The Three Beasts of Time

There are three beasts of time: the past, the present, and the future. Like wild animals, the future and the past react differently depending on how they are approached: they can either be companions or predators. Perhaps the most elusive of the three is the present, the one beast of time who tends to be shy, difficult to find and woefully afraid of the other beasts when they are on the hunt. However, no matter where you are in the world, one of these three beasts will be the reigning king of the moment.

On a typical day, everyone is dominated by the beast of the future. Take, for example, the wait at a subway station. Every time someone looks down the tunnel expectantly for a train, they are pulled further and further away from the tenuous hold that the beast of the present can manage and into the gnashing teeth of the future. Each look makes them more preoccupied with the future, with thoughts like “Now I’m going to be home half an hour later”, “I’ll miss my favorite show” or “It’s going to be tough to fit in exercise”. The tunnel continues to disappoint these future planners and they enter a state of constant reevaluation of their day’s itinerary. That state brings anxiety, frustration and worry: you can see it in their faces. The beast of the future tears has commanded the attention of all the waiting passengers.

In a moment like this, it’s worth it to make an effort to escape the hunt of the future. Maybe you leave the station and walk home instead. Maybe along the way, the timid beast of the present finds you and you stroll through the city streets together in harmony.

The beast of the past can be equally destructive. Just like the future, the past can become a hunter, poisoning its prey with regret. Regret is by far the worst of all emotions and a powerful tool of the past: there is no action that can work against the toxins of doubt that plague the victim’s mind. Other emotions like anger or jealousy have actionable remedies, but very few can escape the strangling nature of regret. Even the beast of the future can do little to fight against the past once its prey is caught in its jaws.

The beasts of the future and past are not always negative forces, though. The beast of the future, tamed properly, can be a helpful planner and shift from hunting you to helping you hunt down your visions of the future. Teach the beast of the future your strategy and it can navigate the timeline ahead and pull your plans towards the present where you can firmly grasp them. The past, removed of its dripping horns of regret, can bound into past memories and return with powerful ones that bring you joy and motivation When mastered, the beasts of the future and past become the companions of their shy brother and work in harmony with the quiet beast of the present.

The beast of the present is a fickle yet powerful creature. When the past and future are searching for prey, the present hides in the corner and only returns when it seems safe. However, when the future and past are tamed the present will flex its muscles. The companionship of the beast of the present brings comfort, new powers of observation and a freedom from worry. More than that, though, the beast of the present will do everything possible to amplify the positive memories of the past and make your visions of the future the reality of the present.

The three beasts work in tandem. The past fetches memories of the past and brings them to the present who can translate the past timeline into positive energy. The future attempts to drag ambitious plans closer to the eager jaws of the present, who, fueled with the positive foundation of the past, will temporarily reach outside of its comfort zone into the unknown and pull those plans into the present.

One way of looking at life is to see it as a struggle between the beasts of time. It is useful to wonder what the beasts are up to in a particular moment. When they all pull in different directions, the result is paralysis. When they work together, though, the beasts of time become an incredibly powerful team. The key to it all is finding the beast of the present, a creature of quiet but formidable power. Mindfulness is the humble search for the beast of the present and enlightenment could very well be mastering the beasts of time and maintaining the three brothers’ harmony. Because in truth, the divides between the beasts are only found at the edge of reality. Or, perhaps, there is only one beast: time.