As mentioned in an earlier post, my beloved Aunt Dory, in Oslo, seems to be dying. Her daughter wrote me today to say it could be today – and certainly in the next week. It makes me wonder about our life spans. Are we born just to die? Why do we get old?
I’ve been thinking about my post “Why Can’t We Be Good?” and how I ‘waste’ so much time. Is it quantifiable (seems like)? What is ‘wasting time’?
What IS time? Is it linear, as it appears to be? My favorite quote about time comes from the ineffable Albert Einstein who wrote: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute — then it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity!” That’s so true, ya? Haven’t you had conversations in which 10 minutes seemed like ETERNITY? And conversely, anyone who has fallen crazy in love can remember nights that flew by in, oh, two seconds (what! it’s 6 am already?!).
I read a fascinating book by my favorite contemporary philosopher/writer on philosophy, Jacob Needleman (author of “Why Can’t We Be Good?”). His book on time is called “Time and the Soul: Where has all the Meaningful Time Gone and Can we Get it Back?“
I think the subtitle sort of contains a bit of the answer.
Here’s a quote from the prologue: “It is our famine, the famine of a culture that has chosen things over time, the external world over the inner world.” I could probably pick one quote a day from this book and write for a year (same thing with Sarah Susanka’s “The Not so Big Life).
Einstein was right about the relativity of time. I know that when I am fully embodied and emotionally engaged in the moment i have stepped into eternity. Oh, in the really big moments of life one expects that transcendental, liminal sense: birth, death, that crazy space of falling in love.
But it’s also present whenever we are truly engaged. Creativity, for one. Sunday I had friends coming for my women’s group. Usually I go to their turf but this time they were coming to mine and i wanted to make it nice. I spent all day Saturday cleaning (and I clean every week so this was quite extraordinary special cleaning!) but the real joy of it all came on Sunday. I wanted to make them food that reflected my renewed interest in localvorism - eating locally grown foods. I had gone to the Farmer’s market on Saturday and so on Sunday I made an amazing crustless Quiche with locally grown swiss chard, leeks, asparagus, Farmer Nick’s eggs and some cream and cheese that alas, were not local. But the point is, while I was making this Quiche I was just enthralled with life. Totally “in the zone”. I was creating. And it was good. (and so was the Quiche, by the way!)
When I interact with small children (which I do whenever possible) i am totally present.
When I meditate I OFTEN am totally present (but sometimes am antsy, distracted, mentally making lists, etc. – i.e., human).
And speaking of meditation I think that is another clue. Listen to this from page 39: “Freedom from time – the approximate term for which is ‘immortality’ – awaits you; you are made for that, but you must search and search to receive in your life the winds of this immortality, this endless presence, that are constantly being sent to man from the center of the universe.”
And that leads us, really, to mysticism, to God, to the essence of Who we are and Why we are here.
When I was about 7 years old I had my first (and one of my only) truly mystical experiences. It was spring. Warm. There was a horseshoe-shaped clump of lilac bushes in the side yard of the old farm-house my parents rented in Ft. Wayne, Indiana (around which a subdivision had sprung up in the postwar building boom). I was outside playing and I laid down in the middle of the lilacs. I felt the sun on my body and suddenly I totally and completely got it that the lilacs and the sun and the green grass upon which I was lying were all the same thing and that it was all vibrantly, excitedly joyous and made of love. I’m much older than 7 now, but I remember it vividly still.
So what is THAT time? What is it that makes the 61-year-old remember that 7 year old’s joy and be able to recall it as though it were now?
I guess that leads us to consciousness and memory, now doesn’t it. and oh what a tangled web we weave.
How is the me that was 7 and the me that is 61 and the me who will be 83 (but isn’t yet) – how are those the same?
Is time linear? My friend Julia studies precognition (she’s got a PhD from Northwestern) and she would tell you it’s not. AT least not in the way we conventionally think of it.
On page 142 Jacob Needleman has “The Great Answer”, to wit:
“What became clear, and what can become clear for all of us who are starved for time, is that the answer to the problem of time is not more time, not more efficiency, not even in itself longer biological life, not children, not artistic creations that we pretend will bring us immortality, not some sentimental relationship to imaginary gods, or non-gods. The answer to the problem and the sorrow of time is one thing and one thing only: the experience of meaning. And this experience occurs only when the Self touches the self, when the soul touches the ego. When the two worlds meet.”
As ”It’s a Beautiful Day” sang on “Time Is”
“Time is Too Slow for Those Who Wait
and Time is too Swift for Those Who fear
Time is too Long for Those who Grieve
And time is Too short for Those that Laugh
And Love is too slow for those who Wait
And Love is too Swift for Those who Fear
And Love is too Long for those who Grieve
And Love is too short for Those that Laugh
But for Those who Love
But for Those who Really Love
But for Those Who Love
Time, Sweet Time, Precious Time, Lovely Time
All the Time
Time Time Time TIme TIme TIme TIme Time Time
I’ll meet you in the lilac bushes by the side of the house and we can go explore Eternity.
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