As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for more than a moment. And sound stopped for much, much more than a moment. And then the moment was gone.
— John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
I think there is something in the Buddhist way that touches on this; certainly on time and living in the present — it calls upon activating and maintaining all senses, acknowledging and embracing them as part of your living presence, your now–ness, for that is all there really is.
How do you know the past existed? (See, you can’t use the present tense when you ask, can you? It doesn’t sound right.)
You say you were there, but were you?
The past has no more presence, no more substance than a dream — you can fudge and claim your past is more or less than it is, you can let it go, pull it closer to your heart, or pass it on to your children, but that suggests substance, doesn’t it? Yet, and yet, the past slips through your fingers like sand.
And the future?
It cannot happen until you get there — no sense unless, of course, you possess a crystal ball (no small expense); then you can touch the crystal, lick it or tap and rap it or sniff it for some lingering odour, evidence of its origins, but not your future. You can cast your eyes all over the crystal ball, searching some internal movement, some roiling cloud that promises to reveal…
Lovely artefact; no future there.
Scientists speculate (or fantasize) one might construct a Wells–ian contraption of sorts, spin dials, pull levers, click dates into place and travel backward, but not, as Wells would have it, forward. Most, on the other hand would say, ‘Nonsense. Time is a linear thing; it might imprint its long–ago on the horizons of the universe, but it is unattainable, a dream, a stream of ancient light — try and catch that with your bare hands (!).’
Steinbeck’s moment is but illusion (exquisitely phrased), for time itself is an illusion, as ethereal as the breath of an angel.
But oh, how sweet.