“The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
Our life is lived in three tensions of time, the present tension, the past tension and the future tension. Our past tensions contain a vast incomprehensible ocean of memory ranging from all the experiences beginning even before birth up to and through death. We carry personal memory, and genetic memory, going way back. We carry mental memories as well as neuromuscular and cellular memories. Memory is the foundation of what and who we are, individually and collectively. Memory is both contained in the mind (psyche) and in the body (soma). In this context, psyche refers to cognitive operations and soma to biochemistry. One only need to recall a troubling, or joyful, memory (state of mind) to feel the biochemistry (mood); and, likewise, the introduction of natural and synthetic biochemistry (medicine) influences state of mind. Memory is a ‘psyche-somatic’ tension.
Future tension is imagination, which is also psyche-somatic. As the famed physicist Albert Einstein is noted to have said, ‘Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’ Imagination is living in a magic nation. It is imagination that takes existing material, including memories, and transforms them into something new, novel, innovative. It is in the magic nation we step outside the region of convention and enter playful fantasy, intuitive insight and creative imagery. Imagination takes us further along and beyond what we think is possible. Imagination is active when forward thinking and planning. Forward thinking is to plan it, while living on a planet.
The present tension of immediate sensory stimulation is so fleeting, so short lived, as to be instantaneously gone, though registered in the ocean of memory. The present tension is like observing a river that though it appears to be the same river hour after hour, day after day, it is not. The flowing water that passes your gaze is ever new, previously unseen. And, so it is with every momentary sensation, every second of every day throughout your entire lifespan building foundations of memory and imagination. The magic nation of imagination and the member nation of memory are dominant tensions. To remember, is to recall members of memory. To remember is a tension. To alter that tension with a little magic is another tension, as is imagining future goals, objectives and targets. The present tension is ‘now,’ which is ever new but contaminated with the old (memory) and the anticipated (imagination). There would appear no escape from past, present or future tensions.
And, yet, it is well known that calm and relaxation is the most widely accepted antidote to tensions. Is it possible to become so calm, so relaxed that past, present and future tensions are completely released? What happens when memory, imagination and fleeting sensory experience is without tension? Presumably, they no longer exist, as tension upholds them all. What underlies tension?
Tension: from Latin tensionem, ‘a stretching’ from Pre Indo-European (PIE) ‘ten-‘, ‘to stretch.’ Some synonyms for ‘stretch’ include, ‘spreading out,’ ‘reaching,’ ‘extension.’ One could argue that the entire evolution of life is stretching. Certainly humanity has stretched, spread out, extended itself, through cycles of time. Perhaps it is ‘time’ that underlies tension. The PIE root of the word ‘time’ translates into modern English as ‘to divide.’ Division requires tension to maintain the division. Time divides calm seamless consciousness into past, present and future tensions.
To be at tension is to be in time; to be so relaxed, so calm, so still as to have relinquished all tension, is to be timeless. Relax yourself out of time for a while as in sleep, but while awake. Experience conscious peace.
“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
– Chinese Proverb