It’s January and I’m back at Capel Curig, north Wales, where my late grandmother’s cottage is situated. When I left the cottage the sun was just going down. Now it’s twilight, that ‘magical’ time when anything can happen. I’m walking deep into the forest, here.
We live in a world governed by time. To get to work, meet a family member, even to go shopping we schedule and mark such events by time, and see it as consecutive and linear. That idea seems to suit the way we perceive time for out twentieth century events. Time seems to ‘fit’ well around our human-centric activities.
A few minutes later, as I look up I see the wispy, crepuscular clouds, high above me, just losing their sunlit glow. And, then darkness closes in, fast, and the forest trees around me lose their three-dimensional setting, and ‘distance’ seems to be no more, as trees just look like dark brown paper cut-outs, ‘flat’ in the near distance.
Some may be thinking that it isn’t our activities that shape our view of time, but that time shapes us and affects us, but we’re not aware of it.
Current view: time is ever-advancing, continual and consecutive.
There was once an idea in astronomy that time continued in a straight, ever-advancing fashion until the expanding universe reached the point where it could expand no more, and then it would contract. At that moment, time itself would start to go in reverse (but anyone experiencing that reversal wouldn’t be aware of it). If that was happening now, you and I wouldn’t be aware of it. It would appear normal. Affected by ‘backward-running’ time, but unaware.
Current view: the sequence of events, linear time-wise, is necessary to tell a story or record events. Many admit that as things seems to repeat themselves that time is circular and not linear. Perhaps, it’s both. Things do seem to repeat themselves, but as the weeks and years advance, they do so with minor variations. Perhaps, it is both, and that time is, infact, the shape of a ‘slinky’ toy.
Walking on for half an hour or so I’m at an area where, as children, my friends and I played. Even now this place, Drws i fyd arall (pronounced ‘droo zi fid arrah’) as we called it provokes fond memories and a current air of mystery. Drws i fyd arall was our childhood name for two ‘fused’ and arching trees in this clearing – Drws i fyd arall means ‘door to another world’ and was so named as our childhood imaginations ran riot. Was it just our imaginations that gave these trees their name, or was it these trees and this ‘magical’ area that ‘spoke’ to us and prompted us to describe it so?
Playing as a child with my friends here, happened some fifty-five years ago, but it doesn’t seem as though time has moved on. Logical, scientifically and empirically time has moved on, though. Experientially, and now as I stand before these two trees, my feeling, my intuition tells me otherwise. I believe the ancients, those Celts, Druids, Pagans and others would have held the latter, experiential, timeless view.
The ancient Greeks had two main terms for time: chronos and kairos. To them, Chronos was quantitative, and was time that measured hours and minutes. Think, ‘tick tock’. Their other word for time, kairos. Kairos is time, but it is qualitative. Think, ‘timely opportunity’.
At Drws i fyd arall was I experiencing both chronos and kairos, but ‘majoring’ and receptive to Kairos? There is part of me that baulks at the idea of describing peak experiences in that way, especially as I’m not a dualist, but a unitive thinker, and especially as those divisions are born out of ‘scientific’ thinking without trying to perceive things from those other time-less realms.
At Drws i fyd arall those distinctions didn’t matter. Me, and you if you were here, like our Celtic, Druid, and Pagan ancestors would, I think, have been immersed in the moment – having entered sacred space/sacred time. Outside of strict definitions of chrono or Kairos.
I sat down, looking at the two trees arching over, and in the almost-complete darkness, my eyelids beginning to half-close and it seemed the darkness began to play tricks, as I saw sparks and strands of light, flashes, that appeared and disappeared. One moment, there (and perhaps in my mind’s eye) was a scene of me with my friends when we were all about six years old (including sound), then another scene appeared of me as an older teenager, and then another set of images appeared, as if in front of me, of my friends and I aged about ten (when one of them fell out of a tree). And, so it went on. Seemingly, time-disjointed events, apparently at random.
It was a few weeks later, recounting this incident, that I realised that if the author of these images were fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, then they may not teach in out twentieth century, linear, way. Why should they? They inhabit different realms, have different priorities, and perceive time in a different way.
Not all cultures in the world write from left to right, not all the books in the Hebrew part of the Book are in chronological order (but are in order of size), and some cultures never used the zero in maths or counted in base ten numerals (as some got to 8, and that was it. Our nine would be written as 11). Why then, should those we encounter from other realms not communicate and do things differently.
The three main scenes that appeared before me, upon reflection, seemed to be a group of my very young friends and I playing together, wonderfully oblivious to anything around us, but in community. The second scene showed me, alone, deep in thought and appreciating nature, and appreciating actions and consequences. The final scene was back, nearer in time to the first scene (but a few years on) and showed my friends concern (and mine) for a friends who had falled from a tree, and being concerned about him, and being concerned about the tree (though I suspect it was a concern that a branch we used to swing from was unusable now).
As an adult, if I re-arranged those scenes into chronological order then it would appear as disjointed stories, just lovely memories, and nothing more. In keeping the scenes in the way they were presented – ‘crazy timing’ from our point of view – they did, indeed, made sense, and delivered a ‘message’. Perhaps, something like this: initially we all might have be concerned about our group, ourselves or our community, and only look to our own group interests. Then we grow and look outward to the needs of others. And, third, the scene showed a ‘marrying’ together of community, outward concern and maturity, and bringing the two into harmony: perfect balance.
I left that clearing, somewhat confused then, but ‘unpacked’ the images and sequences, and they made sense – an otherworldly, ‘differently-timed’ sequence of events, but they contained a deep and profound meaning, all the more potent because I had to strip away twentieth linear-time understanding, and surrender to the moment.
Could it be, that for the author of these images, fae, the genius loci (spirit of the place), elementals or the ancestors, time is perceived, as they communicate to us, in order of importance rather than chronological order? I think so. It’s for the same reason that dreams seem odd in that they usually don’t follow sequential time, from our point of view, but appear random – or, perhaps are cast that way so that an overall message is conveyed rather than just a memory of events, as one might see on a holiday. The latter being great memories but rarely containing a profound meaning of other-worldly important. Time, then for them, would be conflated.
Jarod Kintz wrote: I had a dream about you. We were racing to be the slowest person on earth. You were winning which meant you were losing. You were gloating because you were a winner and I was taunting because you were a loser.
It is one thing to accept this conflation of other-worldly time and see it as different to linear time, it is another thing to, sometimes, to surrender to it and experience. There are sometimes, when the encounter is so ‘abrupt’ that we’re living that ‘nowness’ of time as we experience numinous events even before our cerebral faculties are aware (and that brings us back to dream encounters, where much of our logical cerebral brain cells are ‘asleep’).
In closing, I’ve learned to accept what these peak experiences give us, in the order they produce the event, as the sequence is as important as the contents, and may indeed, contain greater truths they want to convey. Think of those movies, where, after just a few minutes into the action, a subtitle appears and says something like ‘Fifteen years earlier’. Yes, the story is important, but the sequence – even if not following chronological order – adds to the message being conveyed. What do you think?