frames very quickly, and all of these frames run past the lens very fast, so the action on-screen seems to happen nonstop. There is no break in the movement of things. But actually when you take this strip of film and hold it up to the light with your hands, there is nothing moving at all. Each frame is complete.
The idea, of course, is that reality is nothing but the "now" — that motionless film reel — and our mind is the projector, creating the illusion of time. But there's a very simple problem with this metaphor: the projector can only create this illusion by ordering the frames, and this ordering happens over time.

Instead of associating ourselves with the eternal Now, "Unity" itself, it seems more practical to say that we are a path through Now (just as the projector follows the path of the reel). Rather than being an illusion, time becomes a byproduct of our perspective (which isn't a false representation of reality, just incomplete).

This topic does clarify my primary issue with Buddhism: the origin of our desire for permanence seems to go unconsidered. But if you assume we are one with everything, the reason for this dispensability is obvious: we are essentially permanent entities (rather, entity) deceived by an illusory world — it's trivially true that we'd want to return to reality. (The other obvious solution is to explain it away with psychology.)

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