Time. Of all the intangibles made tangible by human definition out there, time is one that eludes me the most. It’s no news to anyone that time has an inexplicable tendency to speed up when we most wish to savor it, and it drags on in periods of drudgery or restless waiting.
I know in my life, I also have a tendency to make time something of an idol. Too often, I view it as something that I can possess, something that is rightfully mine, and I find myself irritated or impatient when something unexpected makes demands of “my time.” We’ve all heard the sayings – don’t take anything for granted, carpe diem, live each day like it may be your last, and on and on. As much as I believe those admonishments on a superficial level, I don’t think that I’ve yet managed to really internalize them.
I don’t savor the little moments in life near as often as I should. I don’t always give freely of myself without first calculating the cost, the time that will be “lost.” I live from deadline to deadline. I waste the present moment by scheming how to make “more time” for something in the future. In fact, so much of “my time” in a given day is spent either reliving the past or worrying about the future, and I know that I am far from alone in that tendency.
I am trying to move away from this overly possessive attitude toward time because, firstly, it tricks me into clinging to something that was never mine to begin with, and secondly, because it invites me to further blockade myself into my own little world. Rather than being fully open to accept the surprises, gifts, relationships, and invitations to service of the present moment, I’m more concerned with just checking off another item on my to-do list in a manner that takes up the least amount of my time as possible so that I can get onto whatever it is that I would rather be doing with my time.
St. Augustine has some interesting writings out there on the concept of time, and perhaps I’ll challenge myself to pick some of those up in the next few weeks. I know that he wrote on the concept of the “eternal now” – and without knowing too many of the details, I think that’s the sort of relationship with time that I’m going for. I’ve also begun reading a book called the Music of Silence, which traces the concept of time in relation to the Catholic tradition of the Divine Office and monasticism. I am not very far into it, but it’s proving to be a very thought-provoking and prayerful read.
I want to close with a quote from it that gave me pause when I came across it. So much so that I just sat with the page for a few moments to allow it to really sink it. For me, it served as a summons to reconsider how interact with “time;” perhaps it can do the same for someone else out there as well.
As a monk, ideally speaking, you always know what you are supposed to do at a given time. The moment when a bell rings for an activity, you drop whatever you have in your hands and turn to this new activity in readiness and responsiveness: because that hour is like an angel who calls to you and challenges you and wants your response at that moment. Even though this is made easier in the monastery, the attitude behind it is something that people in any walk of life can attempt to realize. And, to the extent to which they realize it, it will make them happy.