“Time flies”, people say. “I just can’t find the time”, some lament. “Time is on our side”, sing The Rolling Stones. To me, time is elusive. I have not been successful at stopping its passing. Nor have I been able to understand its presence. “Where does the time go?” We live. We play. We learn and love. We give. We share. We lose sometimes, and, yes…we die.
I have come to consider my life so far, not in the context of time. Time is too abstract to define it in decades, years, months, days, and minutes. Time is elusive.
One of my son-in-laws recently left his job as a professional musician to pursue further education in the field of watch making! “Really?” I responded when he first told me his plans. “Are you sure?”
“How unusual a pursuit”, I thought, and also “How backward of a career choice is this?” Most people don’t even wear watches anymore! Many people I know don’t ever really care what time it is! They prefer to function using natural cycles, eating when they’re hungry, sleeping when they’re tired, working from home into the wee hours of the night, while carrying on daily responsibilities (carpooling, laundry, meal making, etc.). Business in our expanded world allows for international communication and co-ordinating time zones must be accommodated. That even means that sometimes we might be communicating with people on a different day from our own! Even broadcasts can be accessed at any time we choose, defying the regular scheduling of programmes on radio and television.
And yet… we still need awareness of time for making dinner reservations at our favourite restaurant, or watching hockey while the game is actually being played and before knowing the final score. If you intend to make your flight, you’d better make sure you get to the airport on time! And there’s nothing worse than getting to the movie theatre too late to see the coming attractions! No one likes to walk down the marital aisle with the bride (unless you’re the groom), so it’s important to get to your seat in time. Watches do actually, come in handy!
On reflection, and in conversation with my son-in-law, I have realized the incredibly complex construction of a clock. In creating a timepiece, the angles of every wheel require precision and exactness to move accurately so the time displayed always reflects the correct time. Each angle, each connecting part necessitates ultimate accuracy. Every clock must move simultaneously regardless of the size of its parts, so that ‘time’ remains exact for each one. Time passes essentially, as the wheels within the clock turn. The movement is a reflection of that passing. Time passes, whether we measure it that way or not.
I have come to be comfortable reflecting on my life, so far, in the context of segments. I think of a bookshelf. On the far left is a beautiful solid simple bookend. I view that bookend as my ‘life before children’. For me, that was early on in my chronological years. By the time I was 21 I had two undergraduate degrees, a teaching certificate and two children. The next 39 years fills up the bookshelf, with a wide array of books. During these years my emphasis was on family, career, adventure, play, developing important relationships, and making sense of and fulfilling my dreams in life. The right side of the bookshelf is the second bookend that solidly holds the contents together. It looks the same as the one on the right, because, actually, I am still the person I was even 60 years ago. But now, there is substance that needs supporting and accumulated experiences and memories that require containment and continuity. The second bookend helps me to consider closure and promotes meaning and character for my life. I cannot count the years I have to live. They cannot be counted… not now and probably not ever. No watch can help me understand mortality or that passage of time. All that matters today is right now! And I don’t need a watch to understand what that means. I have all the time I need for that!