Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Time & Imprudence

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
 creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
 to the last syllable of recorded time;
 And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
 the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
 Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
 that struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
 And then is heard no more. It is a tale
 told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.” -Macbeth

I am fascinated with time, aren’t you?

Is our time out of joint?

Or is our reference out of frame?

One wonders about time. It is a commodity in short supply. In a blink of an eye the world changes. We don’t see it change, but change it does. The infant you hold in your arms today is walking to school tomorrow and driving the scary red convertible the next day. The tree across the field grows taller and then one day is gone replaced by some form of concrete, or maybe a sapling. The progress through time comes with regress in our thoughts. We miss the past and bemoan the transit. We huddle and muddle and juggle to extract the nectar from within the fruit that dries up as we reach. We laugh away tears and cry out in laughter. All the while, time ticks away the moments into memories. It has a directional flow to it. Such is the linearity of this fickle ghost, like the flight of an arrow, it is drawn, stretching the sinews of life’s bow, with intrepid force and penetrating might, it flies, never relenting and never doubtful until it reaches its mark. And with that it draws to the end.

Remember Mr. Henry Belville of London. Back in the days of 1836 he became the first “time-carrier.” He carried a large chronometer made by the greatest clockmaker in the day, for King George IV’s younger brother. Large as a ”warming-pan,’ he carried it on foot and by rail to divest the information of time to banks, Firms and other wealthy individuals who needed the information for status up-keeping. He changed his name to John Henry later to hide his French origins. After his passing his widow, Maria, carried the mantle of the Greenwich Time and then Ruth their daughter. Finally in 1939 the “time-carriage” ended with the advent of other means of quicker (electrical) transmission. Thus was born this distraction of haste in the echo chambers of the restless human soul, by this most nebulous and fleeting of commodities.
Maria Belville

If you wanted to delve into more ancient play in this mud-filled playground of esoteric remembrances, you would see the 13th Century water clocks designed by Ibn al-Razzaz al Jazari

 and a hundred years stretch later, in the 14th century the first clock-tower erected in the city of Milan, Italy to mark the passage of the hour. From then on humans have been planning their lives carefully, with an assortment of sundials and jeweled timepieces that reflect their station in life, into the quiet slumber of their grave.

I remember a taxi ride in Manhattan, NY once. There was a predictable delay on 40th street as we snaked our way around to get to a Broadway show. Oh yes and I did not want to miss the beginning, I was told, when the humongous chandelier comes crashing down. The second sweep on my watch seemed in a flight of hurry, ticking its way, forcing the minute hand closer and closer to the XII mark. My foot was pressing the invisible accelerator in the backseat urging the taxi to lurch and jump past the car “parking-lot” ahead. It was not to be. That extra reach for a scarf, the misplaced keys to my car, the hurried phone call to the restaurant for reservation and all other unnecessary things that torch the “now” into the past had overtaken and cluttered the mind-space. No, it was predestined and not to be.

And here we are, impatient that the taxi driver is humming a tune when he should be pressing the pedal to the metal, or tapping your feet so that aunt Marge would stop talking about a past that no one knows or cares. Such is the impatience of life. We rush to places that matter least, away from the heart of where contentment lies. We run to jump the highest hurdles, we drive a little faster to get nowhere and wish for the sun to come up or the moon to rise while “tick” in its inexorable advance “tocks.” Is impatience a vice then? Maybe or maybe not, for it is the unreasonable person who shakes the world and it is that impatience with inefficiency, which drives the gears of industry and innovation. So maybe it is imprudence and not impatience that drives us to tailgate, honk behind the other car, throw fits of rage at strangers, throw tennis racquets on the ground and even bend golf clubs in sheer disgust, then.  We want things done yesterday. Considering, that is even possible, we expect perfection when flaws drive the subterranean flow of life’s very existence. Strange, don’t you think, this dichotomy within our existence?

Oh and that little event in the hospital that I can recall, where the brother of a patient continued to interrupt the explanation of the therapy planned for his sibling, constantly interrupting, advancing the conversation to the next step, while he looked anxiously at his watch. He was asking questions but not waiting for answers to fill the space. The patient later apologized for his brother, stating that he was a “Hedge-Fund-Manager” and “his time was in short supply.” Really? Oh well, lets give the poor soul a little break from the debacles that were to face him in later years, sad, but true. Which leads me back to the question, where are we headed?

What is this dichotomous behavior that we humans have such a predilection for; speed to nothing and from nowhere. Passing the day to get to another day for what? Whence will that day just swatted away come back in the form of a bonus of survival? Never! It is gone. Done with. Over! Kaput! The moment ticked and the present has tocked out of existence, a figment only in the memory that the brain later embellishes, belittles, pleads and concedes to the higher principles of self-delusion. Yet the perfectly crafted moment where nothing is gained, except the smell of the air, the view of a field or a flower, a building, a passerby with a strange hat or the man with a briefcase standing perfectly erect at the corner of the street as a bird deposits its waste upon his hat, or a potential thought, is gone, Vaporized!

We ask, is it time, time for what? Should we move on? Move, to where? Must we wait? Ah! Maybe we should. For in that wait lies the wit and code of living. It is that moment of pause, which becomes pregnant with idea and a passing reflection, which may lead to a greater achievement.

Our impatience robs us of our comprehension. We speed and in that blur we forget to learn. Our focus stills a certain future and yet the millions of beautiful and wondrous things, sensations and ideas that embellish the present on this earth and within us are lost in that “zoom.” Creativity, clearly lacks speed, possesses capacity for comprehension and forgets the face of the clock. It bubbles under the boil of subconscious, cannot be rushed, can only brew, for the required time and warrants the idleness of patience.

It was in a carpenter’s workshop where I first encountered this thin weather-lined face, with it’s sun hardened skin, atop a lanky six foot frame. He was a master carpenter in his sixties. His shirt neatly buttoned and his thick black hair smoothed back in a two-sided symmetry. He spoke softly and his movements were ever so measured and confined to the pace of his thought that I kept stepping on his heels as he showed me around. He was slow and methodical, as he hovered over the edges of a chair-leg. He measured and re-measured before he took the burr or the saw or a nail. Watching him was like watching grass grow and yet he was the busiest carpenter in town with a sales chart that would make the CEO of a large corporation blush. He managed to do more in the ten hours of a workday then most people do in a week. He was slow and methodical, yet inventive and prodigiously productive. Time was his employee. He was its master.

I must govern the clock, not be governed by it. – Golda Meir

The joys exist all around us, yet we resort to the runaway wilderness of thought to find it. We define fun and excitement in nebulous terms and reach towards the unreachable. And then having succumbed to the despair of not reaching, we quench that despair in the elixir of mind-numbing spirits. We drive ourselves to distraction and destruction in the rush of it all. All the while for that stillness of the moment where beauty resides, is passed for “something else.”

Speaking of beauty, there was this gardener, who spent an arduous amount of time, in my opinion, weeding the flower-bed. He had white tousled hair with an Einstein sort of flare, wore overalls that were muddied at the knees and carried a collection of gardening tools hanging from every loop on his dungarees. He had a sharp set of eyes, which kept darting from flower to flower and bush to bush in hopes of comforting them from any nature induced peril. He clipped any petals that had a minor infraction of droop. The garden was immaculate, the flowers were robust, beautiful in full bloom and nary a weed to be found. His life revolved around a different perspective, the want to nurture. He was careful, he was measured in his stride and oh what a beautiful enterprise of thought, time and action he created in that slowness of action on that tiny patch of land.

We run to a place and lose sight of the beauty that abounds next to us. We seek the future and find no guarantees there. We hop on a thought without understanding the next step and we speak a word without so much as a thought to its meaning. In that speed of non-thinking the translation of life is lost. It is the present and only the present where truth, beauty and life exist and where the true nectar and essence of life reside. Time, that space has carved for itself is; still, reflective, all encompassing and bundled with the past, present and the future. For in that “Now” moment lie the immortalized truths embellished or sanitized in our hazy, lifetime of memory. After all, it is that second, that minute or the hour, which we need to craft, think, feel and live in! That is our world!

I remember the day my infant son and then my daughter’s tiny hands curled around my little finger. All was well in this world. All present haste devolves to those magical of moments for me, when in anguished thought or deep reverie where action for action’s sake forsakes the real pennant of truth. They are grown up now and my wife and I have been enriched with their blessing, yet those beautiful memories remain in that sweet locket of immortalized time.

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