“Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky;
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.”
~ Rumi, Quietness
There seems no end to the mystery and perplexity of the passage of time; at times grievous, at other times in reminiscence, still again in a wonder which evades words. We seem to think we can do things to manage time, to stop or accelerate, or slow down the advances of moments, hours, and years. Of course, we are well familiar with the increments against which our days are structured. At my place of work, there is a large grandfather clock, with the name “Regulator” engraved across its face, lending itself to plenty of irony. Lesser portions of days are irritable games of “beat the clock,” but with renewed perceptions the day balanced with obligations and unstructured moments develops into a sentient puzzle. As a child, I would muse about the meaning of the recollections of those around me, those elder voices explaining times past. Had “a long time ago” disappeared into a darkened lane, to be retrieved? Or as it turns out, is the retrieval only at our summons? And the witnesses of time’s advance do not always remain with us, and accompanying our cognizance of this reality we find ourselves witnesses of our own times.
Moments may become landmarks as tangible for us as any boldly-planted granite memorial. And perhaps, with that consideration, we may be the iconoclasts operating the demolition equipment. But we may also be the preservation historians. One which stays with me proved to be a turning point. When I was seventeen, it seemed opportune for one of my most loving elder family members to explain the harsh truths to me about what had happened during the Holocaust, and actually took me on walks to see the actual places in Paris that- for us- are landmarks. It was all so profoundly astonishing to me that, for days, it was very difficult to sleep. Among many thoughts I had been trying to fully comprehend, was that of time. Staring out from the balcony at midnight, above the darkened street in Montmartre, my evolving thoughts dwelt upon the idea that it was time that divided the perished lives of my own family- from mine at that present moment which suddenly occurred to me as a life spared. In my stupor, my thoughts turned to imagining the divide of some forty years between a hopeless, unimaginable, brutal end- and- the found realization of looking forward very freely. What can one do with these truths? As well, during those wakeful nights alone on the balcony, I would look up at the charcoal skies and, in my thoughts, ask “what is out there?” “Who is out there, and why am I spared?” And it was up and out to the same skies, but months later above the coast of Maine, that I began to entreat with the simplest prayers in my own unpresuming vernacular words.
We find ourselves inhabiting the context of our times, inherited- and occasionally also freely chosen by us. And when we can embrace our own direction, from our hearts and with the ingredients which have brought us to this very day, we know our spirits are unconstrained by the limitations of measure. Yes, with an apprehension of our own time’s landmarks we can see our paths as part of an immeasurable continuum. We know about the superimposed units of measure, but we cannot presume to determine the pace. When he began to create a summation of his experiential discoveries, the ancient apostle Peter went so far as to stipulate that if there was even one thing of which even the most bewildered- or the most knowledgeable- must not lose sight is that in the context of creation “a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.” With the illustration of extremes, the man who witnessed the Transfiguration assures the reader how the Divine is transcendent of time, “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness, but is patient with you.” In that unpleasant habit of wishing away time, frustrated by what may appear to be a lack of progress, it’s easy to miss that many steps are unhastened for our own undetectable sakes. And thus it becomes possible to be reminded that places and situations may test the limits of our strivings, but is less essential than the very action of setting forth.