I am starting to re-conceptualize how I think about time. It began with patience. Once I slowed down and started believing perfect timing was at work for me, my perspective on time made a notable shift.
Right after I wrote this letter on patience I discovered this quote I love by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience."
[Aside: This happens a lot: Right after I send out a letter on a topic, I come across a quote that seems perfect for the already-sent letter. My challenge is to look at these findings not as regrets or missed opportunities, but to look at them as beautiful synchronicities. Nods that I am on the right path. And, also, as humbling reminders that I've only just begun the journey and have much more to learn. Really, the challenge is the same: to believe that even the smallest things are happening in perfect timing.]
Beginning to cultivate patience (which is still a work in progress) led me to view time through a different lens. Our cultural obsession with clock time encourages us to think of time very linearly: as if everything (every moment, every life) has a discrete start point and a discrete end point. Since clock time is such a constant presence in our lives, thinking of it as exclusively linearly can cause us to start viewing everything as linear. As if life is a big trip from discrete Point A > discrete Point B > discrete Point C and this big linear trip is full of smaller linear trips from A > B > C along the way.
I guess I simply no longer believe life is like that. I believe life is nonlinear.
One example is friendship. You know those people who say somewhat boastfully, "We've been friends since first grade" as if linear time alone is the key ingredient to deep, meaningful relationships? Obviously, long-term friendships spanning decades can be really fulfilling. But also, there's still the chance you have yet to meet the greatest friend of your life. And if you can open yourself up to the idea that linear time is not the most important thing, you give new friendships a chance to deepen and grow quickly—unrestrained by the artificial bounds of clock time.
Another example is healing. Probably the biggest takeaway I've had from inner healing work is this: You don't heal linearly. There is no "healing checklist." It's not like: Well, all my elementary school issues are healed, now it's time to heal middle school. Not at all. You have to follow the energy.
Probably the most profound example, at least to me, is creativity. I've spent years toiling away on novel manuscripts that, when completed, were pretty mediocre...but some of the best writing I've ever done has just come to me. In a flash. We are essentially taught that the longer you work on something, the better it is. (Because we are taught to worship linear time—and even, sometimes, to value ourselves at an hourly rate, which is absurd.) But with writing, for me, linear time has next to nothing to do with my creative outputs. Patience is key—but hours logged? Not at all. Who even cares? Would you like your favorite novel any less if you discovered the author wrote it twelve hours rather than twelve years?
But what is an alternative to linear time? Circular time. Circular time is pervasive in nature. [It's almost like this Emerson dude was onto something. ;)] Consider sunrises, sunsets, seasons. Trees shedding their leaves each autumn and budding each spring. The phases of the moon. The tides. The earth orbiting the sun.
For all of these natural occurrences, there is truly no beginning and no ending. The tides are never "over." The moon is never "done." We intellectually know that when a sunset is "over" from our (very limited) perspective that the sun is still setting elsewhere for others. When you take the world view, the sun never stops rising or setting. It is perpetual—no beginning, no ending.
And we don't say, "Well guys, that was a great summer solstice, but now we're done with that for forever. Check summer solstice off the list!" Of course not. We know nature comes back, perpetually returns—we know life moves not in lines but in circles.
[Disney sponsored aside (jk): Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba. Sithi uhm ingonyama. :) Did you know the opening lines to Lion King's Circle of Life are written in a language called Zulu spoken by an estimated nine million people, most of whom live in South Africa?]
So if we know nature lives in circles and in seasons—why can't we? Can we start viewing our human lives as a part of the natural world rather than separate from it? Can we adopt the pace of nature?
If we can, I think we may begin experiencing life with a limitless, perpetual quality—and our relationships and our creativity can transcend into an infinite realm. The realm of the sun.
Rumi: "To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes."
with Love and with (sun) Light,
p.s. I read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn at the end of 2016, and I've recently been wanting to re-read it with my new perspectives. It's a philosophical novel that really made me think—about people, about creation, about the lies of our culture, about nature, about time. I highly recommend it.
p.p.s. Although I do think linear time is an illusion, and the present moment is all we ever have, I want to note that 30 years ago tomorrow there was a particularly special present moment for me, though I wasn't there physically. On 8.28.88 my husband, Stephen, was born in Rochester, NY and held down the fort for me until I entered the world a few months later in Omaha, NE. :) About 21 years later, we fell in love in Lewisburg, PA, got married 27 years later in Madison, WI and now live together in Brooklyn, NY. If that's not a miracle, what is? Happy 30th, Stephen! My Love for you is as infinite as the circle I wear around my finger. xoxo. c