What time is it, anyway?

by Elizabeth Cunningham

The turn of the decade hadn’t registered at all until someone’s holiday card wished me a happy new one. I’m afraid my first thought was: oh, no! Not another decade! Isn’t chalking off another year enough? Then I stepped outside to go for a walk in the first sunlight I’d seen for days, and pleasure in the moment took over.

As I walked I reflected a bit perfunctorily on the past ten years and all the changes and upheavals in the world and in my own life–which I will not enumerate. Then I found myself pondering time itself: round time, as in the earth’s journey around the sun and the phases of the moon, and linear time which defines various beginnings and keeps relentlessly advancing into some elusive future and/or catastrophic end. Then there is ritual or religious time, which is some combination of both: liturgical calendars based on the sun and moon (round) that celebrate events that are considered unique and historical (linear). There is also what I call organic time: birth, growth, aging, death–of plants, animals, and ourselves. However cyclical organic time may be in our gardens, when it comes to our own lives, we also see it as linear. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end–ours.

In this season that is about to culminate in a global celebration that ushers in the secular new year of linear time, we’ve celebrated all the other kinds of time, too, round, religious, and organic. We are the calendar makers and the myth makers; I suspect there is some connection between those two things. Both may be based on keen observation, but both are also human constructs, our way of making sense of mystery. 2010 is a new year and a new decade only because most of us agree that it is–or have agreed to agree, whatever other calendars, religious, cultural or personal, we might also keep.

So what time is it, anyway? What time do you want it to be? We like to put adjectives before the word time and we also like to add an “s” to the word, which makes it clear that time is various. Good times, bad times, tough times, hard times, happy times, past times, end times. Memory and prophecy, the lines we cast into the past and future, are human constructs, too. What stories do we want to tell ourselves about time, what has happened and what is to come? And by the way: what time is it now?

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Elizabeth Cunningham December 28, 2009 - 6:09 pm

I like to take a playful anachronistic approach to time, which has gotten me into trouble with some critics. Time is my playground. It's not that I didn't have plenty of trouble in my time and times, but now I get to tell the stories. I get to have a life not just of the imagination, but in other people's imaginations. And about time, too! -Maeve.

Meredith Gould December 28, 2009 - 9:32 pm

When it finally dawned on me that we were at the end of a decade, I perked right up. These seemed like a particularly long and labored ten years. What time is it now? Time to move forward!

Brooke December 29, 2009 - 5:49 am

All I know is that within the dance of your words, I feel both of my feet planted with the mystery swirling about me. I can close my eyes and read it–just feel it begin to permeate, and it exists outside of any time. I think it is time for me to rest there a while. Thank you for taking me there.

Unknown December 29, 2009 - 1:17 pm

I've been asking myself the same thing…As I watch my 87 year old grandmother struggle with having to use a cane at work (she works in a nursing home-she's been an RN for 60ish years or so) I say it's time to celebrate our bodies for everything they endure in our long lives. I've watched my mom struggle to find peace with her powers…I say it's time to become one with the woman in me and let my powers flow…I've watched my sister struggle through poverty and pull herself into a College Professor of Women's studies and a professional belly dancer who's business continues to outgrow her (yet she's enjoying the ride). I say… Rock on sister!!! It's time to celebrate life and thank the Universe for everything it bestow upon us!!!!

Anonymous December 29, 2009 - 1:43 pm

Beautiful blog, and a fitting beginning to another decade with whatever mystery and beauty, magic and challenge it brings. Happy New Decade!

Tim Dillinger December 30, 2009 - 6:11 pm

Time is an odd thing. We were at a gathering on Christmas evening and the topic of age came up. I was asked how old I was and I responded, without thinking, I'm timeless. I recognize my "birthday" every year (another annual occurance), but it doesn't really change how I feel internally.

Most of the time I feel like I'm in several different "times" at once…which makes this physical "time" slightly irrelevent. There are many other things happening in other times…as we speak…It's just a matter of opening the third eye to see, hear and feel them…


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