About Time


About time

Even if the stopwatch tells you they are the same length of time, five minutes at a party you are not enjoying and five minutes at a party you are enjoying, are not the same length of time.

Of course, they are the same length of time.
But, still, they aren’t.

Compare five minutes of watching a movie with five minutes waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

Or the first five minutes of meditation for a seasoned meditator and a beginner.

Etty Hillesum:
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”

I usually answer “Dad, what time is it?” before checking my phone or watch. And I am usually within five minutes of accurate. 

And, when I awake in the morning, I’m usually within ten minutes of target.

(Though bragging about being keenly aware of this artificial structure to life feels like an odd choice.)

David Rooney’s About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks introduced me to the phrase, “Time implies order.”

Time implies order.

I am beguiled by the word implies.

“Implies order” means there isn’t really order.
It’s just implied.

Implying order is why the British built giant clock towers in colonized India.

(And it’s why I love knowing what time it is.)

I’m on the staff of a group relations conference.
The next session starts in three and a half minutes.
“And we still have to get to the conference room,” I alert the group.

Kate, the woo-woo Seattle-based business consultant, and friend of the director, comments, “We have a spacious three and a half minutes.” 

I want to punch her in the throat.
But she is right.

We could exit the staff room and walk the corridor to the large group room in a rush or not.

How we approach time changes our experience of time.

While chatting on his porch, Enos introduces me to forenoon. 

My Amish friend didn’t say, “Rabbi Brian, I would like you to meet my 18th grandson, Forenoon.”

(Enos has 10 children, 26 grandchildren and a few great grandchildren. None, though, named Forenoon.)

My introduction to forenoon was in his sentence, “Forenoon, I was in the barn and Nettie was cooking with the ladies.”

Forenoon is a time of day. 

The part, you know, before noon.

I wonder if Enos—whose day is not run by a clock—feels less rushed than I?

I also often ponder how I can get more of that “spaciousness.” 

I could have stopped editing this newsletter about fifteen or twenty minutes ago.

But, I had the time.

Parkinson’s Law:
“Work expands to fit the amount of time allotted to it.”

As we cannot add time to our lives we try to get more things done in the time that we have.
Which, well, is that even a thing to brag about?

Eric Hoffer:
“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life.”

Fred Rogers told me that he liked me just as I am.

And I believed him.


Why not? I was a kid.

He sang about it. About him liking me “exactly and precisely,” “without a doubt or question” just as I am.


Why would he lie?





I’m about 15 years old. 

The last class period of the day is over. 

I am looking to hang with someone. 

Being with people helps me feel seen. Real.


So, I do a sweep of the 6th floor library looking.

None of my friends are there. 

So I exit to the stairwell and count each of the 42 steps up to the 8th floor. 


Don Sorell isn’t in the music office. 

Sometimes he and I chat.


In the future, after George Floyd, I’ll find a link for him—now Head of the Collegiate School Music Department—on the school website and we’ll reconnect a bit.


He’ll remind me that my dad had the Victor Hugo quote —”There is no force as powerful as an idea whose time has come”—on his business card.


He’ll also be the first person I know of to contract and die of COVID.


I meander into the art room. 

Sometimes I do homework there with friends. Or just goof around thinking about doing homework.


“Can I help you?” asks an attentive woman I do not know in the green canvas smock.


“Nah, just wandering. Meandering, actually,” I say.


She beams, “Would you like to try the still life the 4th grade class was just painting?”





Maybe it’s easier for children to believe someone likes us just as we are because they are closer to the age when people, hopefully got love for just being.


Adults are a bit more skeptical about messages of love.


Many adults, maybe even you, believe, “If you really got to know me, you wouldn’t still love me.”





The green smocked lady brings me over to a tableau of shoes on the table and pulls out a chair, inviting me to sit.


She tells me she’s a sub for the lower schoolers, and “wouldn’t you like to try your hand at a watercolor this afternoon?” 


Spellbound, I put down my backpack and start on a pencil outline on a 8.5 x 5.5 inch sheet of watercolor paper.





What if we allowed love in?


What if we stopped repeating and believing the terrible things we tell ourselves? 


What if we allowed ourselves to be as we were as children, lovable exactly as we are?





“I love it,” she says minutes later.


“You’re kidding.”


“No, the colors, the abstraction. It’s really quite good.”


I look at it. It looks nothing like the reality I see.

She is probably one of these “happy with everything in life” type people.

Or she is comparing my work to that of the little kids she worked with all day.






Could it be?





When I get into my office in the morning, I see someone doodled on a piece of paper with a red sharpie.


The clue to the artist’s identity isn’t that hard to figure out—they also left their shoes, their backpack, an empty bowl, and some candy wrappers.


Emmett likes to use my home-office set-up when I’m done for the day.


I sit back and enjoy the sketch—a fire-head with a large mustache, and big eyes.


I like it.


Is it empirically good? 

I dunno that.

But I know logic. I’m horrible biased. I like it because I like the artist.


And logic says IF I am able to love his art—however good or bad it is—just because you love him THEN I ought to be able to do the same for my art—or whatever else I do.





Frequently following the compliment—“your high school students must have loved you”—I am asked why I stopped teaching high school.


I explain, “I found a population more desperate for my cajoling into knowing they are loved.”

Then I pause, they usually look up, I make eye contact, and continue: “you.”





You might not believe me,  ____<insert your name here___>.

And, that’s ok.

You can even deny it.


But, Mr. Rogers and I still know it is true. You are loveable exactly as you are.



With love,
Rabbi Brian

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