Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hurrying and Waiting

And if she's coming back this way
I'm not that hard to find;
Tell her she can look me up
If she's got the time.

The timing of departures is always wrong. We begin traveling by either rushing or waiting: no wonder we never really end up where we want to go.

We ought to ride formally to the crest of the hill with our household knights around us, the banners snapping in the wind, and begin with a surge like a long slow bright wave breaking on the North Shore. That would be traveling. We might get somewhere, if we began like that.

Or like the morning in Delphi, when I rose before the sun and, finding the gate inexplicably open, sat in the broken temple of Athena and watched the dawn. The goat bells clinked below, and the sun was very large and very red. That would be a beginning worth making, too: a different kind of journey, but also a journey to a new place.

I don't remember who the teacher was who said, never hurry and never wait. Or maybe it wasn't a teacher: maybe it was me, making a note to myself. Maybe it's just that it's like the advice of a teacher, in that a) it makes deep, viscerally-felt sense, and b) it is clearly impossible to follow. Not advice as we understand it -- "this is the correct thing to do! -- but a pointing-out: "if you were enlightened, this is one of the things that would flow from it." To wit, you would never hurry and you would never wait.

Which is not to say I would never move rapidly and never hold still. But hurrying is what I do when I don't have enough time, and waiting is what I do when I have too much, and it's obvious that I can't really have too little or too much time: I don't have time at all. It's a drastic confusion of categories to even begin to think that way. If there's any ownership involved, it's time that has me.

And what use is that? Well, not much, except that when I find myself hurrying or waiting, I can look for the self-deception behind it, the way in which I'm trying to bend reality to fit what I expected of it. If I track honestly, it's astonishing just how often, on some thread or other of my life, I'm hurrying or waiting. Almost always, really.

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