new landscapes but in having fresh eyes.’ Marcel Proust.
For Proust, and for us, time is perhaps our greatest enemy. We are all subject to time from the very beginning of our lives to their end and so much is lost through the changes wrought by the unstoppable march of time. Memories fail over time. We return to a place—a place which, say, we once loved as a child—only to find that it is no longer the same place. Most if not all of the pleasure associated with the place has gone, and much of that is due to the passage of time. Over time, we manufacture innumerable 'false selves'—'I's and 'me's—in the form of our likes, dislikes, attachments and aversions. All these selves have no permanent, fixed identity. They are all transient and ever-changing. Time, in conjunction with the notion of the illusory self, is a major theme of In Search of Time. Here is the final sentence of the novel:
Now, can the problem of time be overcome? Well, time can be transcended. How? Through mindfulness, that's one way. If we can see things-as-they-really are, we are no longer bound by time. We then experience the eternal now. Those familiar with Proust—and even some who aren’t—will know of the following oft-quoted experience from early in Part One (‘Combray’) of the first volume of In Search of Time, titled Swann’s Way. The subject-matter recounted is the first episode concerning the madeleine (a tea-cake or bun)—the first so-called 'madeleine moment'. There is a second 'madeleine moment' which is recounted in the final moment of the novel. Anyway, the first 'madeleine moment' is described thus:
Now, in order for there to be an immediacy and directness about our moment-to-moment experience of life, those three occurrences need to occur more-or-less simultaneously---that is, no separation. If those three events are not simultaneously experienced---and that will happen if we engage in thinking, analysis, comparison, interpretation, or judgment in connection with the object in question (be it external or internal)---then the chances are that what will be experienced will be nothing but ... the past! Yes, the reality of the immediate experience will subside. Indeed, it will die! Any consciousness of it will be in the form of an after-thought or memory, as we glance back to re-experience, and (sadly, yes) evaluate, a past experience.