Time

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No, it’s not Latin, at least not directly. It is Old Germanic and related to tide, much as it helps us, as we cannot actually define time without running around in circles biting our tails (Ouroboros or a frisky dog, depending how seriously you want to take the notion). We can devise tools, sometimes very precise ones, to measure it, but as to what it is, well, no one really knows for sure. Is it finite or infinite? Does it flow, jump, stay or renew itself? Is the future coming to you or are you moving towards the future? Is the past unchangeable? Can time be traveled other than in memory?

We know we try to manipulate the time continuum (is it a continuum all by itself or does space gather there as well?). St Augustine thought that we have all the tools we need for time: we simultaneously grasp the past in memory, the present by attention, and the future by expectation.

Remember that old Greek myth of Khronos (personification of time) eating his children and them remaining alive and unharmed (gods, therefore immortal, and bound by prophecy – which is therefore stronger than time?) in the vastness of their father’s reach. We seem to be in time, but are we time as well? Is time sequential or, like we can in memory, escape into possibility?

Time can also struggle along even if we seem to have lost a limb of it. An amnesiac still has a present and a future, someone with short memory loss will remember his childhood and can plan for the future, an infant seems to live in an eternal past-present, with nary a thought for the future.

So many questions, for something we take so much for granted and that seems such a simple concept.

A few things seem to be outside of time. An example would be the strong feelings humans can experience. We feel those, they relate to an extant object (person, country etc.), and yet they transcend time. It is as if that relationship makes and marks its own time, limited and yet wider than the usual continuum. When we feel strongly we can work, dream, eat, raise children and follow our pathway in our time, and yet a small part of us counts a different set of seconds, one that is not ours but belongs to that object and that connects us to that object when distance alone might not make it.

And should that clock falter, our very essence is at risk.

Distractions

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The word means a few things, as you would expect. Harmless amusement is one, but that is not what I will talk about today. The roots of the word are Latin and mean to pull apart, in different directions. And I have had to do this for the last six months. For reasons fair, a relationship of mine had to change. The heart though is a stubborn organ. Fairness means something on a good day, but not all days are good. Fairness means something when I am strong, but that is not always. I can be fair if I am helping, but not so much when I need help.

So the last half a year I have devoted to distractions. New directions which a heart may wish to explore. New winds to ruffle one’s hair. New things for the eyes to see that are not (very) connected to that person.

I can report some success, if that is the right word. Sometimes it feels like a lie. Am I really thinking less of the past? Am I really moving forward? It didn’t help that I didn’t particularly want to change this. Why would you change something that gives you joy? Reasons fair…

Little by little though, the quality of the thoughts is changing. Distractions work not by replacing the previous subject, but by creating distance. Those new things I am trying I can see them still through my old lens, but it is a bit blurred now. Those winds blow in contexts that do not include that specific relationship. And the directions… well, those are interesting enough and demanding enough to create distance, moments of being in the present rather than wishing for a past. I can rephrase experiences now to refer to me alone, that I can talk about rather than properly share.

Distractions require training. Small steps are the norm rather than a preference. They also require focus, which sounds counter-productive, really, but it helps. I would have been thinking of that person anyway, you see. The trick I am playing with myself (in full acknowledgement that it is a trick and that I expect it to work only under duress) is to formulate that thinking to include distance. To allow days to pass without contact. To encourage rebellion against myself: create a fantasy meeting, then deliberately do something else.

And if that sounds as if I really need to get over myself already, I do that as well. I put that relationship in context, both historical and personal. It helps that this isn’t the first time I have done something like this. So when the going is hard, I can tell myself that I know the ending, even though I am in no hurry to get there…except when I am ready because I know that the hurt will go as well.

The heart is not only a stubborn organ, but a vocal one as well. It resists change, actively. It puts up a good fight, one I do not relish, even when the reasons are fair. A beaten heart (I am, after all, using intellect and time to put my will upon it) is a sad thing to contemplate. And yet I have done it before, and I know it can be done, and I also know that in time the beauty of that relationship will shine through once more.

What I really struggle with is quite different. You see, when you try to win a fight against your own heart by will and intellect and context, what you are really doing is taking your heart out of its depths. It works, in time….

…But it is so darned superficial!

Connection

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For reasons fair, a relationship of mine had to…end. I do not like the word, nor is it true, so I thought I will explore the “connection” theme.

But first, a metaphor: running water. More precisely, a fast flowing mountain stream. Magic sources state that running water, especially that going in a certain direction (does that still apply in the Southern hemisphere or is it inverted? Must find out – most of my magic sources are Northern hemisphere born) is a bigger barrier than suspected. So let’s assume that the two persons in the relationship sit on the opposite banks of the river and, for both magical and practical reasons, cannot cross.

Sharing of sorts is possible, of course. They can see each other. They can hear each other (imperfectly, the water is loud). Occasionally they have to shelter from inclement weather.

Every time they share something though, a small thread is thrown across the water. Thin and fragile, insignificant you might say. Over a couple of years, many threads have been thrown over the waters, they have twisted around each other, finding similarities. The connection is now a rope they both hold. And then one of them decides to loosen its grip onto the rope. The decision could have been made to leave. Or unkind words would have tried to sever the connection.

Does it matter? Of course it matters at a personal level, but does it matter at the connection level? Can that brave person who leaves actually let go of the rope? Can that rope be cut?

It seems unlikely to me. The rope (and the connection it signifies) will loose strength over time, it is true, otherwise grief would be absolute and eternal. But that rope is strong enough to survive at the beginning. And so it happens: people you meet on the street have the same first or second name of the other person. You suddenly see so many similar cars, someone may have their coffee the same way, you smell the same perfume, you listen to songs on the radio that have associations, you see something in a shop and you start to buy it before you realize that you don’t have to. Sometimes you end up buying it anyway. Mostly books and music. You turn your head and start talking before you realize that there is an empty space. A life turns on its axis, trying to find a new centre of gravity.

So how is that the end? You may want it to be so, it is occasionally healthier. It will, as I said, fade in time. But if our memory is triggered by emotions, then I could say in all honesty that years from now, threads of that rope will still be crossing that river, waiting for a particular hand to pick them up.

And would that I could cross, and find you…

Moral

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Action and re-action.

Action and result.

Murder or manslaughter.

In a practical way we could (and sometimes do) judge what is happening around us in moral terms.

The intent leads us to make a decision and based on that decision we may act.

I will add two other items: the act has a consequence/result and after we hear of the consequence we may also justify it in some way or another.

There is no flow on effect except in one area: action – consequence.

Having an intent does not mean you will make a decision.

Making a decision is by no means a trigger to act.

Knowing a consequence does not prompt justification.

The justification will only sometimes inform further intent.

I would argue that intent, decision, action and justification lie mostly in our power (not entirely, as societal norms will have shaped us within our specific culture). What your mama taught you may still get you lynched in another culture.

Based on the above I would also argue that consequence lies mostly outside of our power, just like gravity and other forces of nature. We could react with bewildered anger if we are told off for an accidental tipping over of a glass of water on the carpet. It’s not like we actually planned, decided and executed that accident! But we are the ones being told off for it!

With so much of the result out of our control, and with our tenuous (at best) control over the other moral steps, how are we to make sense of principles and norms, commandments and admonitions?

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I happen to be reasonably good with the positive type of moral guidance: love one another, do unto others etc. I don’t do so well with the negative type: don’t lie, don’t covet, don’t…

Probably because the negative commands are very restrictive at the same time they are prescriptive. There is no leeway. And yet for my purposes leeway is required.

Most of the time my purpose is maintaining a relationship. Toxic or not, helpful or not, if my intent is to maintain a relationship, then on analysis of the relationship I make certain decisions and this in turn reduces the number of actions I can take. Once I also act, spinning prayer wheels, I await the consequence. If I guessed right then the relationship I have chosen to maintain is secure for yet another period of time, until the next action is required.

Then, and especially if the relationship is not exactly helpful, I spend the longest time justifying it. I may use my beloved wish for control, I may rationalize the other’s behaviour, I may dream of the curt words I would say if I wanted to break the relationship.

Comfortable? No.

I am good at figuring out what the other person needs (not wants!). Which means that most of the time I guess right. Relationship maintained. Control secured. Rationale typed up in triplicate.

Don’t lie. I am a bad liar. But I can withhold, avoid and evade the truth with the best of them.

Exhausting? You bet!