A Lesson on Time

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The sifu said to his student,

“Now you are to be instructed in the transformation of time.”

 “How may I train for this awareness?”, he asked.

The sifu told him to, in three years time, to tell him the Heaven-born sage’s estimation of the true length of a day.

The student was profoundly focused for months in training upon hearing this. He enabled his mindfulness and daily discipline so that he may understand as the sage does. Redoubling his training, the student set out to the mountain near his town to settle into solitude.
One autumn, whilst eating his course vegetable soup, the student found himself gazing at a moth’s cocoon perched on a gingko branch. It was then that the student’s eyes were opened. As he contemplated the small object, he at once saw in the cocoon many cocoons. Each transformed into the next before him as if many caterpillars were emerging at once. At once there was the egg, the larvae, the chrysalis, and the moth all entwined upon the leaf.

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Upon contemplating this, the student began to apprehend his relation to time.

After seven months of study, the student returned to his sifu’s hut.

Upon arriving, he found his teacher adrift in the pond on the southern face of the mountain. He greeted him and proclaimed, “The length of a day is the time it takes for the moth to emerge.”

The older man, looking at him unblinking for a time, sat down nearby.

“Yesterday you saw yourself as an arrow drawn by a strong-armed warrior, let loose into the stream of samsara.

The student also took a seat beside the master, but not as an equal.

Sifu continued, “Seven moons in a day, and now you may share in the knowledge of the moth. Does the moth not think of where it is upon Earth? Does the moth not think of when it is under Heaven?”

“And so it is with human life and affairs. The drifting of the wheel on the water turns due to immutable laws governing Heaven and Earth. The wind blows over this stream, and yet it is unmoved in its movement. What you saw was the observer’s point of view, not the moth’s. Inside the cocoon lies the secret; inside is the emanation of time.”

Freud and Jung, A Lunchtime Encounter

Freud: …I agree it is enticing, but it is Neverland.

Jung: Do you not know? One never dies in Neverland.

Freud: Except people die. They stop living.

Jung: You have me there. Seems to be a system in need of balance.

Freud: If you want to ignore that biological fact, you sir are a moron or a zealot. Or both.

Jung: But The Neverland we speak of is only partially about immortality dear Freud… That wish may also be my own projection, as I admit to have lusted after it. I think it is more about bringing the two worlds together: As above, so below my dear boy. A profoundly healing, paradigm-shaping stream in the Zeitgeist. One where we can reconnect to what it means to be Man, have an ancestry, be in dynamic symbiosis with one’s environment, and ultimately realizing that one creates reality.

And I have been both a zealot and a moron too. Both separately, and at the same time. Why, only see my treatises on the psychology of religion!

Freud: Why is returning to superstition progress? It merely gives man an excuse to be self-indulgent and abusive to his person.

Jung: Your words sting and betray a foul mood…. (chuckles). I would gander to say it is not superstition. A lot of the old ways were, but now the new physics and sciences are coming to meet halfway. The empiricism of this century might as well be the superstition of the former. How might you explain the train of coincidental events, meetings, situations, and people you and I have experienced since we decided to go skiing in these frosted Alps?

Freud: Chance.

Jung: That theory is unsatisfactory in the face of the data. You cannot explain it away with this or that social theory, or our very old friend chance. Just as with that young woman we met earlier: do you intend to explain away her dreaming of our conversation in the train station a fortnight ago?

Freud: There’s no orchestrator Carl. There never was.

Jung: You know coincidence is the rallying cry of rationalistic materialism. It is what one has left over from a theory that cannot explain everything, especially one whose expressed mission is just that! That is, to reduce the world of objects into matter and substance, measured and concretized. The human experience will not be bounded as such. I don’t believe in an orchestrator either. We are that conductor.

Freud: (puffs on pipe) Which is horrifying, I should think.

Jung: (draws on pipe) We yearn for a god outside ourselves, but will not listen to nor turn round and face the one chained within…

It is, I fear, as you say. It may be far more terrifying than some bearded patriarch roasting you for eternity in hell for having congress with your lover before ceremony. There is no one to save you or punish you, only yourself. A notion, simultaneously, bearing the most empowering news to the human race and at once casting us into the cold night of eternity.

Freud: So why are we all such brutes? Look at what stirs in Germany. Do you think men rational and capable of such a destiny?

Jung: Because sir, we struggle with our environment and our upbringing. We come in with nothing. Only our family to nurture, love, and teach us how to be in this unknown world full of self-sacrifice on the one end and cruelty on the other. Our food & drink, the social climate, classism, self-doubt, all this business of empathy, not knowing what the other is thinking or let alone feeling…..

Add to this the considerable fact that our parents and nurses, who raised us and gave us the best chance, hopefully better than they had, do not actually possess the slightest clue as to what is going on in this experience either. You are on your own. As a species we are still quite poor at raising our young. In fact, no biological species extant studied by the evolutionary biologists has seemed to have sorted it out. Many species’ only input is the process of birth itself.

Freud: (scoffs loudly)

Jung: Our forebearers at least go to the trouble to build us up or muddle us up, indeed often both. We come equipped with the best phylogenetic equipment they received from their parents, and so on and so forth. And so anon from the very loins of Adam I should think.

Freud: I am quite disappointed in the process if I am to be frank.

Jung: Doctor, by God we are hustling the best we can! With what we have available. I find it quite beautiful, like the sunset filtering through the misty Danube. It humbles as well as teaches, as when reaching the peak of a mount. To be present with one’s circumstances.

Freud: And yet look to the economy, to the western states, and never good enough it seems. Every solution creates more and more problems in this social organism. Russia has become a gunpowder drum set to spark alight.

Jung: (sipping wine thoughtfully) The glass is half-full though, in my honest opinion. All of this knowledge implies that one can create whatever wish they care to think and apply oneself towards. The more magnificent the idea the more work needed of course. You are so world-wearied friend, and yet, in your long years you have not tasted a fraction of the totality of what this human family has to offer.

Freud: The glass is half full for whom? (coughing violently, sipping cognac)

Jung: I know your ennui, I really do. It gnaws at this philosopher constantly. The cognac glass, as it were, is half-full for humanity.

Freud: My young colleague, is this not just self-soothing poetry?

Jung: I may confess to the membership of young upstarts a such. A new intelligentsia broaching into the realms of altered consciousness. Indeed many of the Germans and Americans, in the infantile field of psychological analysis, seek to go further. And many seekers were born into this twentieth century, coming of age right as the cycle begins to turn in the Ivory Tower.

Freud: With little to no substance nor truth? Except, perhaps, those damned Americans.

Jung: It is just so. I argue furiously just as much for myself Sigmund, to assuage all of my fears! About failure, and death, and my own hubris’ annihilation.

Freud: See Jung? That is tremendously unsatisfactory for me.

Jung: (inhales deeply) Bah! Enough with this mood fellow, I strive to be a sentimentalist.

Freud: Probably an easier way to live. It is a pleasant bias. And I’m being a bit contrary just to spite you friend, to be honest. And that’s a load of bollocks by the way…

Jung: So morose. Hell hath damned souls to this mental torment, yet undamned they are. Such melancholia in the spirit! This is good though, as yet I need a oppositional opinion to compensate for my very own proclivities.

Freud: My word! (chuckling) Adler and yourself have this grandiosity sometimes that causes me indigestion.

Jung: I am a guilty man when it comes to such realms. I love the Muse: the drama, the narrative, the uplifting transcendence that it arouses…

Freud: For you. Only for you.

Jung: Come now Freud, the life amid the masses may grow a bit moribund, mundane, ever morose, as we have discussed. Man craves a grand narrative, outside of himself, up and above his animal sufferings.

Freud: (loading more blend into his pipe bowl) Yes, as long as Man recalls that it has a time and a place. And that it is not always appropriate or appreciated.

Jung: I am curious though, what specifically makes you so sick about the grandiosity?

Freud: (stands up, dusts off waistcoat) I am afraid my friend, such a revelation will have to wait until tea. I am off to my appointment. Be well, and adieu monsieur.

Jung: And adieu… (sits back)