Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wrinkle in Time

Here we are again at the point in the calendar where "Daylight Savings Time" requires most of the United States to recalibrate clocks. The whole concept of "Saving Time" truly baffles me. Having grown up in Arizona where there is no such thing, I've had to learn to adapt to the custom of Daylight Savings Time as an adult. So in some respects, I'm like a person who learned English as a second language later in life. No matter how fluent I get, I still have to translate time in my head every time we shift seasons. It just plain feels foreign to me. I mean really, just what was Benjamin Franklin thinking when he came up with this hair brained idea?

If you care at all about the origin of this practice, you can read more about Franklin's first notions for "saving time" in his essay "An Economical Project." HERE.

Initially I was unaware that the practice of changing clocks twice a year takes place in several countries. So, it's not just some crazy American notion to increase recreation and save electricity. Still, no matter how many people buy into this, I still find it rather silly. Every Spring and Fall I rant and rave about the practice. For days, sometimes weeks, after we switch I find myself translating time in my head...saying "ok, it's 4:00PM right now by this fake time, but the REAL time is actually..."

It's really pretty ludicrous that I balk at changing from "real" time to "false" time. Cutting up the flow of moments into 60 second minutes and 60 minute hours is completely arbitrary to begin with.

In pondering the whole notion of time, it occurs to me that while we may use the expression of "saving time", there really is no way to bank moments of our lives. We each have the same 24 hrs in every day that was allocated to Christopher Columbus, St. Barsanuphius, Michelangelo, Madame Curie, Frank Zappa, Florence Nightingale, Jack the Ripper, or Coco the Clown. How we each choose to spend that time is up to us. Whether it is in light or dark, we each choose moment by moment what meaning we give to the minutes we get. We choose whether we will spend it in "quiet desperation" or mundane pursuit, whether we will search for spiritual growth or squander it in hedonistic revelry.

Sometimes when I review how I'm using my own time, I feel altogether too much like those hamsters you see going round and round and round in that little exercise circle, being awfully darned busy but not really getting anywhere.

I've often heard the expression: "time is money". Alas, these are very different sorts of resources. If I run out of money, I can work hard and go get more. But once I run out of time, it's just plain gone. Every now and then I will find some cash I've left in a pocket, book or drawer that I had forgotten about. Coming across that found money always seems like a bonus. But I've never once opened a drawer or reached my hand into a coat pocket to find a spare half hour I'd tucked away for later. Granted, sometimes my schedule may free up some time from one expected obligation or another to give me increased choices of how I will spend my minutes, giving the illusion of some "found" time. But that's just changing how I use my minutes. I only get what I get. There is no more hiding around the corner. Unlike video games and pinball, no matter how many points I wrack up, I can't earn another go.

So I'm thinking about my time and how I'm spending it. These days instead of looking at what I am accomplishing, acquiring, or how many grand achievements I can tally up on my totem pole, I'm measuring my success in a very different fashion from when I was younger. What am I passionate about? What am I grateful for? How can I make myself more aware of both more often throughout the day? THAT, in my mind, is using my time well.

I went through a phase for a while where my mantra was to "live life by design rather than default." While I still think it is a good ideas to make mindful choices, the older I get the less I expect to be fully in control of my life. Instead, these days I seek to appreciate the time I have on this planet instead of always trying to craft it into whatever vision I may have for what is "best".

So now when I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by my obligations or limited by my circumstances, I try to interrupt that pattern and pay more attention to the blessings that are all too easy to overlook. While Light and Dark may shift from spring to fall, and back serves me well to remember that every minute of my life is precious no matter what the season or the light. It makes sense to live as many of those minutes in gratitude as I can muster, no matter what "time" the sun may set. After all, there are no guarantees how many minutes we get.

For now, I think I'll go curl up with the book "Einstein's Dreams" by Alan Lightman and lose myself in notions of the fluidity of time for a while…..

(NOTE: I originally wrote the a while back on my other blog, but I keep pulling it back out and tweaking a few words each time we shift again. It serves me well to remind myself how precious time really is.)

1 comment:

Melonsquirtz said...

You don't have day light savings in Arizona? Or it just doesn't get darker any sooner?

I like the way you feel about time. Although I do think that it is important to break time down for measuring purposes and communication. Not on a business level, but more for science. I love science and study it daily. Physiology especially. Time plays a very important role when we are discussing cell communication.

Although time for a cell is much faster than it is for us. Two milliseconds is consitered a very long time to a cell. I find that very interesting. Here we are, a big pile of cells that communicate with one another at a very fast rate, but our consciousness has no way of percieving that rate, but that is what we are made of.

Anyway, I admire your pondering. Very much like my own, except lately science has altered it slightly. But never fear, it is a great new twist.

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