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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Janus: Are two heads really better than one?

Photo by Steve Evans
The two heads of Janus, one facing backwards and the other facing forwards, is often symbolic of the past/future dichotomy.  People tend to get particularly focused upon this dualistic view of time as the calendar shifts from one year to another.  However, constantly gazing at the past and future can preclude ever really connecting with the here and now.

Time itself has been the subject of many a scientific, philosophical, and/or religious theory – especially insofar as the elusive “present” is concerned.  According to Wikipedia, St. Augustine of Hippo (modern-day Algeria) described the present as “a knife edge between the past and the future…”   For Augustine, that which is eternally present (God) exists beyond the constraints of time.  However, for some mystics, the razor’s edge of each and every “be here now” moment is fraught with divine reality.

According to Patheos, Buddhism began with a time dichotomy of its own.  Rather than focusing upon the differences between past and future, it focused upon the differences between samsara (“the endless cycle of births and deaths”) and nirvana (the ultimate escape from such a cycle).  However, as Buddhism evolved, a new concept of shunyata (emptiness) emerged.  This “emptiness” is not what we usually imagine as “nothingness.”  In fact, it is much more akin to all-at-once “everythingness.”

In trying to explain this, The Conscious Universe offers this passage from Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha:
… the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the
ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere, and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past, nor the shadow of the future…”

If a new Janus prototype were to reflect this gestalt way of perceiving past, present and future - then its second head might need to morph into a third eye.


Copyright January 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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