"From the moment we enter this life, we are in the flow of it. We measure it and we mark it, but we cannot defy it. We cannot even speed it up or slow it down. Or can we? Have we not each experienced the sensation…that a beautiful moment seemed to pass too quickly…and wished that we could make it linger? Or felt time slow on a dull day…and wished that we could speed things up a bit?" - Eisenheim in the film The Illusionist
It is a monthly occurrence, one which we look forward to (and there, already, not even one sentence into the imagination river we've already descended into the trappings of time - "looking forward" - spending our days wishing away days we'll one day wish to have back) when we see friends, friends who are family - those who welcomed us with open arms and open minds when we landed into Bethel. It was beyond good to see them again, bringing warmth and goodness and purpose. Yet, upon entering the building, and seeing them in that familiar stead, the overwhelming feeling set in, and thus was spoken, "It seems like it has been months since we've all been here, yet it hasn't even been thirty days!"
There's no reason to flower the language or spin it to something pretty - in the weeks since December 14th, and all that happened in Sandy Hook, time has slowed down.
We're fans of history, of the past - of things old and sometimes arcane. Artistic ways that are sometimes dulled when the mysteries have been lifted for the sake of entertainment. The care and variation of the work by hand traded off for the need to move *product*. The dust and shadows of calendars stored in the under drawers of a workbench, maps from countries long-past revealed in pastel color glory, and magazines with photographs in colors that we use expensive toys to recreate...all because the draw of nostalgia sets in and leaves us looking for something that was, rather than something to come.
To wit - do we yet realize how much of our identity we are losing when the photograph that is not perfect is deleted, re-taken, re-imagined...and the shoebox never fills with all of the outtakes and everything is idyllic and posed and candid and... Step a first foot gently into the laboratory and try this for seven days - take photographs without looking at the screen, snap at angles you would have no reason to hold, a foot, an elbow, a cloth on a table - snap the little things that we may not remember in our rush, yet will be overjoyed to see twenty years down the road when nobody else thought to record that which added the light and the life because we were all too focused on the line. Let the joy of discovery in a so-called *mistake*...linger.
What we remember, what is recorded in the history books, while certainly a guidepost to our future, is often not as illuminating as that which is uncovered within a dusty box, lost in the shuffle of crumbling pages - be it of a story that once held sway in the headlines for a moment or two, the description of the day's events in a small town...a product that once promised to do amazing things as a tonic for a catatonic world...
It is said that the digitalization of the world will ensure that the corporeal memory that is created every day, the news and the numbers and the bricks...will forever be accessible, available, recorded...even if not, so succinctly remembered. This is all well and good - but does it guarantee truth? Can truth be fully shoe-horned into the iconic photograph, the Pulitzer-winning article, the yearly remembrance?
What then do we do with a memory that is destined to be remembered for the duration of all our lives?
In all our years of school, underneath the current of all the readin' & ritin' & rithmatic there is a flow, an unspoken undertow rings us along and prepares us for the days when structure is aglow upon us. We spend our days learning how to ensure that everything we do is set in schedule, written in stone - and it is difficult to not stretch the metaphor so far that we touch it together with that which is carved in granite (the rote and repetition that we receive, so far from meditative, and simply quantitative, is not unlike writing our own epitaph). Imagine how much could be spoken on that last chapbook slate if the day of our beginning and the day of our body's end didn't take up so much space?
It was at a young age that this wrist begged mother for a watch - it started with a yellow Snoopy - his paws with a tennis racket chased a tennis ball second hand ticking around the dial. Soon after there was a digital that played Pac-Man and had a little joystick attached to the front (though goodness knows that with a rough and tumble eight year old, a protruding knob had no chance of surviving very long through afternoon wiffle ball and climbing chain-link fences). From there a grandparent tried to ply these eyes with something glittery, and probably something fancy, with a brand name and a branded mark that there was some status or symbol in wearing such a gaudy device. And it was in such a gesture that the very beginnings of timelessness started to wind its way into this heart.
The very best of scientists tell us how the earth revolves around the sun and the pace is fairly constant and we add a leap day here and there to account for our strange solar calendar yet we speak so often the cliché, "time flies". So then what truly rules the day - the clock strike seven or our perception of heaven, the gears chime eight or our dissipation of being late, the cuckoo calls nine or our desire, and instinctual programming...to refine? In other cadence and in a language that is rarely found in the modern parlance...why is it that tragedy allows us such focus, yet joy is allowed to pass fleetingly?
While it may seem completely non-sequitur at worst, and distantly abstract at best, it is the obvious next step to ask here...why do we mark time as we do? This digital age finds a clock on every screen, not hidden away but always present. The seconds tick, we watch the numbers flip, what would happen to life if we were to turn off those ever present eyes and drift a bit (for it isn't as if the skies don't generalize the hours for us, each day, without fail)?
A second foot in the door of the laboratory then - for a duration of one month (although here we are counting while not counting while counting) let us each go into our computer's settings and turn off the clock being visible in the menu bar. See if that changes how we move. Listen to whether the heartbeat adds an extra thump-thump or two. Feel what it is to slow down out of choice, not out of necessity.
For when time defines us, we are at the mercy of human history - and for whatever reason necessary our perception is able to bend and shift with the times. Yet, while one could argue that this elongation of time is the inherent perception in suffering, maybe, just maybe, the past month seems like six because time is far more caring than we give her credit for - and when we are all in moments of pain, our awareness heightened, our emotions finding some fountain from which they can drink each time we are drained in a seemingly shorter and more forceful duration, time unwinds us from the swaddle of weeks and days and hours and minutes and seconds so slowly so as to not shock our system any more than has already occurred.
Why, then, can we not learn to partner with time, explain to her in some voice of clockwork reason and steady-rhythm heartbeat emotion that (for the beating of the heart is a clock, too, let us not forget this parallel) we understand, and thank you, and stay with us...for there is a still longer era ahead, when what is remembered will hurt again.
So let us step outside of the track, step off the futuristic moving floor that carries us along without our thinking, begin to claim, in awareness, each and every moment a bit closer, a bit more longer lasting, so that in our moments of happiness we can hold on to them as much as the pain holds on to us.
So many debates have flared up from within the aftermath of the events at Sandy Hook - what to do with the donations, what to do with the school building, whether or not to reopen the school even if in another building, where to build a memorial, and most importantly...how does one (and by one we speak of both the individual and the collective from the epicenter in Sandy Hook to those around the world who have become local through that very same news cycle that attempts to create distances and compartmentalizes and controls...truth...yet can, even if without noticing, be the lifeline that starts a flow of something positive) start conversations that will have different meanings to different people, different ideas from different sides, yet be fathomable to believe that these very same conversations will be solemn, respectful, and even refreshing for such motion is one of the first steps to cleansing, yet never forgetting, and the eventual turn toward the sun when healing is finally desired.
Reading the above paragraph, of course, leaves out mention of the one debate that does not fit the description of a town which has come together in an attempt to fathom and further life.
The gun battle rages (see the turn of phrase there, the purposeful vagueness, the illicit implication that even in a conversation, what could be held as a civil debate, becomes trench warfare), sides dug in at depths heretofore unnecessary in the course of human events for we hide behind tradition and providence (whether man-made or divine) out of ________. Yes, that line is meant to be there. Yes, we read that sentence and pronounce that line as "blank". And each to their own to fill in that blank, because looking around, reading the words on the ground and lofted through the air, the only title that one can see in so many senses of entitlement is to make this like a Madlib (remember those glorious games of youth in which nouns and verbs and adjectives and adverbs and...were inserted into the story and once read through made for sometimes completely nonsensical but nearly always hilarious laughter?) and even fill in the blank with the part of speech each chooses. Maybe then the fangs and claws can subside a little bit - for there is little but madness that comes forth out of this conversation - for madness is defined as a conversation when everybody fills in the blanks without regard to any of the words, verbs, adjectives, context at hand.
Certainly, it is an important conversation, and one that is going to be in the forefront for a long duration to come (for it has already been a conversation that has bounced off walls and ricocheted off of lives for years and years...and all that has occurred is that the vey same conversation has come back around again). But there are no answers and no solutions to be found in a two-sided debate. In fact, that latter truth could apply to just about any concept that we are sold as being nothing more complex than a dichotomy.
So then, offered up to all of us - a third and final opportunity (although nothing is really ever final - and in that regard, we keep time at bay) to see that we are holding right in our hands, pressed right up into our faces, rolling down the street as a processional that is usually reserved for those for whom history will not forget - the enlightened focus of one thousand suns aimed through a magnifying glass whose precision and grind would put to task the most visionary of telescopes and the most deducing of microscopes. It is an opportunity that comes, generally, once per generation (and if you can define what duration is encompassed by that, then you have a clockwork that is more advanced than most).
The experiment - to make joy last. Make happiness last triple-fold. Allow the ecstasy of living to, if not outweigh, equal the ponder that comes from tragedy with the wonder that comes from harmony. Live life to the fullest so as to honor those whose lives were truncated. Where there is truncation, find completion. Where there is completion, find yet another task for which cause we go on.
You see, at the end of it all - all the change in the world is not prevented because we do not have enough time in the day to do all that needs to be done, it is because we do not have enough help. Have enough hands to help, and a split-second is enough to shift eternity toward a different destiny.
How then do we begin to learn to pay a fair price?
Transmogrified into a currency
It does not seem possible
That green would be the correct color
After all, when one seeks
There is a need to create an image
That withstands the challenge of...
(The sentence can't be properly completed without a reverb unit installed)
Supposing then, that everything is
(after all tax is skimmed from the top
like a lake that sits in such stillness that nothing can grow there)
Cold hard cash for warm gentle opportunity
Is there any wonder that what we spend is often far more
Than we allow ourselves value, in return
"Spend your time wisely,"
Without a second thought
As she filled the third cup of coffee
And so peeling off a couple of leaves
From the roll held together with Latchis' thread
These dues, paid
We went in search
Of some place
Which would be less taxing
On this ventricular wallet
Shall we work together?
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