Living in the Moment
by Eric J. Guignard
Time passes too quickly for most people.
They live life day by day, and after about twenty-something thousand cycles, it’s over. But some people live life by the hour and, for them, existence seems to stretch quite a while longer. Some have figured out how to live life by the minute, and a very few live it by the second.
I can live life by the millisecond, the microsecond, and beyond.
What I mean by this — and what you already know — is that time just sort of winks and flashes past like a shooting star when you’re not paying attention. You wake up in the morning, you work, do whatever else, and the day is over. Next day begins, and the race continues.
But when you scrutinize time, really analyze it, doesn’t it seem to slow down? Remember that old expression, “The watched pot never boils”?
If you watch the minutes of an entire hour, each may become an hour in itself. Follow the seconds in an hour, and that hour begins to feel like a year. Track the microseconds of an hour, and eternity unfolds.
And maybe you’ve done this before, contemplated seconds and felt the lengthening of time each one took to tick forward while caught under your scrutiny.
On the other hand, when your mind isn’t paying attention, an hour may speed past like a second. Imagine that: Three thousand, six hundred seconds in an hour cycled through in a jiffy if not monitored properly. Those same seconds, which, if you did not let them pass unheeded, might seem to you like three thousand, six hundred hours. It’s all a matter of perception.
But, in this way, you make the most of the moment, when your mind may operate at, what seems, a faster rate. In actuality, the brain is still calculating at its usual pace, but it is time that cannot keep up, by way of breaking measurements of it down into smaller and smaller units.
Because the trick is to not just concentrate on the seconds or even the milliseconds, but to divide time up exponentially, drilling through the increments of its increments. And the more you focus on taming this process, the more naturally it occurs, and so does life cease to slide by unnoticed.
I call all this “burrowing,” regressing ever further into the moment. With care, I’ve bored into the computation of nanoseconds, those billionths of a second, where the synapses of my brain still operate as normal but the perception of time around me is near-frozen.
Now, time itself never slows, only our comprehension of it. This capacity to burrow simply allows me to make the most of each moment, to live fully within it, to understand and reason at events as they occur. It does not give me a superhero’s ability to move faster than anyone else; my physical body still has the limitations that the brain simply does not.
You see, this ability to burrow did not stop the SUV from running over me.
I was strolling across the intersection of Elm Street and Eighth, where the crosswalk is well-marked in fresh white paint, when a full-size SUV failed to brake for its stop light. I was not analyzing time at that moment but yawning and enjoying an early-morning coffee. I turned my head, saw it, and immediately slowed my mind’s perception of time. I observed every detail while burrowing into the moment, noting the crown of the driver’s head rather than his face. He was looking down, and though I could not see at what, I knew he was sending a text message.
At the instant of impact, I could not escape physical trauma. There wasn’t enough time! Though my mind was racing, my body was, like the SUV, creeping ever-so-slower in the moment. For with every movement of my body, so too moved the SUV, and the vehicle was travelling much quicker than I.
When he hit me, it wasn’t like the movies. How often have we seen Hollywood actors swiped by a car, only to roll upward and over the hood, then bounce away onto hard asphalt? Sure, it always looks painful enough, probably causing some mean bruises, maybe a couple broken bones, but rarely fatal. In real life, getting hit wasn’t anything like that. The SUV’s front grille knocked me down, and the vehicle drove over me.
Or, should I say, is driving over me.
I felt the pain, the terror, immediately. My ribs cracked, my chest constricted, my arms battered, and that only from the impact of the front bumper. Then I was pulled under, and the tire drove over my right foot, crushing the bone to flat shards, like a bag of potato chips that is stomped upon.
The sound of my foot pulverizing was that of running aluminum cans through a recycler, the sensation also like that, twisting and mashing in inconceivable agony. In slow motion my ankle was next, then slower, my lower leg, slower still, my knee, each in turn crushed, wrecked, forever.
My leg was a line, a pulley, tugging my entire body under the SUV’s weight. My pelvis snapped the way I used to pull apart the turkey wishbone on Thanksgiving, and I was dying, literally about to die that very moment, on account of some jackass texting about work or last night’s bad date.
But I withdrew into that moment, the second before I was to die.
You see, before one second can tick to the next, there must complete one thousand milliseconds, and before a single millisecond can pass, there must complete one thousand microseconds. This equates to one million microseconds to the one second.
One million. If you think about that, really contemplate the sum of a million, you might begin to understand the power of “burrowing.” One million... I mean, just try counting to a million. And what if you could count each of those microseconds, up to a million within the second, count them as they passed, the way you count minutes on the hour?
But time never stops, and microseconds do progress, eventually adding up to the millionth, every single instance that one second elapses.
And so, straining with my last gasping breath while the tire lingered in motion atop me, I burrowed into the first microsecond of that second, focusing on dividing it, to enter the range of nanoseconds. Because, just as one thousand microseconds must compute before a millisecond can pass, so too must one thousand nanoseconds cycle before passes one microsecond.
And when I focus on the nanoseconds, my existence becomes clear, my mind sharpens. External distractions seem far away, muted, more of memory than of current circumstance. The pain of this monstrous vehicle poised over my midsection is still there, but distant, the agony of my body divided across one billion nanoseconds.
But further within that moment, the pain and the fear will be lessened even more, so I do not stop.
Should I cease regressing, burrowing, that would allow one nanosecond to turn to the next, which would turn to the next after that, and eventually would add up for the next second to occur before I die.
I don’t want to die.
So I burrow deeper, into the nanosecond which, as you may know, is composed of one thousand picoseconds, being one trillionth of a second.
I ask you this: At what point does the one thousandth picosecond become a nanosecond?
There is no known point, because a picosecond is not the origin point of time measurement. It has its own divisible computation of units, it’s just another measurement of time to which we’ve assigned a value. Divide a picosecond, and you have a thousand femtoseconds.
When does the thousandth femtosecond become a picosecond, which triggers the onset to the nanosecond’s passing?
I know not, only that I burrow deeper, escaping the trauma, the finality of what awaits, once that should occur.
And it’s not terrible, where I am, in this moment in my head, in this moment of time, this fraction of time. Everyone else is here with me, too. My loved ones, my wife, my children, my parents and friends and neighbors, even the man who is running me down, all still alive, all existing as I do, so I am not lonely.
I consider them and interact with them. I look back on my life and am mostly happy. I explore alternative choices I could have made, studied at one university over another, dated a different girl, turned right instead of left. I image the choices unfolding, all fantasy, of course, but occurring in that micro-moment. Living in one’s own fantasy is not so bad, is it? I exist in these memories and these illusions, and I live in hopes and dreams, and wonderful colors fill my head, but still I burrow deeper.
There are infinite units of time. You can divide one second repeatedly as you can with any fraction. It’s insane, isn’t it, to consider that each moment of time thus has no calculable point of origin? Yet it can only exist once the moment preceding it is complete.
Does that mean all moments exist simultaneously? Or are we all in the same moment that never ends, because it has no beginning? Is time like the universe, always expanding?
As I consider this, the femtoseconds slip by. I cannot afford to let too many pass, so I burrow into the attoseconds.
And an attosecond can be divided, can it not?
The smallest unit of measurable time is Planck Time, which is about twelve attoseconds. But just because it’s not measurable, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Obviously, the calculation of twelve attoseconds can be further divided, if at least by twelve, though we know, that like other microtimes, it too can be divided into a thousand equal portions, those being zeptoseconds.
And the galaxies open before me.
Time, as we measure it, is linear, two-dimensional, but it’s really not. Draw any grid onto paper, and at every point on an X-Y line, you can go off the paper into the third dimension, angling away on the Z line. Such is time, that at each point are simultaneous points occurring, alternates from the ones we live in, and I see them, in my mind, and I visit them.
And then I burrow deeper from zeptoseconds into yoctoseconds.
So when you’re watching time, really comprehending it, part of you is living in that moment, living in the fractional parts of that moment, and even then in its fractional parts, where I am, though you don’t comprehend it. When you think of a second — any second, this second perhaps — and really concentrate, you can count the milliseconds.
And if you can do that, you can count the microseconds. You can live in them. You can exist in this very microsecond — in one yoctosecond of one zeptosecond of one attosecond of one femtosecond of one picosecond of one nanosecond of one microsecond.
And when you find yourself existing in that yoctosecond, which has even its own infinity of time, the rest of the world, of life, has yet to exist. You, in fact, are burrowing deeper and deeper into the moment, never going “back in time” but rather beating the “tick” of the clock’s pendulum before it can ever strike.
It takes some practice to do this.
And what is next? How much further can I burrow before I hit the bedrock of time’s calculation? Is it true that there are infinite units of time, or could I, perhaps, eventually find the origin instant? Does there finally come that micropoint when the smallest division is like the smallest unit of matter — the atom — and that when you halve it, the power is released in an explosion of nuclear energy, propelling you back up through the yoctoseconds, up through the zeptoseconds, up through the attoseconds and so on, until the calculation of that final second is complete, and the next second begins, and I die.
I don’t want to die...
So should I continue to burrow, to halve time until either I am lost in the cosmos or the atom of the moment is reached? Or should I exist in this one yoctosecond for as long as possible until progressing to the next yoctosecond? In each, I can sustain a life, achieve a dream: in one yoctosecond be a king; in the next, a stallion; live a thousand different lives until the first zeptosecond is complete, and then a thousand more until the second zeptosecond is complete.
Yes... I think that’s what I’ll do.
Copyright © 2014 by Eric J. Guignard