Common time

Habits and conventions, once formed, tend to sink beneath our notice. We are primed to notice the unusual, the uncommon, the exceptional; we look for the un- or super-natural rather than the natural. What is common to all experience is the deepest component of the phaneron, but the most difficult to attend to. It takes a communal effort to construct a context in which our language (or any symbol system) can refer to it at all. In more ordinary circumstances we have to approach it indirectly, by creating sudden openings in the bubbles whose surfaces furnish the ground of our awareness. Such mindquakes, momentarily at least, reveal the bubbles as impermanent. Indeed impermanence is the very presence of the bubble, the continuity of time.

As a social being, the inhabitation of your time is the interhabitation of our time, communal time.


The geographic equivalent of Peirce’s commens is the commons, which is as essential to the well-being of a geographical community as the commens is to communication (Hess and Ostrom 2007).

The collective, communal belief system is organized by and for what we call common sense. But this consensus-building (or rebuilding) process depends crucially on the self-controlled efforts of community members: hence the dynamic tension between individual and communal belief systems.

The circumstance that each person is defined by and identified with a specific locus in a network of relations guarantees that selfishness is self-defeating. On the other hand, too much conformity to laws or patterns of behavior that ignore the specific circumstances of that locus can defeat (or at least anesthetize) the community guided or constituted by those laws.

The sacred tree

Black Elk
Black Elk
Heraclitus complained that although the Logos is common, the many live as though they had a private understanding. This has its counterpart in a scene from the vision of the Oglala Lakota prophet Black Elk: ‘all the animals and fowls that were the people ran here and there, for each one seemed to have his own little vision that he followed and his own rules; and all over the universe I could hear the winds at war like wild beasts fighting’ (Neihardt 1932, 29). Meanwhile the sacred tree at the center of the nation’s hoop had disappeared from the vision.