I am intrigued by what video artist and Zen practitioner Bill Viola says about time (as well as what he says about buddhist & artistic practice, mind, and perception--but especially time) in an interview titled The Light Enters You, in the November 2004 issue of Shambhala Sun (a magazine about "Buddhism Culture Meditation Life"). I also like very much the subtly ringing words he chooses.
Viola talks about the medium of video:
We've been talking about the living spark that is in all people and the things they create, and video speaks in the language of sparks...It exists solely in the present moment. We call it "live." Turn it off and the image vanishes without a trace. Nothing remains--only an empty shell of cold hardware. Like a musical chord, it is made up of varying frequencies that must be set into vibration to resonate in harmonic order for the system to function. A video signal travels at the speed of light, the speed of your thoughts, and this allows it to be transmitted and multiplied virtually instantaneously anywhere around the globe, yiedling its most commonly perceived form, television.
However, as an electrical signal it can also be recorded, and here's where the connection to traditional culture comes in. When you record a home video, you are capturing a chunk of continuous time in the form of a sequence of scanned images and sounds. In playback, this gets lifted out of the present moment and reinserted into the time flow at a later time and place. People then re-experience this window of displaced time as a symbolic representation, a kind of perceptual memory, re-inhabiting it and usually experiencing it at the pace in which it originally occurred.
The dynamics of this process, an original event being codified into symbolic form and relived at a later time, mostly by people who were not there, bears a close resemblance to the function of ritual in traditional religious practices. It also embodies the idea we've been discussing of memory as an active component of the present moment. Now if only some useful content could be transmitted in this way, then we'd really have something!
In the accompanying commentary, David Ross, who has been director of the Whitney Museum and the SF Museum of Modern Art, says about Viola:
Through his work as an artist and his study, he has begun to understand the complex task of creating work that allows one to experience the notion of the stopping mind.
...Truly an artist of our era, Viola creates work that slows us down, engages us in the act of that continual slowing, and presents us with a visual and audible framework for experiences that finally must take place deep in our own consciousness...
I think a lot about time, especially those ideas of slow time and stopping the mind, and particularly in the contexts of relationships, and my medicine practice. Two of the most valuable things that I can offer to a friend or relation or patient are time, and presence. Without those, all of the skills I've accumulated will miss their mark because I won't have entered into present time (which when deep enough enfolds past/memories/lineage and future/potential/emergence too) with them far enough to really get what's going on. Like what Harrison Owen's Open Space phrases "deep now" and "expanding our now" point to.
There are many ways to explain or describe what happens during an acupuncture treatment, some physiological, some biochemical, some poetic, some energetic (and I think they're all true). One conception is that during an accurate treatment, we (patient and practitioner) enter a "stillpoint" -- still breathing, pulsing, heart-beating, all that, but so aligned with true nature that there is no friction, no resistance; time seems to slow way down and the depleted well has a chance to fill back up, drop by drop.