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Why don't we talk more about how strange time is?
The first time I tripped out on time, I was a young girl sitting on a piano bench impatient to visit my grandmother. It dawned on me that in a blink of an eye the visit would be over and I would once again be sitting on this piano bench. How strange it was to be so impatient for something that would soon be a memory.
Time's distance confused me. Was my visit to my grandmother in a wide stretch of time, like that of the distance between California and Colorado, or a skip-length blip nearly already sealed shut in a past we can never visit? Paradoxically it seemed to be both. I pressed anxiously on the edges of the moment, wanting to hurry it forward and also perform some sort of magic taxidermy to make it last forever.
Decades later it still strikes me as odd that we seem to take time for granted. We never talk about how weird it is that seemingly just a moment ago we were in grade school, fidgeting and watching the clock tick down the minutes 'til recess. Pop songs crow on about love and lust, only a few remarking on time’s strangeness: “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’… into the future.”
Perhaps if we did talk more about time's passing, we might be better equipped to treat each moment with the reverent care and presence.
Maybe the issue is that talking about time requires, at least subconsciously, acknowledging what happens when our time runs out: that if we keep following time's river, we arrive at the moment of our deaths.
Also alarming: we can walk from here to there but we cannot make it tomorrow any sooner than tomorrow wishes to arrive. We are but cattle caged helplessly in temporal place.
In Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman discusses the origin of our compulsion to avoid the present so that we may always live in preparation for some more ideal future:
“We recoil from the notion that this is it—this is life—with all its flaws and inescapable vulnerabilities, its extreme brevity and our limited influence over how it unfolds.
Instead we mentally fight against the way things are so that we don't have to consciously feel claustrophobic, imprisoned, powerless, and constrained by reality." (paraphrased)
Or perhaps we resist being in the present or discussing time simply because we have gotten used to it and its constraints, just as we don't bemoan gravity's weight or plead with the sun to stay up an hour longer.
Whatever the case, I believe the only suitable response to time's ineffable fleetingness is this:
To spend our moments in a way that is true to ourselves and our values, and be present enough in those moments that we feel satisfied.
Perhaps this is 'time yoga.' And like with any other practice, there's no resolution or perfection—simply an ongoing effort to strive to be mindful of our moments; honoring them with appreciative presence and careful use.
Seneca calls to us from a wide and forgotten distance of 2000 years to advise:
"Everyone hurries his life on and suffers from a yearning for the future and a weariness of the present. But he who bestows all of his time on his own needs, who plans out every day as if it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the morrow."
May you cherish this moment. May you use your time for your deepest wishes. May time’s passing bring you contentment. 💜
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