a devil called time

Time is an exceedingly curious thing…and much inner humour is generated in the course of exploring it.

We don’t really know what time is. It might even be ‘no-thing’ at all, of course, and simply some kind of movement of consciousness…

But let’s not get too high-minded about that. This is a basic post about common sense and the fact that we can’t shake time’s effects: real or imaginary.

I often muse that time is the devil. I can think bigger than my time can do; yet I’m trapped in this devil’s cage of passing time, and that big clock on the wall is extinguishing possibility… by the second.

It’s not just about the changing state of the out-there; the one that gives away the fact that something has altered i.e. that time has passed. Zen, at its core, is said to be about that: staring at the wall until you realise that there’s only you there, but ‘there’ is everywhere.

It’s the changing state of not-me plus the actual possibility of there being a change in the way I want – a kind of potential of the possible.

And perhaps there’s another thing: effort. For something to happen that (for example) is not simply that beautiful stream over there flowing through this glorious valley. For an action that I want to make happen, then I need effort. I need to have sufficient energy for that action to be completed. Without the finish, there’s nothing…

Perhaps there is a fourth aspect? My Action is nothing, is not even capable of beginning, unless I have some sort of goal, some kind of picture for what is to be the resulting state of the out-there. These pictures must have been learned as my young mind discovered its power to do, and began to refine it so that doing created pleasure.

Unless I’m being bad Stephen, and the goal is to exact revenge, or something equally horrible. In which case, most of the process is identical to before, with the exception of the initial ‘spark’. Where do such sparks come from, I wonder? From a state of ‘me’ that had been pleased or picked on, possibly.

These are the mechanics of how ‘time and me’ interact. And this is good, for now I can see a bargain, a deal, being struck that involves time, whatever that is. Time is the basis of the bargain between doing and not-doing. When we do, it involves the consumption of time.

At the base level, I might just want to sit on the banks of that beautiful stream and let all my senses enjoy the experience. If I’m any good at it, I’ll have refined a state of presence that allows me to simply be here, enjoying the natural beauty with no desire whatever to do anything.

But who wants that, when there’s so much to be done; when there’s so little time to do all that stuff that needs doing! After all, nature gave me (and you) this incredible ability to make things happen.

I have a list as long as your arm of things I need to do, and, most importantly, today!

Most of them are urgent. I will let people down if I don’t do them all… and I hate that. Careless or unfeeling people do that and I’m not one of those.

My mind flashes back to the systems of my corporate youth: The all-conquering ‘Time Manager’, that sexy Filofax (or equivalent) in which you could fly like a vulture over the day, week and even month ahead, and write – in pencil so that fine-tuning could be done at ‘run-time’ – before you picked up the phone and made something else happen. Oh, the joy of it…

I remember when I first spotted him – the devil, I mean – hiding in the vertical lines of my large, leather Time-Manager folder. So big you didn’t need to take a briefcase on the train to London, you could just organise your day the night before and clip everything into the vast rings and pockets of the system.

I was looking at the few spaces I had left in the month ahead, and wondering. When, as though not an accident, a torn-out piece of a corporate magazine slid out of one of the binder’s pockets. It was a secondary training course for the time management system that I’d seen some time prior and never read. The extension course offered to teach you how to be as ruthlessly efficient with your leisure time as you were, already, with your business time.

And there he was – the devil – staring back at me from the blank lines that were yet to be filled.

And I knew him…

He was the destroyer of peace, the shatterer of moments by the stream, the force that pulled apart the present and, laughing, threw it back in your ‘wastrel’ face.

I put my pencil down and refused to think about anything else… all the way to London. When I got there, I had a coffee and boarded another train back. Arriving home in the middle of the day, I changed, then pushed my motorcycle out of the garage and set off…

…For a beautiful valley in which I would sit in the spring sunshine and listen to the stream by which I would do nothing… and be everything.

And time, freed of the Devil, would be the song of nature that I would find in that place.

{Author’s note: most of this is true}

©Stephen Tanham 2022

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

4 thoughts on “a devil called time

  1. Steve, nice post. Having been a consultant who would work with subject matter experts for our mutual clients, there is a truism that work finds good people. Yet, they also get overburdened, so a trait that not many excel at is the ability to say no. They do not want to let you down, so usually will take on an assignment they have no time for. But, the better answer is I am overwhelmed, can you see of this other person can do it. The examples are many of folks who do not want to let you down, but do by taking on the work and you have to explain why we are late in responding to the client.

    The gift of time is appreciated, but some would be better served by passing when they don’t have time to give it. Keith

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  2. Hi Keith. Thank you for that. I agree – real wisdom in this arena is knowing when its time to say ‘No, I can’t, and I’d rather not do it badly.” Thanks for sharing the wisdom of your professional years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Steve. I worked often with a good friend who knew his subject matter better than almost everyone, but he was constantly late in serving our clients. He eventually would deliver great work, but the key word is “eventually.” Keith

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I’ve known a few such people. They never ‘get it’, and think that everyone else can be so elastic. They can be deeply damaging to hard won business relationships. Thank you.

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