‘Most people are products of their time. Only the rare few are its creators.’*
Maria Popova introduced me to the writing of Ursula Le Guin, and as a result, I bought myself a copy of Le Guin’s Words Are My Matter. Popova now shares the news that Le Guin died a few days ago, her blog exploring the writer’s ‘question of how we measure the light of a life as it nears its sunset.’*
Mostly we can allow time to act upon us. Or we may try to hold back the effects of time. Others have an inkling that they can do something remarkable with time. Le Guin lived for more than 32,000 days – which is one way in which we might measure a life – but the writer appears to have filled her days with a sense of continuing work:
“I am not exactly retired, because I never had a job to retire from. I still work, though not as hard as I did. I have always been and am proud to consider myself a working woman.”
When we figure out that a job and work are different things – though they may exist simultaneously for some – we get to play with time differently.
We may pause a stopwatch but we do not really pause time, only our measurement of it. Pausing, though, can be a valuable thing to do. Alex McManus counsels:
‘When in doubt, scout.’**
McManus’ picture is of time rushing along like a white water river, seemingly getting faster and faster. In conditions like these it pays to remove ourselves from the thrashing flow and figure what lies ahead and how we’ll tackle it.
It can be a struggle to extricate ourselves from the swirling experience of time and even when we are relaxing there can be more negativity in the experience than we want:
‘Any activity, if done, in a concentrated fashion, makes us more awake (although afterwards a natural and beneficial tiredness sets in), while every unconcentrated activity makes one sleepy – while at the same time it makes it difficult to fall asleep at the end of the day.’^
As I read Joseph Campbell describing how people make sacred space where they are, I wonder about the possibility of making sacred time:
“One should find the symbol in the landscape itself of the energies of the life there. That’s what all traditions do. They sanctify their own landscape.’^^
This is what we do when we see the contribution of perspective and gift we bring into the world for however many years, days and moments we have – it is something sacred and wonderful. It is never too late to explore this. We can ask the question what has our life been leading up to for today.
(*From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Ursula K. Le Guin on Spare Time.)
(**From Alex McManus’ Makers of Fire – eBook version.)
(^From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.)
(^^From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)