The Ticking We May or May Not Hear


by Lucky Garvin

I always cringe a bit when I hear people use expressions like, “I can’t wait for Friday; TGIF” or, it’s ‘Hump Day’ [Wed.] because the weekend is almost here. It seems to me those folks have a problem which I, until recently, have shared. If I’m looking forward to a day, that’s okay, unless I’m missing the one in front of me. A day is an irreplaceable thing to waste. In spiritual terms, I suspect there’s no such thing as ‘a day off.’

Adapted from Robert H. Smith:

The clock is wound but once 

And no one has the power

To know just when the clock will stop

At a late or an early hour.

Now is the only time you own;

Live, love, toil with a will.

Place no faith in tomorrow,

For the clock may then be still.

I have watched my kids and figured out one of their secrets. For some time I have been envious of their ability to tap happiness out of a day.  Each one is wrung dry and cast aside as they eagerly grab another. They know how to do it, but cannot explain their method to me.  Children are our superiors in so many ways.

They come to life as a naturally gifted class, possessing a mastery they cannot teach; an artless spirituality and a naive sophistication; a fundamental connectedness with living we lose as we grow older. Has this paradox ever struck you? The longer we live, the less we laugh.  I recently read that children laugh 400 [or was it 4000?] times a day [each “ha” counts as one, I guess]; adults less than 30 times per day. Children… wise is the person who will take them as mentors.

The answer, I think, is that the young – immune to aging, not being old enough to have any meaningful sense of the future, even of “tomorrow” – live for the moment.

I need to learn to live not for the moment, but in the moment.  This does not, needless to say, minimize the importance of future planning and considerations, but draws to center focus the truth that each day has its joys, challenges, lessons, and beauties; each day is all of life; life encompassed and compressed into a single brief span and presented to us one measure at a time.

When we lose sight of this reality, while we steadfastly and doggedly discharge our daily responsibilities, it is easy for us, without a thoughtful consent, to allow the future to substitute for the present.

Fascination, a word and concept familiar to children, has been forgotten by too many adults.  Most of us possess the capacity to be fascinated.  I am enchanted with my Sabrina, my kids, writing and wildlife; and of that allure, I enjoy the benefits of the companions of fascination: focus, energy, happiness, creativity; and there is another blessing:  while fascinated,  I no longer hear the ticking of that indifferent pendulum which counts off the moments of my life.  Now, I no longer fear that sound; but have a sense of urgency to grow as much as I can before the final chime.

I anticipate rebuttal.  “Well, kids are young; their whole lives are in front of them.  They have no cares and all the time in the world.” No cares?  A bit cynical are we?

`Their whole life in front of them?’  We all think that, adults and youngsters alike. But the truth of it is that all of our clocks are wound to an uncertain tension.  Perhaps the Creator says to one, “You will live out the three score and ten.”  And to another, “For this assigned task, you be in mortal form but for five earthly years; no time for you to take the measure and substance of your dreams before you come again to Me.”

I think there is no sorrow in that pronouncement; for sorrow is a thing of earth.

The metronome comes unnoticed to the ear of those who are fascinated. We are led to what focuses us by our bliss; a yearning; a homing beacon that sets a light in the storm; not a safe harbor; but the right harbor; for each of us.

So, for me, at least, it is important that each day I pause; I look at the sky, smell the air, and look afresh into the faces of those who create and cast my life, be they my Sabrina, our dogs and cats and critters, or a patient I just met [Think of this: of all the patients who visited all ER’s in the world this day, at this hour, why is this particular person in front of me? Now?] Then, when my time is done, whether I move into vistas incomparably more breathtaking than this, or, I go to eternal sleep, I shall go with the full knowing that I appreciated each and every day.

Tick. Tick.  Tick.

Do you hear the pendulum?