Monday, May 23, 2011

Time has only the wings we give it

"These people are under continual disquietudes, never enjoying a minutes' peace of mind..."
-Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Part 3, chapter 2.

I think we humans are afraid of time. Maybe not afraid of time itself, but afraid of running out of it. Or afraid it will pass too quickly. Time flies, after all. Time flies when you're having fun too.

But does it really? The past few days have given me a new perspective, and I'm beginning to doubt this cliche we often accept as truth, or better yet a "fact of life." Three of the past four nights, I've spent at least thirty minutes watching the sunset. Honestly, my inability to watch it that one night was a bit bothersome. Most of the nights, I've spent closer to an hour watching the colors in the sky change. I really cannot recall the last time I truly stopped to watch the sunset. If I ever knew how long the whole process takes, I'd forgotten it due to lack of memory refreshment. But I think an hour is about a sufficient time to really take it all in. In the three days I've watched the sunset, that hour has seemed to move more slowly. The end result is that the day has seemed longer.

I don't think time flies. I think our preoccupation with other things makes us unaware of the ample time in a given day. I read two books by Dorothy Bass and Fred Edie that offered this kind of cultural critique, but it took me experiencing it to realize how right they were. When time flies, I find that I'm living my life giving the most attention to day books, calendars, wrist watches, and the rush to get to the next thing. As Edie observes in his Book, Bath, Table, and Time: we've gone from measuring time with a sundial (something connected to the natural movement of a day as we define it) to having our own wrist watches that are capable of dividing up our day into hours, minutes, and seconds. Without going into much detail (as this deserves), Edie argues that in learning to measure time so precisely and individually, humanity has removed itself from the rhythm of creation. Most of us no longer look at the position of the sun to tell the time- that's what the watch (or if you're like me, cell phone) is for.

When I pack my day full of things to do, places to be, people to see, I find myself out of rhythm with the (natural) day. I seldom notice the movement of the sun through the sky, and then wonder how it's already setting. Time doesn't fly. I'm just out of sync with the rhythm of the day. The narrator in Gulliver's Travels is describing a strange people he encounters that live much of their lives in their heads as they try to solve problems, but I think that the critique transfers easily to my life and those who subscribe to the myth that time flies because our days are too busy attending to problems/appointments/assignments. This week, I hope that you rouse yourself from a disquieted moment in order to allow yourself that moment (much longer than 60 seconds) of peace.

1 comment:

Amy Hadley said...

With just one day left in my 20's, I spent part of today startled with how fast time flies. So love these sentiments! Perfectly timed.:)