Junk-Heap of the Upwardly Mobile
March 31, 2012
Maybe it’s my time of life but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about time —something of which I never have enough and which I’m keenly aware I’m running out of. But I’ve taken some informal surveys that suggest I’m not alone in this.
It seems time is a pebble in everybody’s shoe.
Poets deal with time’s perplexity all the time: its demands, its wonder, its fun and (especially) its annoying personal terminality. Like child-tinkerers taking apart a marvelous toy, poets talk time to get a handle on it, to hack a place to hold it, to turn it, to fold it, to climb it and mount it to ride it, to flip it, to hide it, to turn it, to toy with and tip it, to wrench it, to rip it inside out to unlearn it, to kill it, to burn it, to track it in the innards of clocks, to pick it apart like a crow on a corpse, to drill it, to dig it, to bore it and finally ignore it.
But poets are not the only ones who meditate upon the workings of time; everybody does it to some extent whether professionally or as amateurs, out of sheer desperation. When it comes to time we’re all closet philosophers. We all parse time until we either give up due to psychic cramping, come to a stand-off with it, or suddenly realize there’s not enough left to worry about.
The tackling of time is just one part of getting on in years. Kids don’t have time for time. The most beautiful thing about youth is its ability to frolic in the sea of timelessness. But, one way or another, sooner rather than later, this time-frolicking ends. For some that end often comes as a stupendous freak-out epiphany, while for others time just creeps up and renders them quasi-comatose before they’ve learned to enjoy it.
In any case, when time finally clocks you and you find yourself hovering near the ceiling having an out-of-body experience looking down at what used to be you on your back among the remnants of splinters of minutes and shards of hours you might regret the time you wasted watching Sean Hannity reading script written by corporate CEOs and international bankers.
The truth is that as innocuous as time was when the air was green and tenderfeet knew the ballet of beginning; when they were as free as birds ascending a draft of instants in the hour of sometime-but-not-now, time inevitably becomes a bane and cornucopia of elegies.
Time is the master of poets it has ever enmeshed since the word became flesh —which is to say, as Bob Dylan did, “Time is a freight train, it moves too fast.”
But we’re all poets in some way shape or form. As such, the poet in us would do well to just pour time like water or blood & wine and, savoring, sip it.
Ah, but like most things, that’s easier said than done.
For many among us time is not so resplendent; not so filled with favor. For some, times are really tough because the time of some is frequently held more dear than the time of others. The hours and minutes of little average lives are too often considered to be as weightless and insignificant as a wagonload of nanoseconds. They barely tip our social scales. Meanwhile those of others have the heft of ingots with 24 carat brilliance. In the current marketplace the lives and time of millionaires have the mass of wrecking balls on the life and times of average folks.
The precious minutes of some buy mere bread while the equally precious minutes of others buy yachts. This has been the way of the world from time immemorial. It’s the way a considerable portion of the American commercial and political apparatus works tirelessly to establish and institutionalize as the status quo once and for all (or few, if you really want to pick a nit).
It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Time is money”, which is an aphorism with a large thumb we’ve lived under since Ben first uttered it. It’s been the rule of business over labor since man invented slavery.
A couple of hundred years after Franklin equated time and money, philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “To realize the unimportance of time is the gate to wisdom.”
Now, applying the logic of equations to Franklin’s “time is money” —to simply exchange those terms and apply them to Russell’s “gate to wisdom”, we come up with a truth that, if embraced, might shake the foundations of world; namely:
“To realize the unimportance of money is the gate to wisdom.”
All of our times are short and all have equal value until you start measuring them against net worth; then, depending upon the enlightenment of a culture, they’re either seen in terms of big bottom lines and held in great esteem or judged in terms of small ones and dumped on the junk heap of history and the upwardly mobile.
“Time will tell who has fell and who’s been left behind…” —Dylan again.
by Jim Culleny