Monday, September 18, 2006
Masters of Time
"And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath." (Mark 2: 27-28)Time was made for man's use, which makes each of us masters of time.
Every time I have an experience I have two decisions to make:
1. How long do I wish to have the experience for?
2. What do I get out of the experience?
Decision 1 - How long do I wish to have the experience for?
As a writer, I can make an experience last as long as I wish. When I share my experiences I am stretching one moment into infinity or as long as the Internet lasts.
In the cartoon series The Simpsons Bart and his two siblings, Lisa and Maggie, have been the same age for 17 years. They could go on being the same age forever. And why not?
There are times, so to speak, when time can appear to be in control, but that is an illusion as the one having the experience is always in control.
Let's say for example you go to see a doctor about an ailment. After he examines you he writes to the hospital. Soon you receive a letter from a consultant telling you that the good news is he can fit you into his busy schedule. The not so good news is he can't see you till six months time. (At least that's how it works in the UK health service unless you can afford to go private). You wait for six months and the day finally arrives when you're seen by the consultant and your problem is resolved.
Now let's look at this scenario from a different perspective. When your doctor gives you a diagnosis, you follow his recommendation because you agree with his diagnosis. Your belief in your doctor is so strong you're prepared to keep this "contract" going for a further six months. What you're effectively doing is stretching out that one moment of pain into months and even years. What if you were to decide you no longer wanted to play that game? Surely if you can stretch one moment to six months you can contract the experience to a few hours, minutes, seconds or zero time? You are master of time, remember.
While I was waiting for the bus I looked up at the timetable. The bus I wanted was number 4 in the queue and not due for another 10 minutes. I thought "No, there is no time but NOW!" At first I was looking down the road expectantly then I sat down in silence. One bus arrived but it wasn't mine. I looked up at the timetable and it read that mine was third in the queue. After what seemed like only a moment I looked up at the timetable and noticed it had been updated to read that my bus was the first one due. As some passengers were blocking my view of the road, something told me to get up. I saw my bus was already at the stop and I caught it just in time.
Decision 2 - What do I get out of the experience?
In a bookshop the other evening I heard a commotion. A customer had found a mouse in the shop and had picked it up. I asked her if I could have a look. It was the cutest mouse. A few of us were cooing at it while I stroked it gently. I also thought it was very interesting seeing a mouse because I had been thinking of a television commercial where they use an animated mouse called Mr Mouse. One shop assistant was cowering behind his desk and wouldn't look at it. The customer said she was going to release it into the wild and asked the shop assistant for a box to put the mouse in.
When I saw the shop assistant later I couldn't resist teasing him. "How could you be scared of a cute little mouse?"
"It's not that I was scared that it would bite me, it's just that I don't want to end up six months down the road with some disease."
"I don't believe that for one moment," I said.
As you can see, the shop assistant and I had had two different mouse experiences. I saw the mouse as a creature of love that gives only joy. I'm even stretching that moment of joy so I can share it here in this piece. The shop assistant saw the same creature as one that gives diseases and projecting that into his future.
In the film, American Beauty, after Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) has been shot and is dying, he has the following realisation about life.
LESTER (V.O.)Time is an instrument for me to experience life. I can use it for joy or pain. I can make it last a moment or forever. The decision is always mine.
I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time... For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars... And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined my street... Or my grandmother's hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper... And the first time I saw my cousin Tony's brand new Firebird... And Janie... And Janie... (with love) And... Carolyn.
I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... ...and then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... (amused) You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... You will someday. American Beauty Film Script
Related articles: Love is My Foundation;The Body as a Tool to Express Self; The One Moment of Now is Like the Sun; ; Breaking Out of the Projection Habit