Time and Truly Living

Time is such an interesting concept to me. It is defined as “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.” We use time as a measurement for our seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years, and ultimately our lives. Einstein published his Theory of Relativity which states that time is an integral part of the fabric of our universe. St. Augustine in his Confessions, wrote that God made time and it therefore exists outside of human understanding. Some people argue that time is a social construct and doesn’t truly exist. However you choose to interpret time though, one thing is certain: you can’t go back in time.

One of my absolute favorite poems (one I encourage you all to read in full), “Ode to Broken Things” by Pablo Neruda, discusses the finitude of life and how the passage of time destroys all things. He says

And that clock
whose sound
the voice of our lives,
the secret
thread of our weeks,
which released
one by one, so many hours
for honey and silence
for so many births and jobs,
that clock also
and its delicate blue guts
among the broken glass
its wide heart

This passage really makes you think about how much time really rules one’s life. We wake up to a clock, go about our day on a scheduled time, and eventually die when our time is up. He goes on to say, “Life goes on grinding up glass…” to show that no matter what, life continues on. We cannot go back. The rest of the poem expresses the hope that all of the broken things mentioned in the poem (including our lives) can somehow fit back together.

This reminded me of Henry David Thoreau’s comparison of time to a stream in Walden, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For.” He says,”Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

The more you drink the water, the more you see how shallow the stream is. The more time passes, the more you see how little their really is. I feel as though Thoreau is telling us to make our lives as meaningful as possible because our time is limited.

Both Neruda and Thoreau really hit home with the advice to live while you can because time is short. We cannot live our lives focusing on what is ahead, and should focus on the now. This is what it means to be truly alive–time permitting of course.



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