I can waste an awful lot of time. It escapes me so easily, running off and disappearing, never to be found again. I look at the clock one moment and it is 9 a.m. and the next moment it is noon. All I have done in the two hours that are lost is sit and think, staring into space, going over odds and ends of my life over a cup of tea. If left to my own devices with no one to keep check on me, I would drift like this for a whole day.
Someone once said that you should only spend, maximum and no more than four hours alone. Any more and you become maudlin and surly. This is true, in my opinion because the longer I spend with myself, the farther down the hole of self deprecation and pity I go. But this could just be me.
There are other ways in which to waste time, ways that seem like you are actually accomplishing something when in reality you are wasting time that should have been spent on something productive. An example of this is how I approach writing. I start out over that cup of tea and then I drift for awhile. After a the tea has gone cold, and I have analyzed every stupid thing I have said over the last few months, I pull myself up and tell myself I am going to write today. That is, after I have gotten dressed, or taken a shower, or read the news or washed up the dishes, or straightened the mess that is my office, or played with the cat or....need I go on? There is the rub, the time that could have been spent writing, while the dishes went moldy in the sink and the cat amused herself and I went one more day with slightly stringy hair, was instead, spent on anything but.
I know the word that is needed here is discipline. But it is such an awful word. It conjures up images of third reich regimes or russian piano teachers. It is a word that impedes the creative flow, stifles the imagination, and curtails the wings of ecstatic desire, or so I tell myself. Really it is a word that needs to be carefully placed next to words like; habit, consistent, prolific and self-sacrificing.
But, I digress, because what I really want to address here is the wasting of time. We are only alloted a short time on this earth, a mere blip in on the radar of eternity. Given such a short amount of time; say 70 years or maybe, if we discount the formative period, only 50 years,in which we should be diligently making every moment count (okay I am not going to figure out the amount of time spent sleeping and deduct that because dreams are part of the creative process). Everyone has their own agenda on what is a waste of time and what is a profitable use of time, but we should all agree that to lose time, to lose moments in our lives that were spent on nothing, is to lose something very precious. The answer, I believe, lies in living in the perpetual now. By this I do not mean to be in the current cultural phenomena, only seeing, reading, or taking part in the latest fad or fancy. What I mean is not to dwell in the past, or float off to the future too much.
T.S Eliot put it well in his first poem in the Four Quartets, Burnt Norton;
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
So all that musing and analyzing over a cold cup of tea in reality does me no good. Time is unredeemable, (I love this word because the spell check on my computer does not recognize it as an accurate spelling), there is no going back and claiming or redoing, there is only the perpetual now. Eliot, of course is dealing in this poem with the idea of being in and out of time, as in contained by times restraints and being outside of the very aspect of time itself. But he starts the poem in a very concrete form, analyzing the idea of time; past, present and future. Is there any point to regret ?
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
He goes on to find movement in stillness, outside of time;
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor
neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
This idea of the dance really enthralls me. The idea that outside of time, outside of past and future is this movement, this eternal still point where everything comes together. It harkens back, at least for me, to the Aristotelian view of the universe, with the Prime Mobile being the outside of everything. To quote Aristotle; 'Outside the heaven there is neither place nor void nor time. Hence whatever is there is of such a kind as not to occupy space, nor does time effect it.'
For Aristotle this was the outer most part of the spheres, the place of God. For the twentieth century, and post Galileo, Elliot, this was not a place beyond but a point at...the still point of the turning world.
But Eliot is not finished with his deconstruction of time, he moves on to explore the juxtaposition of the movement in time and out of time;
Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into silence. Only by form, the pattern,
Can words, or music reach
the stillness, as a Chinese jar is still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
I feel like that Chinese jar sometimes, perpetually moving in my stillness. Being, existing, but not doing much of anything else. I am back with the cold cup of tea and the idea that time is passing by me, moving on without me, changing me against my will; all those little cells that transform and die, all those nerves that flicker rather than burn in my brain. And Eliot agrees with me;
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
I can long for more time, and waste it at the same time. There has to be something greater than my desire to move me towards accomplishment.
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between the un-being and being.
Back to Aristotle and the Prime Mobile, that which does not move but moves everything because everything moves towards it. It desires only in time, desires us in time because we are limited and have desire. If I move outside of myself and towards that which all desire moves to, I should move from the stillness of that jar, to the point of the dance. It is there that really matters, beyond the temporal things like dishes and dirty hair, beyond the regrets of what was or might have been and on to the perpetual now of the creative mind. And Eliot is there to reminds me;
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.