Life-in-time and Life-by-values

How Steve Jobs managed to avoid distractions is a model of Life-by-values thesis

Author Dr. Surendra Soni
If we were to paint a portrait of our 'self' as Montaigne, the great French philosopher and essayist, sets out to do in his essay, "Of repentance"most of our description would match with that of the author:

"I cannot keep my subject still. It goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness. I take it in this condition, just as it is at the moment I give my attention to it. I do not portray being: I portray passing... "

We also agree with when he writes the following words about the value of life:
"The value of life is not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them; a man may live long yet very little."
If we were just to float with the stream of time and live out our years without bothering about the value we create out of those years, we would not be essentially human or even alive. Because to be human is to create some positive value out of our time. Or even to be alive is to create some value because what is life if it doesn't add something of positive value to the environment as a whole. Aristotle's words bring out the significance of the value dimension of our life over and above its length in years.
"We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best."
There is a clock in our heads, as famed novelist, puts it in 'Aspects of the Novel'. It is messy and difficult to lead life without a sense of time. But we don't just live the life-in-time. There are moments in life which we live with greater intensity. The moments that we spend together with our loved ones, for example, or the moments which carry some great sense or urgency of purpose. These are moments when we tend to lose the sense of time.
As humans we have the gift of a very evolved consciousness, far more evolved than any other living being. Neuroscience tells us that the neuronal networking has developed to such an advanced level in humans that we are "conscious of being conscious" as Nobel prize-winning, neuroscientist-authorGerald M. Edelman puts it in his book, 'Wider than the sky'. Thus we don't even have the faculty of thought, we can also be simultaneously aware of our thoughts as we think them out.
It is precisely because of this advanced faculty of "being conscious of being conscious" that time is not merely an external factor for us. Sometimes we can put so much consciousness into a passing moment that it carries the value of eternity into it. Thus our life in time differs as per the quality or intensity of consciousness or attention (as we usually call it) as it flows with the stream of external time. External time flows at a steady pace. But we can extract greater value out of it by investing more consciousness, or energy and attention into it. Thus, there are two distinct aspects of our life: life-in-time and life-by-values.
At any moment in our life, the life-in-time flows at a steady pace along with the external or clock time. But at every moment the quality or intensity of our consciousness we put in those moments varies, thus giving rise to life-by-values as E. M. Forster calls it in 'Aspects of the Novel'.
Thus we can, not only be 'conscious of being conscious', but, also vary the intensity of consciousness. Because we can choose to be more involved in certain moments and thus bring about a qualitative change in those moments and the quality of work we are performing in those moments or the quality of relationship we are living in those moments. Our great literary authors create subtle nuances of character and a wide variety of characters with varied blend of life-in-time and life-by-values.
This capability to vary the intensity of consciousness  was employed by to avoid distractions and build up focus on innovation at work with spectacular results. As his biographer, Walter Isaacson notes,
"Job's intensity was also evident in his ability to focus. He would set priorities, aim his laser attention on them, and filter out distractions...That focus allowed him to say no. He got Apple back on track by cutting all except a few core products. He made devices simpler by eliminating buttons, software simpler by eliminating features, and interfaces simpler by eliminating options."
We should realize that intensity and focus are necessary to say no to distractions, an indispensable for the shift from life-in-time which is full of distractions to life-by-values which is characterized by intensity and focus so necessary for creativity and innovation.
A great step ahead is to become master value-creators by mastering the art of switching from life-in-time to life-by-values and vice versa. There are things which we need to attend with a quickness of attention rather than intensity and focus of consciousness. But, we need to keep aware that such mastery implies being capable not to lose intensity and focus which need great time and efforts to build up as we attend over things of lesser significance with quick passing attention. It's a subtle spiritual training that not only sharpens our faculty of intuition, but also unclutters our minds from the baggage of consuming material desires and lives from unnecessary material amassment. Isaacson's observations of Job's life are worth noting in this regard:
"He attributed his ability to focus and his love of simplicity to his Zen training. It honed his appreciation for intuition, showed him how to filter out anything that was distracting or unnecessary, and nurtured in him an aesthetic based on minimalism."
Spiritual philosophy goes beyond neuroscience and literary authorship in matters of characteristics and quality of consciousness. Thus great spiritual philosopher, J. Krishnamurti, tells us time and again, by implication, that we can not only be conscious of being conscious but be so 'totally' conscious or aware that our whole self comes into the purview of  all-inclusive awareness. Thus we can not only be aware of our stream of thoughts, but also the patterns of thoughts and even beyond those patterns the egoic self into which they become frozen as milk becomes frozen into curd with a distinct identity of its own.
Thus life-in-time and life-by-values acquire a heightened sense in spiritual philosophy. As we learn to become aware of our life with such a sense of totality the quality of our life-in-time undergoes a complete change. Now we don't live in a rush of time, giving rise to irritation, anger, indifference, lack of kindness amounting at times to cruelty. Rather, our sense of totality pours in an altogether different quality in our life-in-time. It brings in love and compassion. It builds up a propensity to selflessly give rather than reduce our level of self-sufficiency and thus feel inclined to selfishly take and consume.
With this capability to command the dynamics of life-in-time and life-by-values we become master value-creators, without it we 'may live long and yet very little'.

[Dr. Surendra Soni has been exploring consciousness studies & applications for the last 29 years. He is a former university teacher with 20 years of experience in teaching and research]

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