Have you ever had the feeling that a short, seemingly inconsequential conversation or experience will soon have a greater significance? Yesterday, while visiting my mother (who lives an hour’s drive away), I met some neighbors of hers. I have heard her speak of them many times: They like to borrow books from my mom, they gifted her a flourishing rosemary plant, my mom comments on their walks past her house each morning as we chat on the phone, etc.
In all of the chatter that ensued yesterday, I was most struck by a single, simple bit of talk. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, and I thanked them for their attentions to my mother: Their immediate response was to make sure that they had my phone number, which I gave, seemingly off-the-cuff.
Yet as I shared my information, then on the drive home, and steadily throughout the last 24 hours, I see a repeating flash of that moment: The two lighthearted, intelligent neighbors conscientiously (and seemingly nonchalantly) gathering the home phone number of their elderly neighbor’s daughter. Having only met them once, I easily could have let the more-than-meets-the-eye feeling of that moment dissipate; however, the incongruous pairing of my mother’s (cheery, social) energy of that episode, with their congenial, yet pointed request, peaked my awareness.
Even as I write this, I am keenly, yet almost sheepishly aware that nearly every adult offspring of an elderly parent begins to wonder “when” and “how.” I recently have been telling myself that Mom has a fair number of years to go—5 or 10 would not be a stretch: While that thought pacifies me, it simultaneously invokes a prayer that her mind not depart before her body. I suppose that yesterday’s brief meeting with the neighbors quietly, yet emphatically reminded me that even when one “knows” something is going to happen, the “when” and “how” can leave our minds flailing.
I share this quick tale, as it leads me to reflect on a topic of deep interest to me, one that seems to have karmic aspects in my life: time. I do not remember ever not being highly conscious of and concerned with time. Even as a youngster, I would make out lists of routines and tasks, each with a corresponding start and finish time. Then, in high school, we were introduced to modular scheduling, in which students were responsible for creating their own class and study times, made up of 1-3 “mods” (18 minutes each). I responded so favorably to this method of scheduling that I wrote my college admissions essay about its ability to teach time management.
And in no small way, I am a highly punctual person, tending toward early arrivals, rather than risk being late. Of course, some of this may be attributed to my Metal characteristics of precision and logistical focus; however, Time has come into my life in ways that I never question, but that silently cause me to wonder in awe at their continual resurgence. Kundalini yoga is a fine example, in that most kriyas and meditations are practiced within a specifically prescribed time range. Ironically, the kundalini of Yogi Bhajan offers kriyas and mantras to “withstand the pressures of time,” all the while reasserting that time is an earthly construct that we must function within, yet learn to live with-out.
Further, Time and timing seem markedly different to me, which is reflected in my visceral approach to each. Time is at once a “safe place” and a potential source of high anxiety for me; I have had to learn—and continue to mediate—ways to focus on schedules, yet not become reigned by the clock and calendar.
Conversely, I am eminently comfortable with the uncertain quality of timing in the Earthly realm. Only in our material existence do we imbue time with mental and physical energy: Perhaps because our very vehicles of existence—our bodies—visibly and kinesthetically alter as we perceive time passing, we may feel compelled to reckon with time: slow it, deny it, defy it.
But: “Time is a flat circle,” in the words of Matthew McConaughey’s “True Detective” on that television series. Time and space trick us into feeling that time “moves,” and that we ride along with it, through it, and past it; yet truly, we float on that vinyl record of time, sinking the needle of our existence into a groove of earthly experiences born of the combination of energy and sensory information. When our “song” ends, the needle may lift, yet the record continues to turn.
I suppose that the above paragraph should be earmarked by my editorial persnicketiness, but I choose to leave it: Like the exchange with Mr. and Mrs. O, it marks a momentary sense of something unseen, profound, yet ultimately natural and inevitable.