Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting Things in Order VII: Time

In the Mass, time and space are annihilated.   In the Mass, eternity and infinity are brought to earth.  -- The Mass of Brother Michel.  

As you see in my last posts, when I decided on how I was going to put my prayer life, my fitness and my house maintenance in order, I stopped dealing with material objects (my stuff) and started dealing with Time.  This has always been a difficult thing for me to deal with.  There are two kinds of time, or maybe more, but at least two:  strict clock time and then, you know, Moments.  The ones that seem to touch onto eternity.   They feel different to me.   Sometimes time seems to flow past -- you aren't really getting much further but the minutes keep ticking by.   Sometimes you are in step with time -- every minute is being used actively.   And some moments, hardly any clock time goes by at all, but you know that moment was, well, momentous.   It will change everything; your future just switched to a different track.   Sometimes it's under the surface.  ... sometimes you only realize it was pivotal later on.  Children, I think, are more in tune with the eternal aspect of time.   I can remember moments from my childhood that still seem to be going on under the surface of things.   I can't be the only one.

So you can see why it's hard for me to plan out time.  It seems to have only an incidental relationship to significance.  However, at the same time, I see that while sequential time is not quite correlated with reality, at the same time we are sort of yoked to it for now.   I suppose in that way it compares to the material universe.  It's not everything, but it's inevitable at the moment. 

So I have been reading about Time Management this summer.  Time management is about bringing the future into the quotidian, the experts say.   It's about visualizing what you want to see and then fitting it (or at least an approach towards it)  into the day that's confronting you right now.  

They usually use the example of the person who wants to make a million dollars and work only 20 hours a week.  But looking past the materiality of those specifics to what they imply -- it's happiness.  It's getting what you want and having leisure to enjoy it.  And Augustine says that what people really want is God; that is what their hearts are seeking, only they have misunderstood what God is about, and think He is not desirable, or they have gotten distracted with insufficient things and tried to be happy with them.   And failed, of course.

Back to the point.  I realized that I needed to have a simple daily routine.   Fortunately I already have one, as everybody does, so I just had to build on that natural rhythm.  Everyone sleeps, eats at intervals, etc.  The sun rises, reaches its high point in the sky, and sinks.  So everyone has the basics down.   And most people have at least some spaces in their day.  ...maybe not every day, but often.  If they literally DON'T have any spaces, well, maybe their day already encompasses the key things for their future.  If they sense it DOESN'T encompass the things most important to them, then it's a matter of revising priorities.   Alan Lakein talks quite a bit about that -- how people feel trapped in their schedule -- and what the reasons are (whether other people are setting your agenda, or you are doing things that aren't as important as the things you would like to do), and how to choose the better part.

In that way, come to think of it, Time is like Stuff.   It's an extension of yourself.   If I look at my day from an outside perspective, my day reveals my values; what's REALLY most important to me.  It's like a witness to my real priorities.   When I had babies and medically fragile children the bulk of my day was spent in caretaking.  That was fine, because that was the most important thing at the time.   I think I COULD have put aside more time for exercise and a prayer routine but I didn't.  With exercise, I didn't value it enough, and I don't know if that was wise at the time for me or not.  With a prayer routine, I got discouraged with interruptions.  I probably had an incorrect idea of what successful prayer times should be like.  I probably should have tried harder with that.  I did pray, but I also got lost in the day -- still do, if I am not careful.

Hmm... I'll have to continue with the details of Time in the next post.   But just to put one more thing that I realized as I was rereading this.   I wrote that my day and how I use my time reveals my values and I do think that's true.  But it's not all about quantity -- sheer amount of minutes spent on a given thing.   For example, one only goes to Mass for at most about 5 hours in the week (say, an hour for Sunday mass and 40 minutes for daily mass).  But that doesn't mean that it's only worth 2% in one's scale of values, while sleep is worth close to 35%.   It's not as simple as that.   Time isn't sheer numerical sequence of minutes -- it does seem to flow that way, but the way it works is something like like in Phaedrus' fable about Tempus or opportunity or occasion.   You have to seize it as it slips past.     There's a qualitative factor there too, an element of gravitas.  Sleep is essential, as those who have been deprived of it know very well;  but a devotional time or a morning walk might be more valuable than an extra 20 minutes of dozing after you've already had your 8 hours.  Those types of things take some thinking through.

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