Young and old people, although in the same region of space, live in different temporal worlds. We are inexorably separated by age from one another. A mother isn’t usually a sister to her daughter. It is difficult for children to understand their parents, and still less their grandparents. Obviously, the individuals belonging to four successive generations are profoundly heterochronic. An old man and his great-grandson can be complete strangers. The shorter the temporal distance separating two generations, the stronger may be the moral influence of the older over the younger.
From the concept of physiological time derive certain rules of our action on human beings. Organic and mental developments are not inexorable. They can be modified, in some measure, according to our will, because we are a movement, a succession of superposed patterns in the frame of our identity. Although a human being is a closed world, his/her outside and inside frontiers are open to many physical, chemical, and psychological agents. And those agents are capable of modifying our tissues and our mind. The moment, the mode, and the rhythm of our interventions depend on the structure of physiological time.
Our temporal dimension extends chiefly during childhood, when functional processes are most active. Then, organs and mind are plastic. Their formation can effectively be aided. As organic events happen each day in great numbers, their glowing mass can receive such shape as it seems proper to impress permanently upon the individual. The molding of the organism according to a selected pattern must take into account the nature of duration, the constitution of our temporal dimension. Our interventions have to be made in the cadence of inner time. (Emphasis by the Authors.) People are like a viscous liquid flowing into the physical continuum.
They cannot instantaneously change their direction. We should not endeavor to modify a person’s mental and structural form by rough procedures, as one shapes a statue of marble by blows of the hammer. Surgical operations alone produce in tissues sudden alterations which are “beneficial,” but recovery from the quick work of the knife is slow. No profound changes of the body as a whole can be obtained rapidly. Our action must blend with the physiological processes, substratum of inner time, by following their own rhythm … Our interventions in the building up of body and consciousness have their full effects only when they conform to the laws of our duration.
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A child may be compared to a brook, which follows any change in its bed. The brook persists in its identity, in spite of the diversity of its forms. It may become a lake or a torrent. Under the influence of environment, personality may spread and become very thin, or concentrate and acquire great strength. The growth of personality involves a constant trimming of our self. At the beginning of life, a person is endowed with vast potentialities. People are limited in development only by the extensible frontiers of ancestral predispositions.
But at each instant a choice must be made. And each choice throws into nothingness one of their potentialities. They have, of necessity, to select one of the several roads open to the wanderings of existence, to the exclusion of all others. Thus, they deprive themselves of seeing the countries wherein they could have traveled along the other roads. In our infancy we carry within ourselves numerous potential beings, who die one by one. In our old age, we are surrounded by an escort of those we could have been, of all our aborted potentialities.
Every human being is like a fluid that becomes solid, or a history in the making, or a personality that is being created. And our progress, or our disintegration, depends on physical, chemical, and physiological factors, on viruses and bacteria, on psychological influences, and, finally, on our own will. We are constantly being made by our environment and by our self. And duration is the very material of organic and mental life, as it means “invention, creation of forms, continual elaboration of the absolutely new.” (Quoted from Creative Evolution by Henri Bergson, Henry Holt and Co., Inc.)