Wednesday, August 22, 2012

...thoughts on time and why it isn’t in a bottle

I don’t like the idea of a unitary subject; 
I prefer the play kaleidoscope: 
you give it a tap and the little bits of colored glass form a new pattern.
Roland Barthes, The Grain of the Voice

Oh, my friends of all shapes and colors, my partners in a kaleidoscopic dance, I am still immersed in Ellen J. Langer’s book, Mindfulness. Today’s musing: TIME.  Ms. Langer writes: “Actually, certainty with respect to the meaning of time seems absurd. [It] has been viewed as linear, cyclical, one-dimensional.” And that only accounts for the dimensions we recognize. 

I’m aware of time’s passage. It is carved on my face and hangs in aging muscles. But the concept of time escapes me. I am in good company, though, because really intelligent people have struggled with this man-made construct.

Langer cites several examples. Kant, for instance, viewed time as a means of organizing perception. Then there’s St. Augustine’s more esoteric take: “The present, therefore, has several dimensions...the present of things past, the present of things present, and the present of things future.” The physicist, Ernst Mach, said, “It is utterly beyond our power to measure things in time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction, at which we arrive by means of the change of things.” Thanks, Ernst, for reminding me of the wrinkle/chin-fall thing.

I have a degree in fine arts that, on first glance, seems to have been only remotely tangential to my day jobs. Not true. I am a visual learner, a visual processor. Alfred North Whitehead defined art as “the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.” I see patterns. This has served me well in design, writing, and mathematics; when organizing my home and when organizing data. 

The file system that is my mind is neither linear nor hierarchal. Instead, picture a tall stack of papers, each containing some fact, some truth, some observation, perhaps a memory or a picture.  A comment triggers a thought and I begin to pull - randomly, it would appear - papers from the stack. Perhaps random is right. I think my methodology may well be the offspring of a weird marriage of chance and chaos theory. 

I've long collected quotes that resonate with my quest du jour and have learned much from wise, well-spoken people. But the day arrived when I knew I had to find my own voice, my own words: the truth of my life is unique to my experience and no one else can mine (or find) this mother’s lode/load.

I am passionate about each of us telling our stories. An ancient tradition found across cultures and belief systems, parables are vessels of essential truths, not spreadsheets of data that can be manipulated. I have no material legacy to speak of but I do have a story. One that is revised with each new experience. Not edited for suitability but inclusive and honest. As honest as subjectivity allows...even this is a journey. 

I hope you treasure your journey. Every step of it. Feeling blessed at the moment? I urge you to pause. That feeling may mean nothing more than things are currently falling butter side up. The seed of blessing is found in every moment. Blessing is defined in the Wictionary as the infusion of something with holiness (wholeness) and spiritual redemption (the removal of selfish desire)". Moments I would've preferred to avoid have brought great blessings. Usually, the greatest. [Does anyone else hear Mr. Garth Brooks singing “The Dance” and “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers” at the moment? Oh, well. To each, her own.]

Not given to giving advice, I am about to do just this: learn your story and begin to tell it: in a journal...on a photographs or song. I gave up worrying about results for Lent a few years ago and have not only been happier but more productive. A results-oriented approach lobs killer questions. “What if I fail?” (Like doing absolutely nothing wouldn’t be a failure in itself?) Or “What if I look like an idiot?”  Been there, done that and...

...survived to tell the story.

I’ve bought into process orientation: “How do I do it?” 

How will you? Trust me. The journey is rewarding. 

Jim Croce, I miss you but I'm tickled pink to have your music: your story. As far as that "time in a bottle thing" goes, you said "if" for a reason. We can't shove minutes and hours into a glass jar.  I propose to watch the clock less, break all the bottles and make a really beautiful mosaic. But, then, I'm an art major.


GretchenJoanna said...

I admit that time is hard to think about objectively, as we are so immersed in it. But as for it being a man-made construct -- do you mean it's something we make up? Time is real, and it's something God put us in, so it's good, too. Like your stories, and process, and journey. I'm glad to be on the journey with you, fellow pilgrim.

Celeste said...

I believe that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. In that way I would agree that this physical experience is real just as I believe eternity is real...if beyond my understanding. I treasure the sunrises, the sunsets and all the moments in between. And pray that I not waste too many. But time, as a measurement, is much like language. I struggle because I think words and clocks deal largely with what we experience, with one dimension. I've had moments - rare ones - when I sensed St. Augustine's dimensions. For now, I agree with you that this precious life is gift. Love you. Thank you for being part of this journey.

Celeste said...

Dear Gretchen Joanna, I thought of a piece I'd read recently about C.S. Lewis. The author wrote that the word "invent" comes from the Latin word for "find". I am, admittedly, a word wonk, a language geek. You've stirred my thoughts.

Charles Van Gorkom said...

I love your word wonkination, I'm inspired by your language geekability! Your civility blesses my circles as well--and it's a good day when the toast lands butter side up!

Celeste said...

It's a good day when I hear from friends. Thanks!