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Fighting the ‘Sinister God,’ Time
“Time is but the stream I go-a-fishing in. I drink of it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. ... My days were not the days of the week, bearing the stamp of any heathen deity, nor were they minced into hours and fretted by the ticking of a clock.” - Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Once I dreamed big dreams. Oh the things I would do tomorrow ... next week ... next month ... next year ... just as soon as the time was right! And then - like a skier who has launched his or her body down a steep slippery slope - I had to twist and turn and change direction to adjust to ever-changing terrain. Time accelerated, and I've come to the realization that I've used up so much of my allotted ration of time that not enough remains to do all that I would have liked to have done.
For all his intellect, homo sapiens - thinking man - cannot hold time in his hand, save it in a vault or increase it with compound interest or by playing the stock market. Willy-nilly, we must spend this treasure immediately. The French poet Charles Beaudelaire called the clock a "sinister god." When you're young, you blithely ignore the muted ticking of the clock in the background, thinking that there's all the time in the world. By the time you hear how loud the tolling of the hours has become, it is too late. One must make adjustments, choose other priorities and tailor one's dreams to fit one's condition.
I shall have to follow Thoreau's advice: Be the Lewis and Clarke of your own streams and oceans and explore your own high latitudes. ... Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought. ... It is easier to sail many thousand miles through cold and storm and cannibals ... than it is to explore the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one's being alone.
As the lovely "September Song" goes, “It's a long, long time from May to December.” But the days grow short when you reach September. When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn't got time for the waiting game. Oh the days dwindle down to a precious few - September, November. But these few precious days I'll spend with you. These precious days I'll spend with you.
I'm beginning to understand that life has its seasons - each with its own imperatives, compensations and pleasures. As we grow older, what was once important becomes less so. We've learned that we cannot have it all. Ambitions and inchoate longings fade and become less urgent. We are as pebbles in a rushing mountain stream, our life's surfaces worn smooth by being clashed against boulders. As I enter the wintertime of my life, I'm trying to steer a middle course of finding contentment from the depth of living rather than its breadth and from savoring its daily pleasures rather than longing for unattainable high adventures.
John Steinbeck wrote a novel called The Winter of Our Discontent. I hope to avoid the discontent of entering the final season of my life, feeling that my cup is half empty. I don't want to hibernate without consciously savoring the bounteous pleasures that are still left to me - my friendships, the arts and-above all - the comfort of an intelligent, companionable spouse.
I think Thoreau is saying that the adventure of living is what we make of our everyday experience: “Men come tamely home at night only from the next field or street ... We should come home from afar, from adventures and perils and discoveries every day, with new experience and character.” - Walden
I must seek out the adventure in my life. We're going to look at a different part of the world through they eyes of a couple of young adventurers who are in the maytime of their lives. They cannot yet equal the feats of the professional adventurers, Lowell Thomas or Richard Halliburton, but who knows what the future holds for them? These words may make their mother, Kathleen Angelone, shudder, but probably not as she's a bit of an adventurer herself.
More to come.
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