Connections ≠ Engagement

The “3 SEC Bronze Brain” by Volker März
at Einstein Tower in Potsdam, Germany.

“The experience of continuity is based on an illusion. Continuity arises through the networking of contents, which in each case are represented in a time window of three seconds. We reconstruct temporal continuity based on what is represented in the individual islands of consciousness.”

This profound statement does not come from the mind of a spiritual mystic from ancient times, or the enlightened mind of a neosoul today. Instead, a German psychologist and neuroscientist named Ernst Pöppel wrote this after he conducted research on temporal perception and circadian rhythms in the 1960s and 70s.

This concept shows us that connections do not equal engagement. Connections are happening within and around us and stop happening within and around us so quickly that oftentimes we can barely perceive them. The difference between connections and engagement is the sustainability of the event, idea, action, thought, feeling, person, place, or thing in our lives. We can connect in an instant with another person. These connections happen all the time, flitting and flashing throughout our lives like so many lightning bugs in the night.

Engagement is altogether something different, if only because rather than simple a moment, three seconds, they happen over time. Our perception of the things we’re engaged in is vastly richer because of our exposure to them is vastly longer. This may happen in the physical moments we share with another person; the feelings instilled in a person from the exposure to something outside of them; the ideas produced and propagated in the mind; and in countless other ways.

This is the same whether we’re talking about personal engagement, community engagement, educational engagement, family engagement, or youth engagement. The difference is not whether connections are made, because connections are always made. You will know you’re engaged in something because of the sustainability of the connection.

Pöppel suggested this answer in his observation about the way our brains work. I have shown that connections ≠ engagement. In moments of connection—three seconds—we form all our relationships in the world. Without those moments our experience of time and space would be a disjointed mass of occurrences. We’d experience space and time as a blog standing at the doorway of our lives. However, whatever the value of connections is, engagement is much more important to our existence.

Learning about human engagement and consciously living in Heartspace allows us to experience the sequence of time beyond the illusion by allowing us to glimpse within and beyond our own immediate connections. We learn to see the Universe as we see ourselves, and in time the familiarity and ease makes our lives richer and more meaningful. While our brains strive to create order, our spirits and our minds want to create engagement. Heartspace and the Principle of Engagement show us how.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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