Do you value time or image?

Rocks and Zen and Time! Thirty years ago, I belonged to a Zen Monastery where twice a week I would go to sit Zen and meditate. Some of the people lived there and others were commuters like me. The master was a renowned Japanese Zen expert and we all felt he must truly be enlightened. One of the women who lived there told me that once when the master was going to travel back to Japan he asked her what he could bring back for her. She told the master: “I really love ancient and old objects and could you bring me back something very ancient.” When he returned, he had a present for her wrapped in a package and tied with a bow. She was very excited and could hardly wait to open it. When she removed the present from the package, her excitement dropped as all she found was a rock. She looked at the Zen master with great disappointment and all he said was “I thought you wanted something very ancient. This rock is more than 100,000 years old.” She then understood the message that he was trying to impart to her. Most of us are like this young woman. We think we know the real value of things, but often we are only concerned with images, names and brands.

Rocks are not valued by many people but they are truly old and ancient. Rocks are proof that time itself is not the major factor that decides the value of an object. The real value of anything is not in the name, the image or the age. Antiques are valuable because they evoke nostalgic memories or because they remind of us something that we associate with a better life. Time is one of the most precious things in the world, however we never realize the value of time until it is in short supply. How many of us wish we could only live a moment over again or retrieve some moment in time that was ill spent?

Does the law of supply and demand govern the value of time for you or does your time conform to rules of branding and imaging? How many people do you know who love to express their importance by being ever so busy and never having any time? Why do you value time? What in time creates value for you? Would you know a gem from a rock when it comes to time?

Do you believe in life after death?

We have sometimes heard the phrase “The transient nature of being.” Is this just another way of saying that life is short and passes all too quickly? Transient means passing with time or of short duration. Being can mean living or existence. Thus, the phrase in one sense means to live a life of short duration. However, in another sense it implies a deeper more philosophical appreciation of life. To understand our transient nature is to accept that we are all just passing through one level of existence or being which we call earth and humanity. On another level, the possibility exists of many planes of existence which we may eventually or inevitably pass through. Each plane may exist for us as a transient phase but the entire process continues forever and is thus eternal and universal. Our life as we know it on earth may be transient, but our spirit and soul will live eternally and continue to migrate through these other planes of existence. This is one theory of life and afterlife. There are other possibilities.

Perhaps life is not transient and perhaps it is just a cycle of “from dust to dust.” Some of us want to believe in a life after death and others believe in reincarnation. However, many do not believe in either. For some, life ends with death and we simply return to the earth that created us. This latter view does not elevate humanity above the other creatures and species that walk the earth. People are just one element of the universe and no better or worse. Why should people have souls and be reincarnated if bugs and mice are not? It is because we have minds that we can create concepts like “transience” But what if transience only exists in our minds? Would we stop living or would we be more careful of the lives we live today? Think of the numerous people who throw their lives away everyday. Do you suppose they worry about transience?

Some people subscribe to a theory of life after death and others think it a bunch of hooey. What is your concept of being? Do you think life is too short or too transient? Do you think you will somehow be recycled? Will your recycled life be better than your present life? Why? What is going to make it better for you? What if you could live to 300 years of age? Would you live a better more fulfilling life? Why or why not?

Do you go by GPS time or GMT time? Do you care?

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the gold standard of time. It is the measure for time used around the world. GMT defines both time and place for the entire world. All time is measured relative to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and all places have latitude (their distance North or South of the Equator) and a longitude (their distance East or West of the Greenwich Meridian).

As the United Kingdom grew into an advanced maritime nation, British mariners kept their timepieces on GMT in order to calculate their longitude “from the Greenwich meridian”, which was by convention considered to have longitude zero degrees. This did not affect shipboard time itself, which was still solar time. Eventually, GMT became used world-wide as a reference for time as well as independent of location. Today we still talk about GMT time but probably not as often as we do GPS time. Global Positioning Systems are gradually replacing GMT as the standard by which we set our watch and cell phones world wide.

Think of the precision that has occurred in time setting over the last twenty year or so. Watches were once accurate only within minutes. Today, we set our watches and clocks to within seconds of the world standards for time. When you look at your cell phone, it is probably being automatically calibrated to a GPS time standard. You know longer have to worry if you watch is running fast or slow or needs winding. If I say I am going to call you at 5 PM, I can call you within seconds of this time and there is an excellent chance your clock or watch will say 5PM when I call you. This would have been unheard of ten years or so ago. You might be saying well “so what.” However, this precision allows us to coordinate millions of events world wide without losing minutes and seconds of wasted time. This translates to billions of dollars worth of savings in time and energy. In a global system, where time is increasingly more valuable than money, this savings of time is a wonderful benefit to modern life. Well, a benefit to some. For others, it is really a case of “who cares.”

Do you care? How concerned are you about time? Do you see time as a valuable resource or is it something that just ticks by without your giving it a care? Do you have the right balance for time in your life? Are you too obsessed with GMT and GPS time or not obsessed enough?

Where can you find the time?

Finding time has become one of the great feats of human existence. How often do you hear someone say “I will have to find the time?” Where did they lose it? Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a lost and found desk somewhere? Anytime you needed to find time, for friends, for family, for exercising, for writing, for spirituality, you could just go to this desk and ask for some time. Perhaps, there could be a lending bank for time. “I need some time, what is your interest rate?” “The First National Bank of Time is happy to help you!”

If time is really so valuable, why don’t we have Banks for Time?” Imagine being the Rockefeller or Carnegie of time! If only we could find a way to save time and lend it to people who have more need of it. What would we charge for interest? Well, more time of course! People would have to pay back time with a time charge. If we had such lending institutions, it might help us address the critical shortage of time that seems to plague life today. Who among us has not had to find time? Well, you would always know where to find some, since the Time Banks would be happy to lend it to you.

Now perhaps you were hoping that I would give you some “secrets to finding time”; some tidbits that would make reading this blog worth the effort. Here is one little secret that being a wise and published author I could share with you- DRUM ROLL – Ta da Ta da! Here it is: “You can find all the time you want if you never lose it. Keep it under your pillow before you go to sleep and it will always be there in the morning.” I hope that helps. More seriously, if you want tips on finding time, buy the following excellent book: Take Your Time: Finding Balance in a Hurried World by Eknath Easwaran. It is available through Amazon.com in both new and used editions.

What would you do if you had more time than you ever needed? What if you knew you were going to live forever? What if you could speed time up or slow time down? Would a real Time Master be someone who had such control of time? Do you suppose this is the real secret of managing your time? Do you think it is possible to have such control over time? Do you know anyone who always seems to have time and still gets everything done? What do you suppose their secret is? Why not ask them sometime how they do it?

Who created time?

What is the beginning of time? Scientists and philosophers have all puzzled over this question now for centuries. Currently we are told by physicists that all time began with the Big Bang. A giant explosion created the universe and was the beginning of everything as we know it. If you are more religious oriented you might point to Genesis in the Bible as defining the beginning of time. However, what about the beginning of “using” time to mark the passage of minutes, seconds and days? When did humans start noting the passage of time? How about the following scenario? Picture a bunch of our prehistoric relatives sitting around a campfire. Matilda notices that the fire is running out and wood is getting short. She suggests that perhaps the time the clan spends together could be measured in “log-woods.” One log-wood equals one increment of time. Two-log woods equal two increments and so on. An entire day together would be equal to 16 log woods. Owing to the inaccuracies of measuring log woods, eventually the sun dial was created and measuring the angle of the sun replaced burning log-woods.

It is much more likely that with births, aging, deaths, seasons and the planting of crops, humans noticed the importance that time played in their lives and at some point created the concept of time. Now we have the Big Bang as a rather fanciful notion of how the universe was created and where everything first started. Not that I side with creationists or intelligent design theorists. I do not accept the idea that a benevolent god created the universe for man’s pleasure but neither do I put much faith in the credibility of science to explain how it was created. Nevertheless, I delight in seeing the creative ideas that physicists have for trying to answer this question. I find it amazing that we gainfully employ armies of physicists who spend their time working on something as nebulous as the Big Bang theory and can still keep a straight face. Moreover, the rest of us are so awed by “scientists” that we would not think of questioning their theories. Scientists have replaced witch-doctors and spiritual leaders today when it comes to creating belief systems.

What creates your belief system in the world? What or who do you rely on to create and define your reality? Do you question or accept whatever you are told? Why not question more and accept less? Who do you think created time and the universe?

Are you addicted to American Idol and other reality shows?

One step at a time! You have probably heard this phase many times or variations of it such as: “Rome was not built in a day” or “The longest journey starts with the first step” or “Slow and steady wins the race.” It serves as a useful reminder for us not to try to “eat the elephant in one bite” or that “nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished overnight.” It is one of those rules we learn when we are so young that it has become part of the fabric of growing up along with fairy tales and other pithy sayings. Yet, if we all grow up with this rule embedded in our minds, then why do so many people think they can accomplish things overnight. Fame, fortune, friends, romance and countless material goods are pursued through a filter of instant gratification. We want these things and we want them now.

Have you ever bought and made “instant pudding?” Dr. W. Edwards Deming (a noted quality improvement guru) used this phase (instant pudding) to refer to his observation that managers always wanted new programs to work overnight. The program of the month reflected management’s ongoing search for some new effort that could produce “instant pudding.” Some managers realize that they will need commitment and time but many managers never seem to weary of their search for some new program that will instantly lower costs and improve quality.

Today, we find not only managers but an entire entertainment industry that depicts instant overnight success. This focus on American Idols and overnight fame has the negative effect of allowing people to forget that hard work and toil are generally needed for success. Instead, too many people seek success through lotteries, gambling, lawsuits and freebies that will require little effort or time. If Dr. Deming were alive, I am sure he would say our entire culture is obsessed with “instant pudding.” Is it any wonder, we need to keep reminding ourselves that one step at a time is the way to success. How soon we forget though. Walter Payton, one of the hardest working running backs in NFL history was asked what he would do over if he could play again and he replied “I would work harder.” By the way, he was also one of the most successful running backs in NFL history.

What have you put aside because it will take too long? Do you avoid certain goals because you don’t “have the time” or because the goals seem too far away? What would be different for you if you approached your life and goals “one step at a time?”

What if you could be King or Queen for a day?

What if you could be anybody you wanted to for one day? What if you could be a queen, king or princess for one day? To live 24 hours in the life of someone you idealize or someone you see as regal in the world. To be someone who is exalted and loved by others or admired the world over. Who would this be for you? What would you do with your 24 hours if you did suddenly become this person? What fantasies would you live out? What do you think your day would be like? Would you simply step into their shoes and live the day as they might live it? On the other hand, would you try to step out further into the world and see how they would be reacted to if they were to live your world? What if the “King or Queen” came to your house and drove your car and walked down the street in your neighborhood and you were that King or Queen? What if the famous movie star (You of course) came home to visit in your town and went to all of those fun places that you like to go to?

Imagine if there was an EBay for being someone else for a day? How many people do you think would bid on the opportunity? How much money would you bid to be famous or important? Most of use would probably really like to see what it was like to live like a king or queen for a day. Our day would probably pass very quickly, but I think it might contain many surprises. We see the glamour of nobility and stardom but we often do not see the hidden problems and difficulties. Hollywood is not about reality but about creating fantasies. We do not see the body guards or the constant tension from being in the public eye. We do not see the stress of being a public figure and of having thousands of people who want and even demand our time. Think of having to act or be on view twenty four hours a day. Think of never being left alone to just wander or take a work in the park. Think of someone always wanting to meet you or get you to sign something.

If you did become this person of your dreams, how many fantasies do you think you could you live in 24 hours? (For instance, going back to your old high school to visit) What would they be worth? Would you really have to be this person to live out these fantasies or could your life be more of an adventure that it now is? How many of us yearn for stardom because our own lives are boring and routine? What would it take to transform the next twenty four hours of your life into an adventure or fantasy? Maybe this 24 hour fantasy could transform the rest of your life.

What does the month of September mean to you?

September is the ninth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar and one of four Gregorian months with 30 days. September is my favorite month of the year. For me, September is the beginning of fall. Autumn is well underway by the beginning of September and by the middle of September the leaves will soon start changing. Technically fall does not begin until September 21st, but we all know that the real end of summer is on Labor Day. In many parts of the world, summer ends when students head back to school and that is generally in September. The fall weather and temperature are perfect (for me anyway) and I love the changing colors of the landscapes.

I love the cool crisp air and the beauty of the trees, shrubs and falling leaves. I love the many fall flowers and the bright red Sumac bushes. The flowers and bright red bushes are soon complimented by the Oaks, Maples and Popular trees which will contribute bright yellows, oranges and reds to the panoply of colors. When the leaves start gently falling, the end of fall is all too soon. However, the leaves have an almost ethereal quality as they float to the ground and cover it in a rich collage of hues and tones.

I should also mention that I was born in September and of course birthdays bring some treats. However, I would still love the fall with or without my birthday. Many people do not feel the same way that I do about the fall, particularly in Minnesota. Karen does not enjoy September nearly as much as I do. She says she can only think that when fall is over, winter will soon be here. In some parts of the world, fall lasts somewhat longer than in Minnesota. Weather-wise, we have a two month fall that covers September and October. Never mind that the calendar says fall ends on December 20, it really ends right after Halloween. By then the colors are over and most of the leaves need to be raked up. Not to mention, we generally have snow long before the “end” of fall.

What is your favorite month of the year? Why? What is your favorite season of the year? Do you enjoy each season or do you have a special season you look forward to?

Was it destiny or fate or choice?

It was destiny! Pete Seeger is one of my favorite singers and one of the most remarkable people in the world. The song from which the refrain “it was destiny” came was “Who Killed Davey Moore.” The story of a boxer who dies in the ring and no one will claim any responsibility. Pete shows us our own hypocrisy and cynicism as we all manage to sidestep any responsibility for the death of another human being. We can all walk away not feeling guilty and keep telling ourselves that these things just happen.

Don’t say ‘murder,’ don’t say ‘kill.’
It was destiny, it was God’s will.”

God just seems to work this way in the world. People die and it is destiny. Destiny implies that all of our life and hence all of our time is “predetermined.” Whatever happens is going to happen. We have no choice and no alternatives. Hence, it is destiny and we cannot be blamed for destiny, can we? To subscribe to this philosophy seems like the ultimate pessimism to me. I will never accept it. I will never believe that you and I cannot make a difference in the world. The evidence is irrefutable. Abundant examples exist of people who for both better and worse have made a difference on the world. The world would be a much different place without the numerous courageous people that have tread its dominions.

Today and tomorrow each of us has the power to make a difference that can substantially change the world for the better. When I kick the destiny excuse, I start taking responsibility for my time and for my life and for the rest of the world. There is no destiny other than a set of choices we make on how we will spend our life. We create our destiny by these choices. We create the destiny for the world we live in. This world reflects the millions of daily decisions made by you and me and our neighbors.

What destiny will you create today? What choices will you make that can change the time of the world and your own time? Can you make those choices with a good heart and compassion for yourself and others?

What difference could a second make in your life?

One second in Dallas is the time that it would have taken to make a difference for John F. Kennedy and the world. If Oswald had either pulled the trigger one second earlier or one second later, history as we know it would be very different. As you think about it, throughout the past, there have been many times when one second either did make or could have made a difference that changed the world.

When you think about your own life, perhaps you have had the same close calls. One second at a red light or one second before you moved might have saved your life. One second is the smallest practical unit of time measurement that we use. We often take our seconds for granted. Like pennies today, we allow them to be discarded or we ignore them when they are just lying on the ground. Yet, our seconds are the most precious moments we have. The seconds with a loved one before they pass away or the seconds that bring us wonders we never anticipated. Many of the most important events in our lives are over in seconds and will never be repeated.

I was sitting over a fireplace outside with some friends the other night. It was nearly 11 PM and the sky was very clear. The moon was not too bright but there seemed to be a million stars in the sky. I turned around to see where the Big Dipper was and suddenly there flamed the beautiful trail of a shooting star as it blazed across the night sky. I turned around back to the others who were sitting around the fireplace and yelled, “Look at the shooting star,” but it was too late. Not one of my three friends had seen the slightest trace or sign of the beautiful star I had just witnessed. It was over in less than a second. The other three people intent on watching the fire or some bit of conversation had missed one of the most moving events in the world. Life can happen that fast and often does.

Thus, the words “Live each second to the fullest” and you will live a very full life make a great deal of sense. Like someone once said, “If you watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.” If you watch your seconds, the minutes and days will take care of themselves. What are some seconds that have made a major difference in your life? Have you had some seconds that you will never forget? What difference has one second made to you? Do you squander your seconds or have you learned to be frugal with life?

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