Monday, April 22, 2013

Time Keeps on Slipping . . . Slipping . . . Slipping . . .

Try to imagine a life without timekeeping.  You probably can't.  You know the month, the year, the day of the week.  There's a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car.  You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie.  Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored.  Birds are not late.  A dog does not check it's watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays.  Man alone measures time.  Man alone chimes the hour.  And because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures.  A fear of time running out.

The Time Keeper weaves together three perspectives on time:  A young girl who thinks life stretches on too long; an old man who thinks his time is too short; and Father Time - the first man to count the hours and minutes.  I didn't find the story particularly engrossing, but the occasional flashes of insight into how we view and measure time made it worth reading.  

Those of you in my age range may remember when digital clocks first came out.  I remember buying Dave a digital watch in 1976 - it was the newest thing.  Not long after we were married, I remember disagreeing on what time something had happened, "It was 2:17."  "No, it was 2:21."  A lady who overheard us commented on how digital clocks had changed how we see time - making us argue over minutes and seconds.  That comment has stuck in my head for thirty years.  
Every generation ... was determined to...count ever more precisely the measure of their lives.  Sundials were placed in doorways,.  Giant water clocks were constructed in city squares.  The move to mechanical designs...led to tower clocks and grandfather clocks and eventually clocks that fit on a shelf.  Then a French mathematician tied a string to a timepiece, tied it around his wrist and man began to wear time on his body.  Accuracy improved at a startling rate.  Although it took until the 16th century for the minute hand to be invented, by the 17th century, the pendulum clock was accurate to within a minute a day.  Less than 100 years later it was within a second.  Time became an industry. Man divided the world into zones so that transportation could be accurately scheduled...People awoke to clanging alarms.  Businesses adhered to "hours of operation".  Every factory had a whistle.  Every classroom had a clock.  "What time is it?" became one of the world's most common questions.
We punch time clocks, which makes us watch minutes and seconds. I know precisely how long it takes to drive from our house to work, and usually gauge my arrival to within three  minutes of 8:00.  If I catch one too many red lights, you'll find me at my desk - still dressed for winter weather - getting clocked in before I waste the few seconds it takes to remove coat and gloves.  Microwaves have us measuring cooking time in seconds.  In the sports world, winners and losers are divided by thousandths of a second.  Super speed cameras are required to determine who leaned across the line first.  
Soon man will count all his days, and then smaller segments of the day, and then smaller still, until the counting consumes him, and the wonder of the world he has been given is lost. 
He explained how, once we began to chime the hour, we lost the ability to be satisfied. There was always a quest for more minutes, more hours, more progress to accomplish more in each day.  The simple pleasure of living between sunrises was gone.
Over the weekend, I spent a couple hours looking at family photos with my dad - photos of my grandpa loading hay on a horse-drawn wagon; Dad playing in the yard by the cistern used to collect rain water; the frequent family gatherings to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or "just because".  Even though they didn't have the modern conveniences we take for granted - the pace seemed slower.  My grandmother's days were filled with chores that I can now accomplish in half the time, yet I envy her life.
Dor came from a time before the written word, a time when if you wanted to speak with someone, you walked to see them.  This time was different.  The tools of this era - phones, computers - allowed people to move at a blurring pace.  Yet despite all they accomplished, they were never at peace.  (p. 143)
Transportation became easier, as did long-distance communication . . . then we got personal computers . . . and smart phones . . . and we have a nation that is focused on time.  How much of your day did you spend worrying or complaining about having so much to do and so little time . . . or listening to someone else lament their overloaded schedule?   We hurry through our days, stuffing in too many activities.  We no longer write letters - we email or text or Tweet or Snapchat or whatever is the newest, fastest way to reach people.   We feel rushed and pressured and overwhelmed!
As mankind grew obsessed with its hours, the sorrow of lost time became a permanent hole in the human heart.  People fretted over missed chances, over inefficient days; they worried constantly about how long they would live, because counting life's moments led, inevitably, to counting them down. 
Since moving to Green Acres two years ago, I have found a new fondness of slowing down - making time to enjoy quiet. . . stillness . . . to listen. . . to focus on what is around me - in nature, in the words (spoken and unspoken) of my family. . . in  scripture.  
"You marked the minutes," the old man said, "but did you use them wisely?  To be still? To cherish?  To be grateful?  To lift and be lifted?" 

I admit, it's easier to find that focus without children at home, and only working part-time.  But this book inspired me to stop counting the seconds and minutes - at least as much as possible.   Enjoy each day because they are limited.
With endless time, nothing is special.  There is a reason God numbers our days. . . To make each one precious. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an interesting book - I too can be guilty of trying to schedule each minute of a day to get things done - and watching the clock - Nothing is better than slowing it down and that definitely has become easier in this time of our life.