Time Stand Still

JagannathTemple_USEI suspect that, for most of you, the New Year is old news, that you have already ushered in the New Year with resolutions or, for those disinclined toward such declarations, a sense of making a fresh start, of putting the past behind in favor of future ambitions. This has not been the case for me: my sprint to the finish of last year won’t end until today. The last item on a long list of time-sensitive tasks will be completed in the course of composing this post.

I found myself playing ‘beat the clock’ with most, if not all of the assignments I’d acquired. And my anxiety about completing everything on time was exacerbated by uncooperative technology, the very devices upon which the completion of my tasks depended. Thanks to problems with my Internet connection it was taking 90 seconds to do things that should have taken 10 seconds. There were even times when my connection was so bollixed up that I had to close my browser and re-start my computer. As a result, it was taking 3 or 4 minutes to do things that just a few years ago I could not do at all; our contemporary expectations are such that we become frustrated when doing what was once impossible is not accomplished immediately.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy to have had the opportunity to do the many things that consumed me for so much of 2013. But sometimes the good can be the enemy of the best: at times I felt overwhelmed by my own schedule, depleted by the amount of time I spent trying to get things done… in time. There were times when all I wanted was for time to stand still for a little while.

You, too, may be acquainted with the oppressive nature of compressed time, with the pressure associated with having too little time relative to all the things that need to be done within that time. And instead of saving us time, as the purveyors of the miracles of modern technology once promised, our devices find ways to fill our time with more and more stuff to do. Technology has a way of filling its own void, often beyond our capacity to keep up with it.

Leisure time is essential to one’s sanity, to say nothing of the process of self-realization. Without time for reflection and contemplative thought, we can’t really understand our own lives or our reasons for living them. Stepping back requires slowing down, lest we try to jump off a speeding train just so that we can watch it race by

And if we’re not careful our lives will race by without our having seen them. Why do we remember so little of our lives? Because we weren’t there when our lives were happening! By which I mean we tend to live in a state of perpetual distraction, of being less than fully present in the moments that make up our lives. Offering our attention to a singular point of focus for any length of time is becoming more and more difficult. When we’re busy multi-tasking in the present we end up having no opportunity to think about where we’ve been or where we’re going.

So I’m taking some time off, walking away from the timesaving devices that take up all of my time, and spending some time with friends and teachers and whoever happens to be sharing my physical space rather than any virtual proximity. I’m spending some time in a place where time is calculated a little differently: India.

I’m looking forward to seeing you when I get back. Happy New Year!

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