HEY , WHAT’S THE TIME?
I’ve missed writing this past month as we closed down the Old Schoolhouse after nearly eight years and I attended this year’s conference of the Canadian Association for Spirituality and Social Work. In many ways it feels much longer time than a few weeks.
Speaking of time, during that break I watched a fascinating film on YouTube called The Man from Earth. This tight 87 minute film from 2007 was shot with a cast of less than 10, entirely in one location, a small cabin in the mountains of California. It could easily be a stage play. The premise is a last minute farewell party for John Oldman, a 30-something academic in a local university. The party is thrown by his friends and fellow teachers, including a research assistant, a biologist, a psychologist and a paleo-anthropologist and a psych student. We are teased at first, but quickly come to realize that John is indeed an Old-man, 14,000 years old to be more precise. John, it seems, “suffers” from a condition which prevents him from aging beyond his present age. As a consequence he has survived for millennia.
I won’t compromise your enjoyment of the film beyond that. What kept me engaged was the exploration of the fluidity and variability of our concept of time. What is time exactly? Is it a fixed continuum and we flow through it, or is it some quality of our lives, or some variable of the changes that occur in our planet? The film poses these and many more questions. What particularly stayed with me is John’s articulation of the experience of a long view of our experience. He describes visiting the same places over and over again, of countless relationships, cultures and ethical standards. Those things we try to layer over with permanence - even the mountains and oceans - become something different from his perspective. We are left with a disturbing nudge in our confidence of our places in time.
Yours in the Dharma,
om namo amida butsu