I have always been driven by time. Movies often dramatize my feelings better than anything I can articulate. Tic tock…tick…tock…the noise can be deafening even to someone who has lost most of his normal hearing. I can feel my internal clock, ticking away the seconds of my life. During my life I have been obsessed by the passage of time. Think of how many familiar expressions fill our lexicon.
Time is running out.
In the nick of time.
It is just a matter of time.
Time on my hands.
It’s about time.
The time of your life.
Take your time.
Career moms speak of spending quality time with their children. Time is a wasting, as my dad used to say. Ecclesiastes 3 is the largest reservoir for wise statements about time. It says that there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: There is:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to morn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.
When I was young I always had too much time on my hands. The hours could not go fast enough! I wanted the time to fly faster so that I could be older…be on my own…free to marry… and have a family.
I vividly remember my eight years in grade school. I can still see the clock on the wall. The second-hand seemed to be operating in slow motion or even moving backwards. It took an hour for a few minutes to pass in my childish perception. I think time and its keepers have ruled my whole life. My mother always wanted me home at a certain hour and was anxious if I was even a minute or two late. Even as a grandfather it upsets me to be even a minute late for a show, a reservation or a doctor’s appointment. Perhaps I just did not want to miss anything.
I am like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, whose nervous refrain was I ‘m late…for a very important date. I have spent about a third of my waking hours, in offices with ten-year old magazine for company, waiting for others–doctors, and dentists, or on the street corners for friends who were often 20-45 minutes late. This provides a new twist to Bernard Shaw’s dictum, youth was wasted on the young.
Sometimes relationships do not develop because there was not enough time for them to mature. That’s why there is nothing like a movie that will really engage me so that I have no concept of time. While the movie Rat Race captures the essence of a warp speed life, my favorite expression of the nature of time…especially in the heat of battle was from Gettysburg.
In a heated discussion with his roving cavalry commander General JEB Stewart, actor Martin Sheen as General Lee said it perfectly there is no time…there is no time!!! Every time I see that movie I still cringe at Sheen’s urgency and fear of the ticking clock on not only the anticipated battle but of the war itself.
Our self-imposed consciousness of the ticking clock and its urgency raises the question of what a world without time would be like. Maybe that is why I love baseball so much because it is one of the few games that are never over until it’s over. I can sit and visit with friends or just take in the action slowly and even relax. Baseball is more attuned to the slow pace of eternity.
The best moments of my life have been off the clock…that is when I had no idea how late or how long I was occupied with friends, family or just smelling the roses. My late Uncle Al had the right idea about time. He enjoyed his retirement more than anyone I have ever known.
He had worked long and hard as an insurance adjuster for Equitable Life for many years and when he was not on the clock, he did all the wonderful things he had to deny himself for many years–he read many books, played tennis and took long vacations with his lovely wife, the Amazing Grace as he lovingly called my aunt. I will always treasure the time I spent with him when my elderly parents declined in the early 1980s. Uncle Al lived the full life until his time finally ran out.
Grace had developed Alzheimer’s before she was 70 and Al had a nervous breakdown in the nursing home due to the dark dreams of his war in the Pacific. So now as I prepare for my final time on earth, I try to look past that and prepare for an eternity without clock, watches or even sun dials.
One of the attractive features of an eternity of bliss is there is no time. Time implies deadlines, responsibilities and self-reminders that everyone’s time is running out…some faster than others. I often wonder what it may be like to just “be” and not have to worry about any of the above?
I may miss my many watches but then again I will never need them again or any of my clothes or possessions that have so tied me to a present moment that I could never really enjoy. This is true because I was always looking ahead, sometimes in fear and trepidation for the next moment in time.
I know this is a very sad and even painful admission but it is part of what has made my life and the fact that I even recognize it even now is a purifying step forward. Time has been the bane of my existence in many ways. I blame no one but the lingering fear within. I know when I die I will shed all the ties of time and all their attendant fears. I hope to use what time I have left in preparing for a world without clocks or watches.