Saturday, July 3, 2010

Just a matter of time?

SPECIAL WARNING:  Potentially confronting image further down the page.  Just so as you know.

Time will tell.

Time heals all wounds.

Time wounds all heels.

How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you're on.

Time flies, drags, passes, marches on, reveals the truth, changes things.  Time waits for no man, is the wisest counsellor of all, the only thief we can't get justice against, the fire in which we burn, the longest distance between two places. 

Or not.

I prefer the pithily expressed sentiment from an unexpected source - the consultant's consulting guru Alan Weiss - that...
"Time, in its majestic passivity, changes nothing."

For me, this is an essential truth.  We 'spend' so much time thinking time will do the work for us, or that we are at its mercy.  That it's time which has brought things to where they are.  That time will tell.  In actuality, it is we who make the changes, do the healing, wound the heels, fly, drag, learn, teach and reveal the truth.  If we change, it's not because of time.

It is the way of an inquisitive mind to so often confuse or conflate correlation with causation.  Time appears to happen, all these things seem to recur, so time must be the agent.  As a piece of logic it's really on par with the notion that as horses exist, and I fart every day, horses make me fart.

Our relationship with time is a profound one, and I'd venture to suggest that the peculiar relationship we have with it is one of the key things that keeps us feeling separated from the 'other' animals and the world and universe in general.  We are out of time as much as in it.

Still, we cannot escape the fact that time does seem to exist; thus we must live with it.

Having memory is like always having the past right here in the present, dilating or cheating the seemingly linear nature of time.  It means also that everything we ever were, we still are, at least in some sense.  What we once did will always have been done, even if the doings and memories now have a different meaning to what they once had.  It means that this unusually well-photographed fellow from about 1993 is still with me today.

Photo taken for album cover artwork by Jon Green, our then-bass player and arts specialist photographer.

It's what, now about 17 years since this was taken, but I am still him, with everything you can see captured by this quite amazing photographer still inside - even if much of it has changed in form, meaning, and action.

As much as one cleans, as much as one heals one's memories both conscious and otherwise, for much of our time in the present, we do tend to be who we have become.  As opposed to - perhaps - who we truly are beneath all the laters we have accumulated.

In a shamanic way of looking at things, how stuff seems to be is important, and is a way we can access 'the other side' to change what actually is.  The world is what you think it is, isn't it?  One could be forgiven for thinking that in the almost terrifyingly appearance-conscious society we inhabit that we are all deperately practicing a form of shamanism to remake the world (and ourselves) in an image we actually like.  Perhaps the biggest fear we have about how our out-of-control self-projected image translates to the world is the grab-bag of changes we call "the ravages of time."

Does how we look reflect who we really are, who we think we are, who we want to be, or what?

I'm far from immune to all of this, but I am learning a fair bit on my journey.  As the above picture of the Renaissance Man fop might indicate to you, I've lived out more than a fair share of vanity and insecurity in my time.  Some would say that it's 'karma' that the shape of my current opportunity (illness) is so detrimental to my outward appearance, as judged by the mores of contemporary - indeed also species - attractiveness.  Here's what I mean:

Me in the respite bathroom, last week.

I must admit, it's not a view I spend much time gazing at these days, but I'm used to the look of me now.  Most days I'm OK with it all, enjoying a silver lining glass-half-full sort of day, but naturally not every day can be like this.  Some days I pine for the old regular me and the lost 15 kilograms (33 lbs).  Don't miss the hair though, it's really a pain when it's that long.

Still, I am not at all unique in this, am I?  It's such a common thing to lament the 'ravages of time' regardless of your state of health.  True, men fare better generally in socialized terms, but we're not immune to vanity either.

The thing is, I have stumbled upon the realisation that time is not the problem.  It is not even the agent of change - time does not age us.  We just age, that's all.  How we feel about it, our reaction to it - how we look, how we function, what we've 'achieved' so far, all of that - is entirely up to us.  It would be silly to deny the influences all around us trying to convince us that youth is beauty and that this is what you want to be most of all; pointless to pretend that there isn't a social environment desperately dedicated to the glorification of youthfulness and turning every possible persuasive effort to unite us in our fear of..........what exactly?

Death, I reckon.

Simply put, much of it is some attempt to push the scary end-time as far away from top-of-mind as possible.  For the personal impossibility of this, I am grateful indeed to the skeletor you see up there in the bathroom mirror.

As Bart Simpson's teacher, Edna Krabappel once said to her class about marriage; "The truth is, most of you will end up marrying out of fear of dying alone."  So many decisions are made every day with this big dark scary thing looming over us, usually (we tell ourselves over and over) unconsciously.

Death, and its imminence, and our habitual modern suite of responses to it, is perhaps one of the greatest shapers of our perception of time.  It drives our youthphilic culture, a mainstay of consumer motivation, and simultaneously makes us fear ageing, the other main force behind the capitalist urge to acquire as far as possible beyond our immediate needs.

I wonder what would happen if we did something small, but radical, like have primary school age kids introduced to death and dying as a natural thing, with wisdom and compassion as guides.  If we stopped the sanitisation and quarantining of 'real-life' death - school excursion to the morgue anyone?  The hospice ward?  If we stopped also the desensitisation and distancing of mortality (especially of the needless and brutal kind) we practice on the TV news and other media, might we have a better chance of getting real with this stuff?

Or does the whole capitalist edifice rest on the bedrock of fear of The End?  It is often said that we in The West live in a society founded on Christian Values - but the meaning of such values is never quite made clear or agreed upon.  I would suggest that some of these values (the 'Christian' ones) which have carried over into more secular times are a little bit unhelpful to our healthy development.  Namely, fear of God.  Fear of death and damnation.  Institutionalised images of suffering as metaphor for the price to be paid for failing to live according to The Rules.  Death as a time after which you must be held accountable for all you have done - old age as a time during which you will be held accountable for how well you managed your retirement fund.

I'm not Christian-bashing here, just looking back to some of the systemic perversions that will inevitably crop up in any political system - which a church indubitably is.  Same applies to all organised rules-based societies or faiths.

It's about time.

Time running out, and the power the fear of this has over so many of us.  We are sometimes prompted to ask ourselves "if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you be doing right now?"

And yet, since we don't know, and prefer not to contemplate it, we never do those things we think of, or live the way we would if we were free from fear.  We don't even usually learn from the exercise.  I speak for myself here of course, and shall say too that some of the moments I have spent contemplating - indeed preparing for - my own death have been some of the most gloriously and unexpectedly alive I have been.

Worth a try?  I mean, what's the worst that could happen?


  1. "Deep down, no one really believes they have a right to live. But this death sentence generally stays tucked away, hidden beneath the difficulty of living. If that difficulty is removed from time to time, death is suddenly there, unintelligibly."~ Jean Baudrillard

    Its a fearsome thing, this remembering of past and not future, without trust.. A beautiful share. Thank you for it.

    Your picture and story conjoined in my memory with a Ted Hughes poem I'll share. :)

    The Horses

    I climbed through woods in the hour-before-dawn dark.
    Evil air, a frost-making stillness,

    Not a leaf, not a bird -
    A world cast in frost. I came out above the wood

    Where my breath left tortuous statues in the iron light.
    But the valleys were draining the darkness

    Till the moorline - blackening dregs of the brightening grey -
    Halved the sky ahead. And I saw the horses:

    Huge in the dense grey - ten together -
    Megalith-still. They breathed, making no move,

    with draped manes and tilted hind-hooves,
    Making no sound.

    I passed: not one snorted or jerked its head.
    Grey silent fragments

    Of a grey silent world.

    I listened in emptiness on the moor-ridge.
    The curlew's tear turned its edge on the silence.

    Slowly detail leafed from the darkness. Then the sun
    Orange, red, red erupted

    Silently, and splitting to its core tore and flung cloud,
    Shook the gulf open, showed blue,

    And the big planets hanging -
    I turned

    Stumbling in the fever of a dream, down towards
    The dark woods, from the kindling tops,

    And came to the horses.
    There, still they stood,
    But now steaming and glistening under the flow of light,

    Their draped stone manes, their tilted hind-hooves
    Stirring under a thaw while all around them

    The frost showed its fires. But still they made no sound.
    Not one snorted or stamped,

    Their hung heads patient as the horizons,
    High over valleys in the red levelling rays -

    In din of crowded streets, going among the years, the faces,
    May I still meet my memory in so lonely a place

    Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing the curlews,
    Hearing the horizons endure.



  2. That is beautiful Aadhaar and you are beautiful. Everything I have learned from you and the things about you and your adventures all make more sense to me now. I totally agree about the concept of time, it is irrelevant really, hence why some souls appear to learn quickly and some more slowly when in reality everyone is learning at the same time and rate as is relative to them and the reason to me is so that we learn fully.
    I am so glad you have shown these pictures of for everyone to enjoy you fully...the truly wonderful being that you are.
    Liese x

  3. I was surprised to actually see a photo of you as you have been so elusive about it in the past. :-) It's beautiful.

    My husband's family was able to care for his grandfather as he died and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren were able to help him get ready. It became a precious, tender experience for all involved. I also believe in a life after death, so my feelings may be colored by that. Making sure that important things have been said and important things have been done has become higher and higher on my priority list and it has helped me to live more in line with my governing principles. Letting things go and loving while we have the chance leaves little room for regret. It has changed the way I parent, the way I have friendships and the way I treat my family of origin (although I'm still a work in progress). Having already buried one child, I try to portray death as a part of the life cycle with my children.

    It's not easy or fun, but it *is* precious.

    It is part of our humanity.

  4. Unbelievably great post.
    Of course, Jesus himself might say that in the chinese whispers of the human world, Christianity has become distracted by the crucifixion (guilt, sin), and not in the actual message, which was of rebirth (the essential purity of the God within all humanity).
    I think you look really great with a beard.
    heart, hart, heart, L.