Monday, September 21, 2009

Coyotes, and time as an abstract

I wrote this a few months back , when summer night didn't fall till almost 9. It's a tale of my son's first run-in with time.


Anton had a hard time going to sleep this afternoon for his nap. A very hard time. It was late enough when he finally succumbed that both Anne and I thought/hoped he’d stay asleep through the night.

Ha, but the Toddler God laughs at such wishes!

And so, around 8:45 P.M, just as dusk was falling full into night, Anton wandered silently into my office, eyes nearly shut from the overhead light (but beaming full as always), and dove headfirst, blanket, paci and all into the comfy green chair in the corner. “Good morning!” he intoned, mouth full of cushion.

And now, a step back.

When I first heard the lyrics to “I Believe” by REM, I couldn’t really make sense of the line “I believe in coyotes and time as an abstract.” I probably still don’t understand it. Especially the part about coyotes. But, anyway, at age 19, “time as an abstract” really befuddled me. How was time an abstract? Seemed pretty concrete to me. 60 seconds, 1 minute, 60 minutes, 1 hour. I like the order of it.

Confused, I asked one of my smart friends, and I’m thinking it was Eddie Sperr, who had no issue explaining to me that time was an artificially designed construct, somewhat inadequate, geared at helping us bring order to a complex world. I don’t think those were his exact words, but he explained it well enough that I remember thinking, “Well, shit, there’s another freakin’ tater skin to add to the compost pile of life’s imponderables.”

I just made that up – “compost pile of life’s imponderables.” Liking the metaphor.

But of course, the truth is that there are no neat, tidy, segmented spans in our life. A second is forever, it is never, it is now. Deep, man. But as Eckhart Tolle said (at least from what I could glean out of the 37 pages of The Power of Now that I was able to stomach), all that really exists is now, one long continual moment that is our lives.

I so very much like for things to be clear, clean, neat and tidy. But from what I’ve seen of life, it is seldom a methodical thing. Embracing the fact that the “abstract of time” is good for little more than helping me figure out when the next Episode of Dexter is – has gifted me one of life’s terrifying freedoms: nothing is as it seems but everything is mine to change.

Better said, life shouldn’t be a game of watching the clock, neither literally nor metaphorically. If we stay busy trying to compartmentalize things into neat packages, we won’t ever really see what we’re putting in those packages. And we’ll miss out on the fact, the wonder, that we can control so much more of ourselves when we start accepting things without constraints.

“Good morning” made sense to Anton. He’d slept for a good long while, and it was barely light outside. I guess he figured he’d awoken a little early, just in time for sunrise.

He believes in coyotes and time as an abstract, even though he can’t verbalize it yet.

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