Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Just Taking My Time

I'm late. I tried to post this note on the first Monday of the month. But this month that Monday happened to fall on my birthday. My 50th to boot! So pardon the delay. I promised the dogs and myself a walk in the woods along Hopkins Creek. And after my friend Corey brought her rowdy crew over for a little birthday celebration, that's exactly what we did. I reflected a lot and “Time” kept coming up for me. No surprise there, I suppose. A “milestone” birthday and a walk in the woods will do that to you.

One of the wonderful things about our retreat in the Virgin Islands last November was the pace of island life. Schedules were very loose. Things started and ended on time only if you were willing to give up your understanding of what “on time” meant. I noticed this first when I landed in San Juan and I needed to catch my “puddle jumper” flight to St. Thomas. That flight was scheduled for 4:30. We finally took off about 6:00. There were no emergencies, no equipment failures. It was just that 4:30 apparently meant any time between 5:00 and 6:00. What surprised me was that it didn't take me long to embrace “island time.” It was much more difficult to come back to schedules.

Michael Flaherty, author of “A Watched Pot: How We Experience Time” says we're pretty good at speeding up time. What we're not so good at, he says, is slowing down time. This, because it requires some self-indulgence. He says other cultures and societies, like the Virgin Islands I'm sure, are much better at this. So I'm discovering that with just a little self-indulgence, the emphasis shifts from time to timelessness. Nagging feelings of having to get somewhere or accomplish something simply disappear.

Todd Rakoff, Author of "A Time for Every Purpose: Law and The Balance of Time" distinguishes between two kinds of time, natural time and social time. Natural time he defines as events like the sun setting and rising or the moon going through a complete phase from new moon to full moon. Social time he says is events like a work week, a lunch hour, family dinner hour, etc. Rakoff says that societies shape time so they can coordinate what people do. And so for most of us who say, “There's just not enough time,” our problem is probably less about a lack of time and more about coordination of the time we have. For example, you may easily have an hour in your day to eat dinner with your family. This is probably also true for all your family members. A problem only arises when an attempt is made to find that one hour that works for everyone (coordination). So “having enough time” is really a collective social problem, not a personal problem. This insight may not be a solution, but it certainly is helpful for me to know it's not personal!

Most of you know I don't make New Year's resolutions. But I'm willing to try a “half-century” one. I'm stepping into timelessness at least once each day! Here are the reminders that we (the dogs and I) came up with on our walk.
  • Doing nothing or something I love, even if it benefits no one but me, is productive.
  • Natural time rules! Sunrises, sunsets, moon phases, seasons and my body's urge to rest or for nutrition will get more of my attention.
  • Take a look at each event and determine if it really is necessary to coordinate others and their time. If so, do it with minimum impact. If not, let it go!

My dogs are so smart, don't you think!?

"There is no time like the pleasant." ~George Bergman
"What is this life if, so full of care, We have no time to stand and stare." ~W. H. Davies

"Time--our youth--it never really goes, does it? It is all held in our minds." ~Helen Hoover Santmyer

"We need time to dream, time to remember, and time to reach the infinite. Time to be." ~Gladys Taber

"May you stay forever young," ~Bob Dylan

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