Set the Table: A Yuletide Meditation on Eternity and Time and How to Deal With It

Within the boundless confines of the Universe, with her astoundingly vast manifestations and incomprehensibly infinite potentialities, there can be found rooms that exist outside of what we commonly perceive to be time.

In another recent post, I introduced a phenomenon I will call time-independent memory. This is when the brain perceives the nature of certain people and places and circumstances in a manner that is not only inconsistent with present reality but also consistent with previous reality. Time-independent memory is a creature of the unconscious mind, not the conscious (like forgetfulness) or the subconscious (like denial). Quite often, unbeknownst to us, it is an ongoing process, like a hidden background application on your computer, unseen and unnoticed but still just using up a tiny bit of the computer’s memory and processing all the while. Usually, you only ever notice the background application if either its nature proves malicious and thereby attracts our attention by being disruptive to our normal computing activity or if something malfunctions with our normal computing activity, inadvertently revealing the process running behind the scenes. In either instance, experiences with time-independent memory are often unwelcome and nearly always disconcerting.

It’s the same with the rooms outside of time. In the higher plane we’re trying feebly to look at here, time just isn’t our master, and we can see it for the simple dimension it actually is. We can’t (or maybe we just don’t) live on this plane on a daily basis during this life, but I’m trying to show you here that we do encounter it–or at least we can. Everyone is free to consider me as crazy as they like, but I’m not regaling you with tales of magical wizard tricks, here. I’ve got no trick aiding my cosmic exploration save only my curiosity, which is exactly the same curiosity you’ve got, if you choose to use it. There is no initiation for this kind of thing, no instruction manual or rulebook, no minimum qualifications for entrance. I will admit my suspicion, however, that those in possession of certain temperaments–introspective, intuitive, observant, to name a few–are probably more likely to experience these states of altered memory and eternal rooms made of non-material, and are even probably more likely to know what I am talking about already. That’s merely the suspicion of a humble wizard talking about things he barely understands, for what it’s worth.

Think of a radio station that plays an infinite song. The song goes on all the time, no matter what, but you only experience portions when your tuner happens to land on the right station. My only regret, for the time being, is we don’t know the number of the station. I can only, so far, stumble upon it by accident. I’ve experienced these weird little snippets of eternity while awake, too. Not suddenly or unexpectedly, nor even primarily due to the use of any psychoactive sacrament, but in visions brought on by certain trigger songs. In the same way I earlier mentioned that certain songs can cause the heavens to open before me, there are certain songs that have been known to trigger little glimpses and visits of these places of eternity. I don’t go in and have conversations during my waking encounters–not usually, anyway–but you can see it and feel yourself in it…rooms between worlds, rooms for souls to meet and discuss and arrange, for affairs perhaps a half-step or full step above those of our everyday lives to be handled on a commensurate higher level. For just that moment, we understand a little bit more about our true nature and the true nature of our boundless and incomprehensibly strange universe. And for that moment, we shed the chains of time.

As I explained in my earlier post, the brain operates using a background image comprised of interwoven assumptions about the nature of reality. When we lead full and busy and even frantic lives, we possess only a finite amount of time and energy to dedicate to updating the fabric of reality or reinforcing updates we’ve already received, and certain people and places and situations are depicted on our inherent background map in ways that have actually ended, usually permanently so. We have not actually forgotten the way things really are–if someone asks us, we answer the question correctly, giving the accurate present scenario. We are not denying the way things really are, because we’re not necessarily passing judgment on them at all. We’re simply running on assumptions that reflect non-sequential (or time-independent) truths. That’s the crazy thing–we’re only “wrong” in our assumptions on the linear/subjective level, for the cyclical/objective assessment of time (difficult, if not impossible for our current comprehension) reveals that all things we know as past, present, and future occur endlessly–eternally–all at once. “All things happen” is the simplest summary of the true nature of eternal experience, and though we can at times be dramatically disrupted by the contrast between facts we already knew that are now right before us and the time-independent perception, we’re actually glimpsing the eternal.

I hear myself mostly when I’m alone and outside, walking through a field or a wonderful old cemetery, scaling the mystical heights of the sacred mountain herself or walking a simple mile lap behind the office. It’s not only that it’s quieter under these conditions, it’s that I’mquieter. Quiet enough to hear myself. What I hear is that I perceive myself (against all material evidence to the contrary–for this and all that follows) as a member of a global clan,  tribe, or league. I am not its leader, but you might say I’m a type of capo or something. Its members include all manner of people. Family friends from the earliest years of childhood. The best of all of my schoolmate comrades over the long years of education, and the best of the people I knew from church and even a couple from church camp. Some (but not all) of my core college crew, and some also from college years who may not have been part of that inner circle but whom, it turns out, I hold (or held) in high regard. There are even people I see every day, people who are currently my friends and coworkers, or even any of the people I mentioned previously but with whom I still keep very regular contact. To a lesser extent, there are sometimes appearances by (though perhaps rarely full membership of) significant females from the past. They don’t arrive like I’m carrying a torch for any of them, or them for me. I have quite safely arrived at a point in life (and wizard-hood) at which I possess absolutely no romanticized desires to reunite with any past lovers, nor do I feel the slightest pine for any “fish that got away.” I’m blessed to celebrate this Yuletide season with the most wonderful partner in all the world by my side, leaving me nothing more to desire in the universe (shoutout to you, habibti, my queen!). But still they show up sometimes, in the rooms and around the clan, not because of what they want or I want or anyone wants, but because of what they represent–that component, good or ill, that comprises an important symbol within the totality of the experience of life.

That doesn’t just go for the girls, that’s everyone. It’s all time-independent and immaterial at this level. None of the people in this fabric of perception reflect what they are doing right now, the good or bad circumstances of their actual lives. All of this information is freely available to me because there’s Facebook, but it’s not biographical history that holds this weird cloth together. It’s the spiritual imprints left behind by these people that populate this rag-tag tribe-like band, often corresponding to many of their best sides and best selves, but sometimes just their simplest selves or (rarely) their most degraded. Bear in mind, now, that I’ve only come to be aware of this very recently, after it’s likely been going on for a large number of years completely beneath the surface, and I only hear all of this clearly in my head during the quietest of moments. But what those quiet moments have made me realize is that I really am doing this all the time. To the highly limited extent to which I have control over the nature of my daily existence and circumstances, I exert that control in a manner partially influenced by the considerations of a tribe of people who exist, but not as I imagine them, and not on board as part of any tribe. That’s an actual factor in the things I seek to build and accomplish. There’s a perception of a fake time, down the road, when all those people who’ve changed or fallen off the map or just gone in a completely incomprehensible direction or have even catapulted to levels of success or freedom inaccessible to me, when all of these people will return. And it’s like I’ve got to keep this fire going, keep the hearth prepared, for the day the diaspora is over and all can return home again. It’s like there’s a great big long table in a dark room outside of time, and you never know who is actually going to show up, but my job is to keep the table set in case the banquet ever actually happens.

mystical banquet

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a totally crazy way to perceive the totality of experience of life, even if its influence is limited to something modest like 5 or 10%. I can wear a sanity disguise all day and all night, but in my capacity as wizard I am required to make no outlandish claims of that same sanity. Having said that, let me explain what I’m really talking about, and then you can have a second or third chance to decide whether or not any of this makes any sense.

The people that comprise this time-independent tapestry–or their ghosts or higher-spirits or however you want to think of them–are there to represent qualities, ways of life, and even philosophy, religion, and values which are important to me personally and are a foundational part of the totality of how I experience life. The disparate elements which comprise the “return” to a, yes, a Golden Age represent alternately the ways of life I seek to implement overlapping with the ways of life I see as unfortunately lacking in the current conditions of fixed-time reality. This long table in the sky is an interactive four-dimensional psychological model of what the totality of my life actually is.

It doesn’t matter in the slightest if anyone ever shows up at my banquet or sits at the table I’ve faithfully kept set. It’s not that kind of banquet and it’s not that kind of table. What I’m doing by keeping the lights burning in the hall and warm fire blazing in the hearth and hospitable plates and cutlery ready for use on fine food and drink is accepting my role as the steward of that which I truly value, those aspects of life that hold what I apparently take to be its meaning. So it matters not whether anyone ever returns from exile or apostasy, or whether the wrongs are made right, or whether the characters that populate this scene in my head ever resemble the reality upon which they are based. None of it matters, because this stewardship is still the most important thing I’ll ever do.

Many grow older and dismiss the romanticized pat and skewed notions of the present and future out of hand, which is easy and seems practical to do. But instead of closing myself off to a very real and very much alive aspect of the universe before me, I will approach my relationship from the perspective of a shared stewardship, for together we can guard a way of life on our journeys through the world and protect a table for a banquet right here in our home. I will endeavor to raise my family as part of this clan and its feast, to sit at the table in togetherness and unity. I will seek to approach the mundane aspects of employment and homemaking with the understanding that all of these things are going on all at the same time and that I’m a participant in them just as much—if not more—than I am a participant in whatever it is I have to do to bring home a paycheck and be a good wizard and father on the side. There is no on the side. All things happen.

As I said before, there can be no rules or dogma assigned to this topic. All I would encourage you to do is listen. Listen to your dreams and the rooms they take you to. When you’re awake, listen to the way you are thinking. Pay attention to the things you are thinking about, and the ways in which you are thinking about them. Take a minute and allow yourself to get quiet, and then a little quieter, and then a little quieter. What do you hear? Where are you? Who is there?

You’ll do this not for the sake of indulging the mildly interesting quirks of our individual psyches but because you might learn something useful. You might see something that reveals what you need to be doing or how you need to be—and in this way may you be able to be more fully alive.

The thing is, everybody’s already shown up to my table. The clan’s all here. They’re always here, for all of time. The banquet goes on, and on, and on…

It is only for us to allow ourselves to find it, and take part in it.

3 thoughts on “Set the Table: A Yuletide Meditation on Eternity and Time and How to Deal With It

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