Tuesday, August 3, 2010


We are a culture obsessed with time. When, how old, wake up, go to sleep, deadlines, schedules, weekdays, weekends, paydays, due dates, deathbeds. Wear a watch, set the alarm, hurry, hurry, don't be late! Ticking and tocking and chiming and tolling. Past and future are always in our thoughts, but what about the present? How can we even live for our futures if we don't pay attention to the now?

We worship time unintentionally. We hang or place shrines to it in nearly every room in our homes, wear its symbolic representation on our wrists, watch its long arms tick ever so slowly toward the end of another workday. Its cry wakes us in the morning, and we are sure to reset it before bed at night. We become slaves to its whims, doing the same tasks at the same time every day as we cross off dates and months and years one by one by one. We lose the small moments as it pushes us into the future. We cannot escape its unyielding wrath or its ultimate plan for us. Time has become our master, and we its slaves.

Time deities are widespread in world mythology. Chronos, Father Time, the Fates, Kairos, the Norns, Kan-Laon, Huh, Vertumnus, Geras, Mundilfari, Manu, Death. Whatever it is called, it is the beginning, middle, and end of our lives, a pervasive presence we cannot escape. Some cultures are far more hurried than others, but all spend energy fighting time. There are miracle cures and fountains of youth, life support and life-long restrictions of diet, sex, and happiness, all with the intention of extending the reach of an individual's time. Immortality is too often sought through extending one's own life unnaturally instead of through leaving a legacy for the future.

Slow down. Breathe, just take in a long, deep breath and absorb your surroundings. Watch a spider build a web, watch your children play, watch the washer complete a cycle. Mesmerizing, isn't it? The present is where everything happens, but we are often far to worried about what comes next to take any of it in. We lose our own childhoods dreaming of the future and lose our children's to deadlines and over-scheduling. Suddenly, our children are grown, we are old, and the future holds only the promise of an end.

I am not saying forsake all duties and scheduling, but take some time each day and just savor the moment. Discover something small and beautiful. Spend time with those you love. If you don't at least once in a while, you'll find all of sudden that you are at the end of your time and full of regret over what could have been. Recognize that the smallest moments are often the most meaningful. Do the things you always wanted to do today instead of procrastinating further, for you never know which day is your last. You never know when Time will come to claim you, so spend every day eliminating potential regrets.

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