Does hopeful life found in linear or circular time?

Logical notion of time vs Philosophical notion of time

Posted by Apoorva Patil on December 18, 2016

Time! What is it? Is it a vehicle on which we ride through the course of our life or is it the life itself fading away into the past with each passing moment. Some believe the time to be linear and some say its circular in nature. The former believe that life itself is fading away along with time & the latter subscribe to the belief that time is like a vehicle.

When you think about it, you’ll see that subscribing to either of those beliefs will fundamentally change the way you navigate through & live your life.

The linear notion of time

The linear notion of time seems more logical & pretty straight forward compared to the other belief. But once you accept this belief you’d be living in a rather hurried way where you would always be racing against the clock. Since you equate your life with time along with pretty much neglecting other factors, you’d feel with the passage of each moment of time, your life itself is running out as the time runs out.

You can’t speak about linear notion of time without referring to the infamous “Time is money” slogan. When you accept it without giving it a second thought, you’d be buying into the pretty dangerous equation of Money=Time=Life. There are thousand and one things which go into a balanced & fulfilled life. Just as the lack of money, the presence of only money with other areas of life being neglected would throw your life out of balance, again.

To sum it up, the upside of linear notion of time is that, you would be treating it with more care like a non-renewable resource. However, the downside is that, you would miss out your entire life in your run against the clock.

The circular notion of time

On the other hand, the circular notion of time seems less logical and a more philosophical approach to time & life itself. It tends to believe that since time is only a vehicle used to navigate through life, you would pass through the lost moments all over again. It believes in second chances. So it is more hopeful one and rather a lighter approach towards life and the role of time in life.

In a philosophical light, the circular notion of time wins. You don’t have to hurry through your life in the fear of missing out. Deep down there will be hope that lost moments would come back again since time is circular. In a messed up life, faced with many different challenges, hope would mean everything. Under certain light, hope would be the difference between life and death. As the tide falls, you patiently wait for it to rise again, since you know that tide would always rise back again if you give it some time.

To sum it up, the upside of circular notion of time is that, it allows you to live your life in a more gentle & hopeful way, where you don’t have to run against clock. However, the downside is that, you would be sloppy and less attentive to life if you are not careful.

Then what is the solution? Should you go hard-line with either of these beliefs and accept the consequent shortcomings or..

Is there a third way?

Well, the answer is yes! Buddha left it for us in the plain sight long ago when he taught the world about the middle way or the balanced approach. Its pretty simple as all the great things in life are. You just need to know when to apply either of those approaches to reap the maximum benefits & reduce their respective shortcomings.


When you feel burnout by constantly racing against time, give yourself a break & know that time is circular in nature and it always comes back. When you feel unwanted slack in your life, know that time finite & non-renewable and rush to pick up the slack by just the right amount.