How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you're on.
Zall's Second Law
Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side.
I guess those wild and crazy old Jewish cats never had to wait for a friggin' BC Transit bus!
Alas it is quite true that 'time' is a bit of a mysterious substance, expanding and contracting, evaporating, depending on where one stands in the universe and what drugs you're on at any particular moment... like whatever a 'moment' is man. I think I just circled the existential, cosmological wagons there partner!
Having recently re-read a beautiful little book concerning the concept of time entitled "Einstein's Dream" (by Alan Lightman), I am currently reading "Soul of the World - Unlocking the Secrets of Time" by Christopher Dewdney.
At one point in the book, he relates a story about meeting a friend at a dinner party. The aging friend reflects on a recent 'discovery' that I'm sure many a baby-boomer can relate to: as we get older, time speeds up. Does it not seem that each year gets shorter, that birthdays and Christmas and other celebratory events come twice a year or more now! "Hey! wait a minute! wasn't I hanging my Canucks hockey stocking just last week!?"
How then does one designate one year as different from the next, or more so, even from the next day or week, unless one performs certain rituals; rituals that have a definitive beginning (wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve while drinking single-malt scotch), a middle (opening gifts Christmas morning while downing an eggnog and brandy), and an end (watching "A Christmas Carol", the black/white Alastair Sim version to heighten the scary moments, while we're back on the single-malt as if it were some kind of garlic clove fending off the ghosts of Christmas that visit upon Old Scrooge). We have to have these particular scotch-and-water marks or else 'time' will just flow seamlessly, without purpose or end.
Well, therein lies the rub old mateys.... thee End! At whatever speed time chugs along the highway of life, it does 'pass'.... and there is an underground motor inn with a permanent room awaiting us all.
It is because of 'death' that we notice or speculate upon, the nature of 'time' and the meaning of Life.
In another sense however, one wonders - maybe after one too many scotches - about the derivation/meaning of words such as 'forever' or 'eternity'. Is our sense of the mysterious, of everlasting life just some genetic mutation? Is there some underlying, unconscious, primordial extra-terrestrial sense that we carry within our psyche that there IS some form of 'after-life', some never-ending 'Everland', replete with free booze and endless Stanley Cup play-offs? Or, do we only 'imagine' and create such concepts out of our mortal fear or foolishness?
What then is 'imagination'? We can't get to the play-offs unless we first 'imagine' the possibility. We can not create something without first imagining it... and sometimes, well, most times really, and here's where it gets really scary, so hide your heads under your hockey blankets; the acts of imagination and creation are sensed by those doing the imagining and creating as coming from an unknown, other-worldly source; it is some phantom force or being that is moving the pen or the paint brush. How could Beethoven or Handel create such works of beauty, praising God, if there were not at least some eternal spirit or spirits sipping on their single-malts, somewhere, out there, in there, beyond 'there', passing on their message to us mortals???? I'm not talking Plato ( and eternal forms or whatever); I'm talking Play Dough that there's the possibility of some eternal cosmic source within which we dip or human hands and with which we reshape the universe.
I dunno; it's all a muddle really.. and with the passing of every year or was that a week! it becomes murkier, the ancient question becoming evermore present while we plug along, praising each new day as a blessing to our own lives, however humble and senseless that life may be.
And so, it helps to have these annual rituals, that celebrate the turning of the season. While an illusion, these rituals help to break through the Hindu Maya-naise by stopping to watch a group of smiling, happy, late teens standing on a street corner in downtown Vancouver on Christmas Eve day singing songs of worship to the little child of Bethlehem.
As such, it is MY time of year, among other such reflective times of the year, to focus on what it is I truly do believe - my cosmology, my theology. While I do not necessarily buy into any religion, I watch for signs. I'm like the agnostic W. C. Fields, who, caught reading the Bible on his death bed, declared, in self-defence, that he was merely "looking for loopholes". I'm constantly stuck with this poser: if one were one of the disciples or followers of Jesus and believed he was the Messiah, and then saw him butchered by the Romans with no 'heaven on earth to be' unfolding, wouldn't ya kind of lose faith and find another line of work!!!? Why did so many of the Apostles go back into Jerusalem, allegedly within days of Jesus' Crucifixion, knowing full well that their very lives were at stake and that they would die on the cross like their 'Saviour'?
Maybe it's as simple as that other 'greatest story ever told', the Tiger Woods' affair or affairs. A rat in his personal life, the halo of Mr. Goodbar gone, he's still got one heck of a golf swing!! Okay, the apostles are thinking, so maybe Jesus wasn't the Messiah but the conversations, food, and the parties were awesome dude! Maybe, like the Tiger Woods of the world, it's hard to leave the limelight and not have one more shot at another Masters. Well! A lot of people have been known to do a lot of stupid things for fame!
Like I said, it's all a muddle, a great, fascinating mystery.
I had, in the past, referred to myself as a Christian Buddhist. Knowing that, a dear old friend asked me recently what my current thoughts or beliefs were.
I'm not sure this is a complete representation of my cosmic view but it will suffice until next week, when Christmas will certainly be here again already!
I wrote the following (slightly edited) in reply to her inquiry:
"A Christian who remains skeptical of the many miracles performed by the little lord Jesus, and the resurrection/son of God bit, which probably makes me a Jew. Then again, Jesus was a radical, and possibly a Bodhisattva, whose message of love thy neighbour and turn the other cheek, if truly spoken by him, are like totally awesome and mind-blowing man... preaching/tending to the poor and downtrodden, choosing the (lowly) mustard seed over the (highly-praised) cedar of Lebanon to make his point, which is kind of like choosing ale over Courvoisier, millet and pinto beans over steak tartar. He knew who the real enemy.
I have theory, an answer to Christ's question from the cross:
"Father, why hath thou forsaken me?".
"Cause, you stupid little nit, after they tear down the authoritarian temples of the Pharisees and Romans, I'm next!"
Ashes to ashes, dirt to dirt, that's all folks; everlasting only in that every sound we ever make remains, traveling through space as the universe expands; at some point a million gazillion years from now the universe will start to turn in on itself, collapsing slowly backward to 'nothingness', pushing all our sounds, and thus us, back to earth, momentarily, for one last molecular-gathering party, class reunion, Christmas Eve, or per chance one more evening lying on a living room rug by a fire and that, my dear, gets us to Nirvana and when I became a Buddhist and believed more in spiritual than fleeting material substances."
Christopher Dewdney says in response to his friends' observation that it is not time speeding up but us slowing down. Indeed, It is us slowing down, winding down, at year's end, and facing the knowledge that we are time, in that we 'move along' and 'pass', yet not knowing if we keep ticking long after the Christmas tree lights have gone out.
While a lot of modern day people do not go to church, or believe in the traditional Christian concepts - the Holy Trinity etc - the Clobber included, no matter how one sows and reaps the mustard seeds, it is 'true' in one sense that 'Jesus' becomes, and comes again... and again... to try and heal the sick, the lame, the blind, and the poor, to give comfort in times of need, to herd us together, lost sheep that we are, to give us some sense of life, of faith, hope, and charity, of a better world. Illusion though it may be, and while it may die again tomorrow under Winter's snow, something new, something real IS born into the world again at this time of the year, if we let it.; if we pray.
It is up to each of us to keep the Christmas candles burning, as it were. Think of your life as an eternal Olympic Torch journey. Don't forget to turn your lights on to shine down brightly upon your family, friends and neighbours.
And, hey, don't forget to get your horn honked every once and awhile.
Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.
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