Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Meditation on Time

Last night the clocks went back into what is now known as official Winter Time. I read a wonderful article in the paper yesterday by  Dermot Bolger on this phenomenon, and what time and this new season really mean (unfortunately it doesn't have a link!) He talked about how  winter is a time to reflect upon our lives, a 'time-out' if you like. A time, as he quoted Byron of saying - that 'the heart must pause to breathe'. 

Which got me to thinking (and googling) a lot about - Time. Some of my favourite quotes I found on it I've posted below for you to read. 

Note the either positive or negative attitude to Time in them. Time as a 'tyrant' or Time as a gift. Time as a thief, out of our hands, or - entirely in them. I love the quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button rebuking Time. This F. Scott Fitzgerald short story recently made into a movie, tells the story of Benjamin Button, a boy who is born 'old' and throughout his life ages backwardly. A curious meditation that causes you to ponder what is the real meaning of Time. Is it an obstacle or an irrelevant detail? Should we be squashed under its steel fist or ride on the crest of its ever-moving wave?

How often do we feel the burden of Time on us in day-to-day living, not just wholesome reflection. Sometimes I feel exactly like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland running around with a pocket watch all the time, perpetually late (I'm even haunted by him - often when I'm in mid-rush to something I'm late for, his blasted refrain is running through my head: 'I'm late, I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late! Which just puts me into more of a frenzy...!) It's only recently I've decided to ditch the watch and move in a more relaxed manner,  adopting the easy manner of many friends - ie. the 'we'll get there in the end, what's the hurry?' maxim.

A lot of people profess things like 'There's not enough time in the day!' and the like, but there is. There is ample time. Everyone's day is the same length let's not forget. We have to start kicking the ghoulish time-masters looming over us, be ita white rabbit refrain, Labyrinth king David Bowie or a looming scythe. Everyone moves at different speeds - literally and metaphorically. Comparing our time and what we've done with it to others is certainly going to be a slam-stopper.

When we look back on our life so far and think, like everybody, 'where the heck did all those years go?!, maybe we can console ourselves with some of the wise theories from these thinkers below. Time and its passing, is always a mystery to us. But what do we have against its sheer force? Well, for one, memory. Just look at Dali's painting below, 'The Persistence of Memory', in which the clocks (ie. Time) have been melted by the power of memory. Memory is a magic that makes everything seem in the here-and-now. And not just a reliving, but a rekindling of experience, a recalibration of wisdom gleamed. 

Another way to 'melt' Time, is to forget about it, to live your life as thoroughly and enjoyably as possible. To lift the many self-imposed curfews and deadlines and appreciate the 'Now'. To be aware and appreciative of the present moment, so that every moment swallowed by time need not be lost, but live on well in service of us. Then Time becomes no longer a master, but a servant, a gift not a ghoul, bearing flowers rather than a scythe.  

And now in Winter Time, we have an extra hour in the day (well, what seems like so) for the next while (before its effects wear off). No matter dark or light the hour, another chance given to us by Time to make the most of our wonderful lives. For 'we have all the time in the world' according to Louis Armstrong, 'nothing more, nothing less... only love.'

How about you? What's your take on time? Are you burdened or buoyed by it? What is your favourite quote on it?

For the time being (aha) 

~ Siobhán

'Time in the hand is not control of time' ~ Adrienne Rich, 'Storm Warnings'
'This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.' ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson  
'Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that the stuff life is made of.' ~ Benjamin Franklin 
'Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.' ~ Ivan Turgenov
'Oh! Do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.' ~ Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

The Persistence of Memory ~ Salvador Dali:
'We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Some take us forward, they're called dreams.' ~ Jeremy Irons
'Time is an illusion.' ~ Einstein 
'Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.' ~ Carl Sandburg
'Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.' ~ Theophrastus
'Time you enjoyed wasting, is not time wasted.' ~  John Lennon
'Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.' ~ Leonardo Da Vinci
'But what minutes!  Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.' ~Benjamin Disraeli
"Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life." ~ William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury  
“Life is but a day: A fragile dewdrop on its perilious way from a tree's summit”~ John Keats
'Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.' ~ Eckhart Tolle
"Life is fleeting. Don't waste a single moment of your precious life. Wake up now! And now! And now!” ~ Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being
“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness―in a landscape selected at random―is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern―to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ~ The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Read to Live & Let Live

I just have to share this amazing article by Neil Gaiman for The Guardian last week: 
It was an instant hit online and has been doing the rounds since. If you haven't read it already, I urge you, do! 

It was taken from Neil Gaiman's lecture for the Reading Agency last week explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens. For anyone who doesn't know, Neil Gaiman is a popular fantasy/sci-fi/genre-bending writer of notable works such as The Graveyard Book and noted for providing much commentary to the discourse on the importance of literature in our lives. In this article, he surpasses himself though. He states his aim as the beginning: 

'I'm going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I'm going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.' 

And goes on to elaborate  the importance of literacy, literature and imagination in our lives, arguing the very relevant importance of language: 

'...words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.'

He makes the point that fiction builds empathy (a recent article on this in The New York Times has also been an Internet viral success: For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov ) and adds that:

'You're also finding out something as you read vitally important for making your way in the world. And it's this:The world doesn't have to be like this. Things can be different.
Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.'
The piece is a singing homage to the imagination and flourishers of the imagination - language, literature, reading, writing. He ends with a rousing declaration stating an obligation to daydream:

'We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.'

An obligation to daydream? Imagine that! How many times have we been told to get our heads out of the clouds, stop staring into space, stop fantasising? Now, here is a writer and an accomplished man of letters making a public plea NOT to listen to this. To daydream on defiantly. Blessed are the daydreamers; they maketh the world. To imagine to infinity (and beyond). And by doing so, to make the world a better place. 

Read it! 

~ Siobhán 

'Imagination is more important than knowledge; knowledge will get you from A-Z, imagination encircles the worl.' ~ Albert Einstein

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

An Ode to Autumn

Autumn... the year's last loveliest smile...' ~William Cullen Bryant

A month ago I wrote about how hard it was to adapt to the seasonal shift. Now, well on our way into autumn, I am adjusting.

Even though my favourite season is spring, I have made a pledge to myself to see the beauty in the other seasons too. Especially autumn. Hence this post. As Keats says in perhaps the most famous of all autumn poems, 'To Autumn',  'Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?/Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,' - I am thinking not of the songs of spring,  but instead, trying to appreciate autumn's music. (*Read the poem below)

So, under the influence of writers and poets galore (autumn is a grand muse for so many of them, as Jane Austen says - 'that season which has drawn from every poet, worthy of being read, some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling') and other bloggers too, I've ordered myself to pay attention to the season instead of hiding away from it. So I've been watching closely the past few weeks the trees changing colour, the leaves falling and fading, the palette of nature ripening to a rich Renaissance colour scheme.

And I must admit, Autumn of 2013 is winning me over with all its bright sunshine and brilliant colours so far.  Here's the proof:
(*Now I don't claim to be a photographer, but when I see a nice image, I capture it! On a pretty average camera by a pretty amateur hand. But look, no effects needed, nature has already photo-shopped the landscape!) -


Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.  ~ Hal Borland


Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.  ~Samuel Butler


Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~Albert Camus


In autumn, don't go to jewelers to see gold; go to the parks! ~Mehmet Murat ildan


'There is a harmony
In autumn, and a luster in its sky...'
~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power. ~Northern Advocate

'Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree...'
~ Emily Brontë

Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons ~ John Bishop

So many writers there singing the praises of the season. Enough to sway you to the season isn't it? Look what George Eliot has to say:
'Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one's very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a pefect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.'

Well, at least, they make you appreciate it. I'll never be an autumn aficionado, but I've learned to appreciate it, admire it even, through both the lens of these musings and that of the camera. 

And I like the idea of the seasons corresponding to human states; Keats says in his 'Human Seasons' poem that autumn lends us 'Havens of repose'. A chance to pause and reflect after the exuberance of summer, before moving on to the hardship of winter, the promise of spring. A necessary season, in other words. Perfect time to take account of things. Not mere decay, but the essential beginnings of growth, the clearing away. Wonderful, colourful endings to make for brilliant new beginnings. See, I say to myself, nothing to be sad about. Just a temporary melancholy that makes for real beauty and substance. Perhaps Samuel Butler is right -  'What we lose in flowers, we more than gain in fruit'  in this season of wisdom.

How about you? What are your favourite quotes on autumn? Your favourite things about it?
I'll leave you with the most famous poem on the season by Keats. (If you want to read more autumnal poems, check out my Poem a Day blog where I've been posting lots of seasonal masterpieces.)

Seasonal salutations,

~ Siobhán

Ode To Autumn - John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.