From The Essence of Wisdom, page 7
Franz Kafka: “The fact that our task is exactly as large as our life makes it appear infinite.”
I read something recently that enabled me to think- at least a little- about the concept of time on a universal scale. If the 13.7 billion year age of the universe were compressed into a single 24 hour day, do you know how long one of our 80 year old lifetimes would be?
1/10,000th of a second.
That doesn’t give me much time to get the things done which I’ve been putting off today, let alone those things I’ve delayed doing for forty years. It also emphasizes to me the time that I’ve wasted being angry at others or myself, regretting and wishing regarding the past, and worrying and fretting about the future. Those were all dead issues to begin with but I have worked overtime many weeks keeping them alive and hot on the front burner of my mind.
“Someday, someday,” I would mindlessly mumble to myself in the past when I considered learning Spanish, writing a novel, learning French, or sending a thank-you card to Auntie Helen for a cake she mailed to me in 1971. (She died in 1985, never having gotten that card, either). But the “somedays” these days, are a whole lot fewer than when I was 14 and told a friend who wanted me to play bass in his band that I was too old to start taking guitar lessons. I have a sense of the finity of the somedays left to me at this point, even without knowing the specific number of them .
When we are five years old, next Christmas is 20% of our lives away- a long, long time; when we’re fifty, it is only the equivalent of 2% of our life away! It really does come around faster and faster each year, according to our body clocks. And that realization sends many of us the refrigerator for another beer, to the couch for another thirty minutes of a sit-com we’ll remember for ten minutes after it’s over, or into yet another mental bouillabaisse of leftover regrets, worries, and wishes, with a dash of salty tears.
Here’s what I’ve been doing, better and better, over the last several years, that has involved lots of time- not a second of which I consider wasted, misused, or lost:
- Looking around: There is not a single hour during the day when there is not something new, interesting, or weird to be discovered in a tree, in the yard, or under a rock. Today I watched Zero, one of our cats, try to catch a hummingbird. She didn’t have a chance and I decided that hummingbirds may be the most fearless birds on earth. And I saw (and am still watching) three toads on the back step eating June bugs (who don’t know it is July. And didn’t care, right up to and including those moments they were being swallowed.)
- Looking up: I can’t keep my eyes out of the sky, because my imagination follows right behind them. I am not an astronomer. I am physically starstuff and somewhere out there are my physical ancestors. And they are backlit by 13 billion year old light. And they are big, and faraway, and mysterious, and we’re getting to know each other just a little bit better.
- Reaching out: Every single living thing is programmed, gifted, destined, and trusted enough to do that all the time. But I, like many others, learned somehow- perversely and dangerously- that it’s better not to touch, embrace, speak, or be vulnerable to others in any perceivable way. Now, if I can put two people together into the beginnings of a community, or stimulate the growth of any real community in some way, it has been a glorious, God-perfect day.
Follow me around for awhile and you might think you’re following a four year old, and maybe you are. I’ve missed too much. The somedays will run out before I’ve seen it all, but that- I know now- is absolutely the last reason to stop.
God’s gotten much, much bigger during this whole process, too. God doesn’t follow me around quite as much as I thought; it feels more like I’m following God in all of this.
What a concept!
2 thoughts on “Reflections on..Kafka (again)”
Not too many years ago, I bought a 4 1/2″x3″ composition notebook to record the wisdom doled out in Essence of Wisdom. Every quote you have named thus far has been carried with me and referred to in good times and not so good times. Thank you for reminding me to look at that little notebook today and to watch the shimmer of fire flies in the gloaming.
It is therapeutic to focus on the wisdom chosen by others, and realize its universality..Mitchell always, in everything he does, chooses well..