Thursday, January 05, 2006

Time Standing Still

This last round of vacations left me with several notes about busy-ness. Everyone I knew seemed to be in a race against the clock. Most of the time, this was more at a subconscious or even unconscious level than deliberate, hurrying up. For myself, as an example, it was a morning when I became faintly aware of the alarm clock's grating buzz. Unfortunatley, I was utterly unable to respond to it. Finally coming awake and into full consciousness, I felt a momentary grip of panic as I realized how late it was and how much I still had to do.

Mornings like that one can be disconcerting and disturbing, because of what inevitably happens. My attention gets fixated on the activities and the doing, rather than the moments that precede it. I stop enjoying the experience of dining and conversation, I don't actually relish the smiles of those around me. I don't remember why I'm running around in the first place. The danger perceived in these moments is that I have somehow lost time. As I pondered, this I was reminded of the theologian Donald Nicholl who stated it simply: "You don't notice the small things if you are moving fast. Suppose the person you most love is in a railroad station and you are looking for one another. If she stands still and you pass through the station at 100 miles per hour, you will not find each other."

When I find myself moving too quickly, I miss the subtle moments of surprise and grace that are always present. These are the moments that often go unnoticed. I don't want my days off to become hurried times where I ungraciously attempt to snatch a quick glance at a newspaper before launching into the seemingly endless errands and responsibilities of daily life that have been put on hold the rest of the year. Time is one of the most challenging aspects of becoming simple because we are so helpless to change time itself. Invariably we move in only two directions. Either we move quickly trying to make more of the time we do have, or we limit what we will do to savor the time and make it last. Both are distortions of the truth. Neither approach will make our lives more meaningful. Doing more and quickly means we cease to live fully with deliberate attention. Doing less and slowly means we become so focused on time that we miss out on life and legacy.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. - Matthew 6:34
So how do I school myself to live in the present? It starts with the following questions:
  • If you had a day all to yourself, with no responsibilities, how would you spend it?
  • If you had an unlimited amount of time, with whom would you spend it?
  • If you were put into a magical time machine, and when you stepped out time would stop for one year, what would you do with that extra year of life?
  • When you see God face to face, what will you want to say about how you spent the time you were given?
Of course, that's just me. And after all, I lead a semi-charmed life.

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