When I was in eleventh grade, my English teacher, against her better judgement, set up a record player for me during our third period (Can you imagine, kids – a time before Spotify and earbuds? When vinyl wasn’t just cool, it was literally the only music storage device we had?) This setup happened so I could play “Time” & “The Great Gig In The Sky” by Pink Floyd to illustrate my understanding of “stream of consciousness” as a literary device. I didn’t really know if the song met that criteria, I just wanted an excuse to play Pink Floyd at school.
The song spoke to me at 16 because it described a feeling I couldn’t quite put into words. Maybe I should’ve been reading more and maybe I would’ve found a deep river of melancholy in classic works. But I was a 16-year-old odd duck who read the liner notes on albums and thought the secrets of the universe reveal themselves through the stereo needle on each groove.
Both tracks take about 15 minutes to play, so I was doubly heroic to my classmates for both getting a famous stoner album played in class as well as taking up class time. I was clueless about its association with drugs, I just knew it haunted me in a way that other rock music didn’t. This is partly the genius of Alan Parsons, the album’s sound engineer, and partly because of Clare Torry’s powerful wordless singing.
Still today, I find these lines meaningful:
Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
This couplet describes the borders of my daily experience with time and focus. Within those borders are work and rest and trying to balance the two is something I still can’t manage very well. I’m such a poor steward of the time given to me. I’m either burning up hours trying to keep all the commitments I’ve overloaded myself with or wasting them trying to find the exact otter GIF to text someone. I binge watch shows on Netflix I don’t really like that much (The Walking Dead being the chief time suck in this category). I don’t read books like I used to, preferring instead to skim Internet sources like an over-caffeinated squirrel.
One thing that a birthday teaches you is that you have fewer spins around the sun left to you with each celebration. But it’s also true that, as Og Mandino says below, I can always undo these extremes of waste and worry in the next hour because time is the one thing we each have in our account in the same measure every day.
Day Three: What I’ve Learned About Time
- “Each of us has, as my husband’s rather grim-faced ancestress pointed out, all the time there is. Those years, weeks, hours, are the sands in the glass running swiftly away. To let them drift through our fingers is a tragic waste.” Eleanor Roosevelt
- “You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste tomorrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.” Og Mandino
- “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”
Henry Van Dyke
- “No thing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.” Epictetus
- “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” JRR Tolkien
- “Time is a game played beautifully by children.” Heraclitus
- “Furthermore, as muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone, it could be argued that those who sit quietly and do nothing are making one of the best contributions to a world in turmoil.” Alan Watts
Sometimes, the best thing you can do with your time is to follow Van Dyke’s advice and love someone or something as a way to feel the expansive luxury of the time given to you.
My challenge to you is to create something loving – whether it’s another piece of a passion project or a text to someone who needs to hear from you.
Next post: Service