He was an oldish man, but well preserved, with long, grey hair and a white beard. He had lectured about philosophy at universities in different parts of the world. He was very scholarly and quiet. He said he did not meditate; nor was he religious in the ordinary sense. He was concerned with knowledge only; and though he lectured on philosophy and religious experiences, he hadn’t any of his own nor was he looking for any. He had come to talk over the question of time.
How difficult it is for the man of possessions to be free! It is a great hardship for a rich man to put aside his wealth. Only when there are other and greater inducements will he forgo the comforting realisation that he is a rich man; he must find the fulfillment of his ambition at another level before he will let go the one he has. To the rich man, money is power, and he is the wielder of it; he may give away large sums, but he is the giver.
Knowledge is another form of possession, and the man of knowledge is satisfied with it; for him it is an end in itself. He has a feeling — at least this one had — that knowledge will somehow solve our problems if only it can be spread, thick or thin, around the world. It is much more difficult for the man of knowledge to be free from his possessions than for the man of wealth. It is strange how easily knowledge takes the place of understanding and wisdom. If we have information about things, we think we understand; we think that knowing or being informed about the cause of a problem will make it nonexistent. We search for the cause of our problems, and this very search is the postponement of understanding.
Most of us know the cause; the cause of hate is not very deeply hidden, but in looking for the cause we can still enjoy its effects. We are concerned with the reconciliation of effects, and not with the understanding of the total process. Most of us are attached to our problems, without them we would be lost; problems give us something to do, and the activities of the problem fill our lives. We are the problem and its activities.
Time is a very strange phenomenon. Space and time are one; the one is not without the other. Time to us is extraordinarily important, and each one gives to it his own particular significance. Time to the savage has hardly any meaning, but to the civilised it is of immense significance. The savage forgets from day to day; but if the educated man did that, he would be put in an asylum or would lose his job. To a scientist, time is one thing; to a layman, it is another. To a historian, time is the study of the past; to a man on the stock market, it is the ticker; to a mother, it is the memory of her son; to an exhausted man, it is rest in the shade. Each one translates it according to his particular needs and satisfactions, shaping it to suit his own cunning mind. Yet we cannot do without time. If we are to live at all, chronological time is as essential as the seasons. But is there psychological time, or is it merely a deceptive convenience of the mind? Surely, there is only chronological time, and all else is deception. There is time to grow and time to die, time to sow and time to reap; but is not psychological time, the process of becoming, utterly false?