odd time signatures

reflections: time present and time past

reflections: time present and time past

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

(T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton)

Like it or not, time is a primary theme of my life right now. Odd time, even time, time lost, time captured, time placed into the context of now. Urgent times, important times, trivial and wasted, all weighing into the context of life now, life yesterday, tomorrow.

The title of this blog is “odd time signatures” partly because I started it with Sticks in mind and partly because odd time signatures define the pace of my own rhythm — fits and starts punctuated by days where everything falls into place for that day, that time.

It’s so easy to fall into complacent thinking…tomorrow will be the same as today, yesterday, and it will all merge into this thing called a life.

Then a friend’s child dies, or a note drops into the email box with the devastating news that another friend has invasive breast cancer, and time accelerates. Not necessarily focused on mortality, or death and dying, but on whether the time we have and the time we’ve already used has been invested in the right way, on the right things. Whether time present and time past are both perhaps present in the future.

In a year where we’re facing some of the most serious social, global and economic issues I can remember, our time can be spent obsessing on what church the candidate attended, or whether we’ve really transcended race enough to elect a black guy (no matter how qualified), or whether we’re really going to go back and fight a culture war instead of dealing with the wars we’ve already started…

…and if we do, it’s wasted time. Gone forever, poured down the drain like old milk soured and lumpy, with no practical use.

There is an urgency to now in politics and in living. I’m easily sucked into the overscheduled life, measuring my days in half-hour increments ticked off on the blackberry, punctuated by reminders 15 minutes before the hour… frustrated by the missed light in the morning while sitting in traffic or the shrugged-off conversation with a family member figuring I can wait, wait, wait…until maybe I get tired of waiting and walk away from the opportunity altogether.

All of this to say…what? It’s all a reflection, maybe a resolution, maybe an effort to reconcile the recent assault of bad news against context, in perspective, trying to put a placeholder on where to place focus, effort, energy.

I have no answer beyond a burning desire to transcend trivia and focus on that urgency of now I have been hammered with and been hammering on recently.

time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future if effort is made to place them there.

As with music, time spent has a signature, a mark. Will it be one remembered or one forgotten?

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
(T.S. Eliot, Salvages)

Comments are closed.