Pause and consider why so many questions require you, you feel, to consult your watch, to call up a calendar, to appoint time. Time has no appointments, time is not an arrow, though we strive always to aim it, to send it flying in our desired direction. Time is a point in space, surrounded by all ten directions, going toward none of them. Ask why this moment is not enough, why you need the next though it does not exist. What are you trying to escape by searching for tomorrow, lingering in yesterday? Yesterday no longer exists, so why do you assume tomorrow does, and what of this moment, which exists only now, and what of the red leaf sitting in mid-air awaiting your awed attention?
A reflection on Case 6 of the Hekiganroku (Blue Cliff Record)
He can spend hours on the wooden bench in the small square in the center of the village. There he is but a statue, staring up at the giant clock face that looms over the square from the turret of the Village Hall. He likes to watch the long hand, arrowlike, make its slow, but inevitable movement, circling the blank outward gaze of the numerals. He does not care much for time, has too much of it some say, too little left, he knows. But here, as he stares fixedly, it stops. There is no motion in that instant, there is only the instant of time. It is no longer real, it is a thought lost or forgotten, and there is only the single moment in which he sits on the wooden bench in the center of the village.
In Yuma, Arizona today, I have no idea what might have happened. Once, without going to a library and rummaging through microfiche in the dust laden corner of the second basement, I would never be able to find out. And if I did, I would wonder why there was not some simpler way of finding out. Now I can search the internet and know what did happen and what some think happened. I can find truth and conspiracies involving Yuma. It will take some time, but it can be done with relative ease. The problem is that I couldn’t care less what happened in Yuma today or most any day.
I spend my day looking at clocks, time always present but never knowing if they tell the right time and what difference it would make if it were right or wrong. Ostensibly time isn’t relative but I cannot determine to what it isn’t relative, so I just go along wondering what time is.
It is odd to discover that time obeys the economic laws of supply and demand but as I have aged, that has become ever more clear as my supply has dwindled, my demand remains constant and the value increases accordingly.
That may explain why, now, I am content to check the scores and read the stats of my favorite football or baseball team, getting every bit as frustrated with their performance without investing three plus hours for an hour of action.
This has worked out quite well, but I am concerned that they may start winning, and that I will become another recidivist looking everywhere for a Sports Fan Anonymous meeting.
The cat ignored him totally this morning. She wouldn’t give him the time of day if she could have told time. It was surprising, and for him it was painful. He loved the cat, and he thought the cat loved him. Once he thought he saw her sneer but he knew cats did not do that. But she looked away, if she had even looked at him in that moment. But to not even acknowledge his presence, to thank him for the food, that hurt. The cat hid her smile, knowing even Pavlov would be pleased with how well her training of the human was going. He would be wrapped around her paw before he knew it at this pace
After all that has happened, after all of the changes tumbling one upon another, after breathing again new air, after ceding fear to hope when I sit down to write it all I have at the end is a small glass of snow in the middle of July.
My first inclination, in fact my strong desire, when he asks me what time it is, is not to consult my watch, but to say that we live in an age of unprecedented uncertainty, an era of division and incivility, and days fraught with risk that each might be the last.
I know he wants to know the hour and the minute, but if he is late, the moment wasted in knowing just how much so merely adds marginally to the problem.
And if the question lacks that import to him, then time is no more than a human construct, malleable despite our demand of rigidity, and subject to the whims of Popes and politicians, and all the rest of nature can only marvel at our absurdity.