Only recently, I caught myself yelling at my mother over the phone. The problem: it was the third time she’d called me that day. And she’d dragged me all the way out of my bed, into the drawing room, over to the god-forsaken pile of laundry I’d been neglecting all week, the pile, also, in which I’d somehow lost my phone earlier that day. Strange, considering how I’m usually grateful for her regular check in phone calls. And, not surprisingly, I was regretting the episode a few hours later. But then again, I was sleep deprived, pmsing, and exhausted to my physical limit from a work trip. And so, I caught myself getting over it, as with a guilty heart, I apologised to my mother the next day. I had been nasty, in an irritable moment, and had been blind to how my physical discomfort made me take it out on someone who wasn’t responsible for any of it.
What we perceive, we see through the lens of our experience, and through the lens of our human limitations. German philosopher Immanuel Kant presented a theory of human experience that claims that even our absolute categories of time and space, through which we structure and understand the world are concepts endemic to humanity. In other words, these are conceptual structures that enable (or limit) our perception of the world around us. This is a thread of thought that has been drawn out through generations of philosophy. Well, think about it. Time seems to go slower when you’re in an uncomfortable spot, and yet, when you’re exponentially happy it seems to fly past, the moments that you wished lasted longer are over before you know it.
Jose Luis Borges performs a refutation of the notion of linear, standard time, of time as we know it: ticking steadily and away on the clock. The clock tells us, as French philosopher Henri Bergson put it, that one minute and the next are same, that one hour and the next are the same. We have, he claims, somehow imprisoned our natural, immediate experience in this seemingly counter-intuitive notion of a continuous time, ignoring the very way we actually experience it.
Psychological inquiries have long explored how the notion of an immediate experience and perception is a misunderstanding of how the human individual actually functions. People see and experience things through, and only through, states of the mind that are constantly shifting. The anecdote that I began with would make this clear. Our own biases and states of mind that guide our daily interactions unmistakeably are but invisible to us. If we live out our time, and time is a personal thing, what this means is that we, as human individuals, have but a potential for objectivity. The nature of human experience is such that our immediate experience blinds us to our biases, the personal and universal concepts and structures that we understand the world through. Think of it this way- the world, to a suicide bomber employed by a religious terrorist faction, seems like it is divided between the people that deserve to live, and people that deserve to die, when, well, it means so much more to you and me.
Ancient traditions of Indian thought have often described phenomena in the world as dreamlike- the seeming inevitability of our most immediate experience becomes not so inevitable once this becomes clear. The trick consists in unravelling the significance of personal biases and concepts ingrained in our minds, to see things in their true significance. A lust for money may fuel your ambitions and actions at one point in life, but what drives you is likely to change, depending on the circumstances that you find yourself in. True, objective knowledge, the very possibility of objectivity, consists in understanding that experience is stained through the lens of subjectivity.
Sacred Pushkar, an object for your subjectivity. Expand your senses, shift the circumstantial. We hope you were able to experience a different sense of time and being at Pushkar at this year’s edition.
– Faustina Johnson