“I always have enough time.” Right? Or maybe not so much? I find this awkward enough to say let alone believe. Yet lately, when I catch myself saying just the opposite, I remind myself to affirm that I have enough time. It shifts my perspective and state of mind.
I think of time in terms of objective—measurable, quantifiable, and subjective—how it feels to me. Abstract questions of whether or not time is real, a mental construct or a fundamental aspect of nature (the fourth dimension), aren’t as interesting to me as how my thinking about it affects me.
When I realize I am running late to get together with a friend, my first thought is usually “Oh s**t!” I feel bad about breaking a commitment. I feel shame.
In this instance clock (objective) time shows me when I am, and provides the opportunity to choose how to deal with it. I could run or drive trying get there faster. I could call ahead to let the person know I am running late, with or without excuses. Yet when I have been late, it is rarely a crisis. Sometimes I even arrive before the other.
What about subjective time? That same objective ten minutes driving to my date can seem to drag out forever when I am anxiously stuck behind a slow moving car. Interestingly when I am excitedly anticipating something positive—getting together with a friend—time waiting can also feel extra long.
Then when we are together and are enjoying sharing, time seems to fly by. On the other hand, if it were to become boring, time would drag once again.
With subjective time it is easy to recognize that we perceive time according to how we are thinking and feeling. With objective time, we get to see the “facts.” I may not like paying bills on time, but knowing when they are due, gives me the freedom to pay or accept the consequences.
There is also a way of relating to time that has elements of both objectivity and subjectivity, and can be helpful especially when things are looking bleak. The assignment from a class with Rev. Kelly Isola at Unity Village last fall, was to read a passage from Charles Fillmore, Unity’s co-founder, and to watch a YouTube video of a Joanna Macy* (https://tinyurl.com/zty8m7w) talk, regarding the phrase “The Fullness of Time.” We were to write an essay about what we understood from it.
“The fullness of time,” is a biblical phrase. Fillmore writes briefly how it applies to mental healing. Macy’s talk, applies it to the sometimes-overwhelming human and environmental issues we face today. While we only actually live in the present moment, developing a longer, historical view of events adds insights, perspective and hope that can be hard to come by in that moment.
The more I look at history, the more I remember different periods in my own lifetime, the more I realize that the crises of today usually seem far greater in the moment than over time. I have lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as President Kennedy’s assassination to mention two, this-could-be-the-end-of-the-world events.
Macy related a dream which for me brought together both the fears of humanity’s self destruction, as well as the hope for a better outcome despite it all. In her dream she was struggling to communicate lessons from humanity’s self-destructive experiences on Earth, with groups of beings living on different planets. The first, who lived on Mercury, were hard to reach because they lived frenetically fast lives. The second group, who lived on Saturn, lived and communicated at a slow, glacial pace. She despaired that she would not have the time to reach such slow beings on Saturn, but determined to make the effort even if it took the rest of her life.
To visit Saturn she had to go into this massive, very deep subway system. Feeling fright and despair as she descended, she overheard a father talking to his son very calmly about how slow and long lived the Saturn people were. Somehow his calmness also reassured her. She then looked around and realized she was not alone. There were thousands of others coming into this subway, all of them striving like her, despite seemingly insurmountable odds to do what was right.
Her dream showed hope and support, without denying what has gone wrong. It reminded me that I am but one expression of a larger whole. Seeing so, I feel less discouraged. A Zen teacher, Suzuki Roshi once put it as “Hurry slowly.” I act when I know it is time for me to do so, regardless of what might come. Despite fear or seemingly insurmountable odds, I can act even if I may never know the outcome.
People have done so through out the ages. The builders of European cathedrals that would take over a hundred years to complete provide a powerful example. They proceeded knowing they would not live to seem them finished.
By ignoring history and forgetting the wisdom of the past, we have limited our perspectives. Objective time marches on regardless of what we think we want. With history time can feel less oppressive. It provides us a broader perspective through which we can find hope and courage despite any current fears and set backs.