Victus Spiritus


All Things End

06 Aug 2010

You'll Never Be Richer than You are Now

It defies replenishment, nor can it be rearranged. In a few rare cases it may be borrowed, but only in fantasies is it refunded. The one resource that matters most, is in greatest supply as you read these words. From here on in, as it has for your entire life, it will only diminish. As you've likely guessed I'm referring to time, specifically our life times. Within this riff, we'll both discover a new respect for spending this precious gift.

It would be foolish of me to describe how other folks should live*. I leave that exercise to politicians and religious leaders. My goal is one of mindfulness and it's practical benefits.

We're artists in how we choose to spend our time

Each choice we make and each action we take is another brush stroke on the tapestry of our existence.

Through much of youth we have little concept of mortality, only pet goldfishes and old people fade. We experience real loss for the first time when a loved one passes without any emotional barriers, in its rawest form. Even the thought of losing someone close to us at this vulnerable age is deeply disturbing. This is the first big lesson in time, all things end.

From that moment on our choice of where to live, what to spend time building, and who to spend time with, increasingly becomes our own. These choices define us, and are a signal to others who share our worldview.

Daily rituals are a juggling act between insufferable pain, exquisite pleasure, and the continuum between these emotional peaks. Performing activities in contradiction to our nature leaves lasting scars on our spirit. No talent is more tragic than our ability to conjure excuses; these fabrications serve only to conceal the true source of suffering.^

Contrary to common sense, our limited time has unbounded consequences

Although your time is ever dwindling, the wave of your life's actions propagates forward without bound, in ways we could never imagine. The Butterfly Effect is based on initial conditions in chaos theory. A small change in initial state leads to a tremendously different future trajectory.

The idea that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on subsequent historic events seems first to have appeared in a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury about time travel (see Literature and print here) although Lorenz made the term popular. In 1961, Lorenz was using a numerical computer model to rerun a weather prediction, when, as a shortcut on a number in the sequence, he entered the decimal .506 instead of entering the full .506127 the computer would hold. The result was a completely different weather scenario. Lorenz published his findings in a 1963 paper for the New York Academy of Sciences noting that “One meteorologist remarked that if the theory were correct, one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever.” Later speeches and papers by Lorenz used the more poetic butterfly.

While the physics of energy transfer and local equilibrium diminishes the probability that our thoughts and actions will influence remote points in space-time, the impact our lifetime can have on the future is beyond our ability to fully predict or comprehend.

*= While telling people how to live is a fools game, I never cease to run out of suggestions.

^= I'm guilty of having a legion of excuses that fight for my attention. Dwelling on them is never a productive way to spend my time. I'll leave it to the reader to invent your own causes for suffering. I would have mentioned ego or pride but there are far too many to delineate.