My wife and I recently returned from my mother’s funeral in Chicago. I take this opportunity to thank all who expressed their support and sympathy and the wonderful group of friends from Anderson who personally attended her services.
In this time of personal sadness, I am so grateful to God for the 89 years he gave to my dear mother. I know that, even in this moment, as it says in the Bible, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
As I reflect on this past week, what seems to stick out most in my mind is time. In fact, “time” was the subject preached so beautifully by my mother’s eulogist, my brother-in-law from Alabama, the Rev. Hycall Brooks, III.
“What are you doing with your time?” he asked. He went on to teach the ways in which time is so deeply imbedded in our language, our behavior, our culture. It has long been a subject of great interest to me.
Time. I think most older adults in this great city (yes, great) know the importance of “punching in” and “punching out.” It was the time card, a thing ubiquitous in the industrialized world. If you got to the factory when you were supposed to, you were “on time.” If you got there late, it cost you something.
Time. Your computer runs on a calendar/clock. There is a clock on your cable TV box. Your cellphone keeps time. Most people have some type of clock in every room in the house — digital, analog, cuckoo, grandfather, inexpensive, very expensive, tick tock, tick tock. Our lives are regulated by time.
I have 10 wristwatches. Even though they are mostly inexpensive time keepers, they not only keep time, but also tell the month, and the date. If I need to know more about past or future days, weeks, months and years, I can use my computer or one of the many calendars in different places around the house.
That’s how we keep up with time, stay on time. But beyond these mundane things, time interests me in other ways. After all, time as we know it is a modern invention. Before cuckoos, computers, calendars, wristwatches, and their kin, time was measured by the movements of the sun and the moon.
Before clocks were dreamed of, time was measured by changing seasons. In some ancient cultures, it was also measured by the amount of work it took to complete a given task. In these contexts, it is easy to imagine how silly it would be to speak of “punching in” or “punching out.”
Time. My second interest is in the idea that it is linear. Although obviously it is possible to define time in this way — as a theoretically infinite line — in a cosmic sense the idea is preposterous. The reason is that it is impossible to go one nanosecond into the past, or one nanosecond into the future. All we have is one vast circle, NOW.
In this latter context, questions come different. It’s not about whether you’re early, on time, or not on time. It is the question Rev. Brooks posed in his sermon: “What are you doing with your time?”
This point of view also raises another important aspect of time: eternity. I know of no religious belief system that denies existence beyond the here and now. I believe even atheists must wonder from time to time, what happens when these fragile flesh and bones are no more?
Because of all the apparent man-made and environmental craziness in this world, souped up by instantaneous communications means, there are many who believe that time is running out for mankind and this planet. They call it “The End Times.”
I, in contrast, would not be so vain or so bold as to presume to have the foggiest idea about God’s timetable for man or earth. Individual “end times” could be tomorrow morning. The only thing I know for sure is all I have while on this earth is this moment in time, this NOW.
The only thing I truly believe is that, one day, I will join in cosmic glory as surely as I was born, and that my place will be determined by only two questions arising from my own (not yours or anyone else’s) brief time on this earth: Did I love the Lord? And did I love and respect my fellow man?
How are you spending your time?
Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays in The Herald Bulletin.