Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Time Is an Occupation

Talking about time is difficult. Time isn't a commodity, I'm convinced. So I try to avoid language of "using" or "spending" time. But I wind up spending a lot of time figuring out how to use time in a sentence. Oops--I did it again.

So today I was reviewing some scribbles and noticed the phrase "how we occupy our time." I like that--it gets at the vocational nature of time: our time is not our own, and thus we are accountable for it. We inhabit it, we live and move and have our being within its borders.

Then I ran across "The Dry Salvages" (no. 3 of "Four Quartets") by T. S. Eliot. I'm going to linger on it a while. For the full piece, click here.

Men's curiosity searches past and future
And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.

2 comments:

Margaret Feinberg said...

Time is both friend and foe depending on the circumstances.

David A. Zimmerman said...

I ran into the following passage from Psalm 90:12, being used as an April midday prayer by YouthFront in Kansas City:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Reminds me of a Chris Wright song:

"You know the number of my days. . . . Teach me the power of a moment."