Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Musings on Time

Today is more of a philosophical kind of day, and less of the practical and professional which I often discuss here.

You can always tell when things in your life are changing...because Time itself seems to bend in weird ways in your perception.  One day it seems like there is all the time in the world for a task, and the next you feel hurried about it.  It's the feeling of deadlines.  With every deadline, we hit a turning point, where time goes from slow to fast in our own minds.  If you slow down enough to breathe and notice - you can actually pinpoint it happening as it happens.  At the exact moment when suddenly time leaps forward, you know that change is both inevitable and swiftly approaching.  A good example that comes to mind is how I (and most teachers) feel about the end of the school year.  One day it seems like summer will never come, and the next day you worry how you'll ever finish everything in the small amount of time left.

Does this alteration of time perception only happen with deadlines and tasks though?  or can one feel change coming in a larger sense too?  I think we can.  Consider also the moments when the world seems to stand still.  We know that the world and time are never still - but it is a feeling.  Moments of rest...in music those moments are called cadences.  I've always liked the term.  Cadence literally means "to fall", but refer to where the music comes to a pleasing place to pause or stop entirely.  There's more to it, of course, but that's the basic idea.  The idea that you come to a place of rest on your (musical) journey by first going through periods of turbulence and unrest and "falling" into a comfortable place...I've always thought it spoke well for a larger truth in life too.

At any given moment, our perception of time alters.  When considering the state of my life as a whole, I feel this slowness of time.  Deep inside, I know that I'm being swept along in the current, that nothing is still - but I'm enjoying the temporary lack of obvious turbulence.  However, the illusion of stillness sends off a little chime in my mind, letting me know that change is coming ahead.  When considering the specifics of my life, nothing feels still at all.  I feel like I'm navigating rapids.  On any given day there are endless tasks to be cared for, and a thousand tiny deadlines screaming for my attention.  I think, that if I have a goal right now, it would be to bring that "slow" feeling into my day to day routine, and feel the leisure to enjoy every hour of the day, rather than rushing through them.

I generally start getting these thoughts when at the beach too.  When watching the waves, I am reminded that nothing remains the same from moment to moment.  That change is the truest constant, and that waiting for everything to settle down is an exercise in futility.  The time for action is now - the question is not "should I act now?" but "WHICH action should I take now?" because there are no guarantees that the future will bestow any perfect opportunities right in your lap.

Here I should mention that action doesn't mean constant busyness.  I am constantly having to relearn this lesson.  Focused intent and action does not mean remaining busy all the time.  Overcommitment is often a major problem for me, and I know that I am not alone.  We are all bound by one constraint:  Time.  No matter how we try, there are only 24 hours in the day.  We can cram all sorts of things into it, but there are still only 24 hours in each day.  So often we fail to ask if we SHOULD cram all sorts of things into a single day.  With every passing year, I come to believe ever stronger that as a society (and definitely me personally) - that we are sacrificing quality experiences for a quantity of experiences.

There really is enough time, but in order to harness it we are going to have to slow down.  We're going to need to work fewer hours and spend more time on whatever you really find inspiring.  The things that inspire you the most are the most important.  It's a compass that doesn't point you down the wrong path.  Forget what anyone else thinks is important.  If it isn't something that inspires you, then it isn't nearly as important...and for the things that are necessary but not inspiring, find a creative way around them if you can.  I personally don't find laundry inspiring, but my husband is okay with doing the laundry if I take over other things that he can't stand.  And while laundry doesn't directly inspire him either, it DOES give him time to write his book and still help around the house.  Meanwhile, I manage to find some philosophical and psychological inspiration in organizing and cleaning other areas of the house, even if it isn't a lot, and even if I don't do those things nearly as often as I should.

It's easy to say that we need to work fewer hours in order to devote more time to the truly important things, it's much harder to put it into practice.  More on that later...

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