A day off…
I sit restfully on a dock and let time pass, contentedly watching not much of anything. A bird flits across the bay; something in motion flashes on an opposite shoreline; sunlight mirrors a lava-lamp effect on the rippling water; a squirrel leaps a gaping maw from a high branch of one hemlock to that of another; a stationary wolf spider ambles out to sun, or to watch for prey, or to do whatever it is that wolf spiders do, maybe, like me, just to sit restfully on a dock and let time pass, contentedly watching not much of anything.
Ten minutes? Thirty? An hour? Who knows how long I have been resting here? Oxymoronically, the time passes in no time. I feel fully alive, but still, somehow, sad.
What is it about the passing of time that makes for something of a sadness? It matters not that one is having fun, as the saying goes, though that is where the sensation can seem most acute. Family time, meaningful work time, free time, day off time, cabin time, friend time, vacation time, sabbath time, up time, down time: there is a kind of sadness when they’ve ended.
We long for the seemingly timeless moments, to feel free of duration, to enjoy interludes when the clock stands still, periods that constitute what author Sheldon Vanauken envisions as “…the dream of unpressured time – time to sit on stone walls, time to see beauty, time to stare as long as sheep and cows.” Such moments sear themselves in our memories, especially, for me, when they have been shared with a loved one. But those interludes are too rare, and we are held captive to duration, cognizant, oh so very cognizant, of the passage of time.
And yet this cognizance should not be all there is to the story. Again Vanauken: “Awareness of duration, of terminus, spoils now.” This is often certainly true for me. How frequently I find myself mentally, inadvertently, even against my will, counting off the vacation days like ticks off a timer, numbering each day backwards to zero.
Yet, as God’s creatures, for now, time is merely another dimension in which we must live. Like space, it simply is. In that regard it’s also not unlike the air we breathe, or the space we take up as we move: but we don’t sit around decrying whether or not we’re going to run out of air or the space to get around. So, why time? A thousand generations pass, all bound by this same dimension, yet somehow we still let it not be simply what it is.
Back to the flitting bird, the jumping squirrel, the lounging spider. Animals do not sense time. They are completely at home in the present in their natural surroundings. I wish I could do that, live that way. Perhaps this longing for timelessness is a uniquely human curse. Perhaps, as a result, it also becomes a proof, or at least an inference, of the existence of eternity. Perhaps, just for now, timelessness can only belong to God and God alone. Just for now…
~~RGM, From an Earlier Entry
in My Nature Journal