What is the "monster of time?"

The “Monster of Time” (Daniel 2) refers to a dream that the great Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar once had. He dreamed of a monster with a head of gold, chest of silver, belly of brass, and legs and feet of iron and clay. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to know what this dream meant. His court advisors would not tell him. Many were afraid to do an interpretation since it might mean death for the interpreter if the King did not agree with the interpretation. Daniel successfully interpreted this vision for the king. I say successfully, since Daniel survived and the king was happy. The interpretation followed a sequence of time in which the monster depicted represented the evolution of kingdoms that would supplant Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. The following is the interpretation of the monsters parts:

1.The head of gold – The Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar.
2.The breast and arms of silver – Persian Empire.
3.The belly and thighs of bronze – Greek Empire.
4.The legs of iron – Roman Empire. This is the kingdom Daniel said would be divided into two parts. The first Roman Empire is represented by the legs of iron. The second part of this kingdom, the revived Roman Empire, is represented by the feet and and toes made part of iron and part of clay.
5.The stone which destroyed all the other kingdoms – the coming kingdom of Jesus Christ.

One can only reflect ruefully that even 6000 years ago, time was a sort of monster. A monster that holds the past, present and future in its gruesome appendages to do with as it chooses.

This metaphor of time as a monster elicited my own vision of a “monster of time.” In my vision, time is a giant alarm clock. It has four hands. In one hand, it holds a scythe to strike your head off if you are late. In a second hand, it holds a set of rules to remind you of your obligations to friends, family and society. In it’s third hand, it holds a coffee and donut, which you will need to start the day. Finally, in its last hand, it holds an “endless” backwards mirror, in which you can see how you looked today when you awoke and how you looked yesterday and the day before and the day before. Of course, age incrementally each day until finally one day there is no vision in the mirror to awake.

Have you ever thought of time as a monster? What would your vision of the “monster of time” look like? There are an endless number of visions for time, see if you can create one that reflects how you live time or perhaps how you would not like to live time.

What destiny are you following that you could change for the better?

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” (Macbeth, V, v, 19, Shakespeare)

The above passage is perhaps the most famous speech in literature, spoken by Macbeth after learning of his wife’s suicide. Why does this macabre and depressing analysis of life hold so much meaning for us? Is it because, like Macbeth, we sometimes feel a powerlessness and futility to life? What is our “recorded time?” Is this the time we are destined to live? Do you believe the time and date of your death is fixed? Many people call this destiny and believe they are powerless to change or alter their fate.

I think it might be inevitable to believe that we are fixed by fate and that life is controlled by forces and events beyond our power to influence. Nevertheless, we see countless examples of people who have changed the world for the better by denying the concept of predestination and fate. Macbeth brought his own destiny upon him by his greed and avarice. We go through life making choices and these choices decide what we will become. We are more than candles and poor players upon a stage. We may not quite be Nietzsche’s Superman, but we are a great deal more than fools and idiots. We are not all powerful but neither are we powerless.

When I am confused about life, I like to reflect on the Serenity Prayer: “Please help me to know the difference between those things I can change and those things I cannot.” This is an example of pure wisdom. We can change some things and we cannot change others. What will you become if you do not try? What can you change today in your life? What needs to be changed that you have felt powerless to change? What destiny are you following that is painful? Who can you find that could help you change your life? There is always someone out there who can and will help you? Do you need to find that person today?

What are the impacts of quantum change on our lives?

Quantum changes represent breaks in the continuity of time. Linear time measures changes in specific fixed intervals. Quantum change happens when something “jumps”, i.e., it defies our normally ordered thinking about time. Sometimes, these special events are called discontinuities because they represent a break in the normal chain of events. Our lives in this country underwent a quantum change after 911. While we can argue about whether or not the bombings could have been prevented, there is little or no argument that they completely disrupted our life patterns not only in the US, but in other parts of the world. The changes 911 caused in the US had ripple patterns that have affected the entire history of many other nations and cultures.

Quantum changes seem to be unpredictable and can have enormous impacts on our lives. Getting married or divorced might be a quantum change for some people. Death though predictable as to the eventuality is not predictable as to the time and manner. Death can cause quantum changes in the lives of many people connected in some way to the loved one. Even distant connections can be impacted by the death of someone we know or hear about. Witness, how many people were affected by the death of Princess Diana.

Remember the John Donne poem:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

How will your death affect others? Who will be most affected? What long-term changes will your death have on the lives of others in the world?

Who would not want to be wiser and younger?

Chronos in Greek mythology was the god of Time or the god of the ages. When something is arranged “chronologically”, it means it is ordered in time, usually from oldest to most recent. I once heard someone say, it is a shame we are not born backwards. If we were, as we grew older and hopefully wiser, we would also grow younger and healthier. This is an interesting idea but not likely to happen soon. We read every day about a mythical fountain of youth or some magic that will unlock the aging process and we will never grow old. There are researchers looking to find a cure for aging who believe that ageing could be cured as we cure any other disease. Imagine taking a pill or a shot to cure “old” age.

I am not going to hold my breath for any of these aging fixes. Of course, I may just have my body frozen cryogenically so that I can be revived at some time in the future when our health systems have cured whatever disease I die from, including old age. . Or I may just be cremated and have my ashes scattered to the four winds so I can become part of the universe again. I have not decided which path I will take. Then again, my spouse just may see fit to bury me alongside of her. Karen refuses to have me stuffed, which I thought was a good way to keep me around and in memory.

What will become of you when you die? Will you be buried, frozen, cremated or stuffed? How do you want your memory retained by others? Does it matter to you?

Can time trap us in a prison of non-living?

Time can be a prison. My friend Bruce says “We live either projecting into the past or the future and we seldom reside in the eternal now. The present moment is eternal and time traps us into living in some other present but not in our current reality. Time becomes a prison from which escape is futile. We cannot escape our past, our present or our future. We live only in the moment and there is no escape from that.”

There have been numerous time travel stories wherein the hero/heroine is about to have some disaster befall them and suddenly time travel kicks in and they are whisked from one time period to another time. But this ability to escape our destiny by being whisked from one time period to another is still a fantasy.

Time is a prison in other ways as well. Some of us are trapped in an image of ourselves that may have changed or evolved but we cannot recognize this fact. Some of us may be trapped in memories of things long gone. Some of these memories may be accurate but some may be pure myth. It is amazing how events can evolve with the passing of time. Our memories of reality may bear very little resemblance to what really happened. Some of us are trapped in the future. We dream of things to come or wish we were someone else. Dreams can be prisons if we do not take the energy and risk to make them become reality.

The only reality is the present moment and what you are doing this second. You cannot be stuck in the present since the present only exists for a moment. As soon as you think about the present, it is over. Your dreams and regrets have or will have become fantasies and myths. If time is a prison, is there any escape? Some of us may try our entire lives to escape from time but the prison of time exists only in your mind. Change your thoughts and you can leave this prison anytime you want to. What things about your life do you want to change? What keeps you living in the past? What do you have to do to accomplish your dreams for the future? Are you living in the present?

What are the times of happiness?

It is a time of happiness. After thinking about times of sorrow, it seems right that we should reflect on the times of happiness in our lives. It is easy to forget the times of happiness when we are feeling pain or sorrow. As in the sorrows in our life, most of the things that bring us the greatest happiness have to do with people. Money, possessions, material goods and things never bring true happiness.

Karen and I have gone on many trips over the years to other countries. We have been to over 33 countries and almost all of the US and Canada. On several of these trips (but not all) we have been fortunate to make friends with people. Sometimes, it has been with local people we met accidently and other times it was with people we stayed with or did some business with on our trip. Without a doubt, the trips where we met people have been our most fun, memorable and happiest trips. Sartre is reputed to have written that: “Hell is other people.” Perhaps this is true at times but it is even truer that “Happiness is other people.” People bring us the joy and pleasure in our lives. People create the warmth and empathy that validate our existence and our undertakings. Things and objects do not validate or create warmth or support. When you are down or feeling depressed, you cannot talk to your car or boat or house. When you want to feel recognized for something you have accomplished, your things will not provide such recognition.

Whether it is your family, your children, your spouse or your friends, there is hardly a day that goes by when you are not thinking about them, playing with them or working with them in some way. All of these interactions are what life is really about. It is not about richness in things, it is about richness in people. The time that we spend with people brings happiness and joy to our lives. True, people can disappoint, hurt and disrespect you, but eventually you move on and look for new relationships or you try to rebuild and make your old relationships better. The time that you spend building relationships with people will be rewarded many times over. Would we spend so much time on relationships if people truly were hell?

Think about all the happiness in your life today. Think about your past happiness. Who has helped to bring joy to your life? What relationships do you need to spend more time on? What relationships need to be changed? Spending time on relationships will be the most valuable time you can ever spend.

What does a time of sorrow mean to you?

Have you ever been told “It is a time of sorrow?” There are many times of sorrow for each of us in our lives. As much as we may try to escape these sorrowful times, they are inescapable. From birth to death, our lives are punctuated by times of sorrow. Fortunately, our sorrows are interspersed with happiness. Each of handle sorrow in different ways, but we all share the pain, grief and suffering that goes with it.

Most sorrow comes from loss, loss of people we love or care about. While we might have sorrow over things, it is never as deep or painful as sorrow over people or even pets that we loved. The loss of a loved one seems to leave a hole that never quite fills. We continue to think about them long after they have gone. Little things bring back the memories and times we shared. Sometimes, we think happily but wistfully about what might have been or what we should have done or said.

Sometimes the sorrow is deep and sometimes not so deep, but always it will be lingering. Remember the song, “I am a man of constant sorrow.” I think that song resonated with many of us because life sometimes seems overwhelmed by sorrows. As we grow older, we face more and more of these sorrows. We know that it is inevitable that our friends, pets, relatives and loved ones will pass away. We know that we too shall pass. However, it isn’t our coming death that is most sorrowful for us. In fact, of all the people whom we know will die in our lives; our own death will probably be the easiest. Our spouses or parents will most likely be the hardest.

I joke with Karen that I want to go first, but we both know it is no joke. I am being selfish. I don’t want to deal with the sorrow. The number of spouses that die very shortly after their loved ones seems beyond mere coincidence. It is hard to continue life without someone who loves you or someone whom you have spent most of your life with. It may be easier to fact death than to face sorrow. How do you deal with sorrow? What sorrows linger in your life? Do you honor or ignore your feelings of pain and grief? Do you accept the sorrow that some days bring or do you try to ignore and shut it out?

What can the wisdom of Solomon tell us about time and life?

“There is a time for sowing and a time for reaping, a time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to tear down, and a time to build up. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” – (Solomon, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

This psalm from Solomon is perhaps the greatest quote on time ever. It is undeniably recognized the world over for its profound wisdom. It reflects a world where everything has a place and a purpose and the role of time is an overarching foundation for the purpose of life. Today we weep for a lost friend or spouse, tomorrow we rejoice over a marriage or birth. Today we fight a war for justice and tomorrow we negotiate for peace.

We think we control time. We believe that we control life and even our own destinies. The reality is that we have control over some things and some (perhaps the vast majority) we do not. Solomon’s wisdom counsels us to accept the ups and downs of life. It speaks to life as a flow wherein everything has its place. It counsels us to develop our own wisdom as we progress through life and face its inevitable joys and sorrows. Do not be saddened by the burdens of life, for tomorrow is always a new day and it will bring new times and new opportunities. You have as much to be optimistic over as you do pessimistic. Optimistic people are happier and live longer.

We may not always be able to control time but we can always choose how we want to spend our time. We choose our attitudes and we chose the meaning of time to us at any given moment. I can decide to do what I think is important today or I can spend my day in trivial pursuits. I can work today to make the world a better place or I can bemoan the lack of good TV programs and its excessive commercialism. Some days I will be successful and others I will not be in controlling my time. Perhaps today is a time for failure and tomorrow will be a new opportunity.

What is your time for today? Life is often a series of cycles, do you live and accept your cycles or do you try to force your time according to some schedule? Do you accept the ups and downs of life? What downs are the most difficult for you to accept?

Do you love a rainy day?

I love a rainy day. I don’t need to justify that “April showers bring May flowers.” While many people moan and groan about rainy cold drizzly days, I actually revel in them. Something in me feels peace and tranquility on a rainy day. For years, I simply accepted that I enjoy the “dreary” days that put most people off. My friends and spouse think me crazy because I greet the rainy days of spring and fall with the same alacrity that they greet the sunny warm days of summer. Something in my nature loves the way that time moves on a damp rainy day. Whether it is simply drizzling or a full blown thunderstorm, there is something on those days that my soul resonates with.

After years of feeling out of sync with other people, I decided to try and figure out why I love a rainy day. The explanation I came up with had to do with my father’s rules about how I could spend my time. On “nice”days, I was supposed to go outside and play. On “bad” days, I could stay inside and do whatever I wanted to or do nothing at all. I could hear my father saying to me “get your butt outside, it’s too nice to stay inside.” I found this insight rewarding since I now understood a childhood rule that governed how I spent my time and indirectly what I could do and not do. Rainy days were “bad” days, so I got to spend my time doing what I wanted to do. Nice days (sunny and warm), I had to go out and do chores and go out and “be busy.” On rainy days I could curl up inside and read a good book and not have to do anything or go anywhere. I could just be. Time and rain were intimately related. I became a lover of rain because it meant freedom and all the time to spend as I wanted to spend it.

I am now free to break this rule whenever I want to. Insight conveys power. Nevertheless, I still love rainy days, but every so often, I choose to do nothing at all on a nice SUNNY day. I chose to reverse my father’s rule. Understanding our hidden rules about time can be a liberating experience. Do you know what your hidden rules are about time? What messages do you tell yourself about how, when and where you can spend your time? Where did you get these messages? What messages that you received have kept you from doing things you would like to do? Are you free to break your rules now when you want to? What would help free you from rules that don’t add any value or meaning to your life?

Don’t have enough time to get things done?

Is the day running out and you still have a lot to do? There does not seem like there is enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done. How often do you feel that your day has run out and you have not accomplished anything?

I begin some days with great intentions to work, exercise, write, get some chores done or start a new project. Something interrupts my momentum and it can be all down hill from there. A friend calls unexpectedly. I run out of something and have to go to the store to find a replacement. The car breaks down. The weather is good, bad or terrible. There are a million things that can turn my best plans into rubbish. I started off on the right foot, but the left foot never hit the ground.

Some days my momentum never starts. I don’t even start off on the right foot. I have all of these good intentions but I just do not have the energy. Perhaps life seems overwhelming or I feel depressed or I ate too much the day before. I want to crawl into a hole and hide. I feel like a failure and the day has not even begun. I need to get kick started. I need a coach or something to get me motivated. As my day begins to run out, I may try to put on a last minute burst of work to get some things done, or I might just say the heck with it. I will do it tomorrow.

Maybe, how we feel at the beginning of the day is life sending us a message. “Take it easy today; you have been stressing yourself out too much.” Or, “Get in gear, you are full of energy and today is a great day to get things done.” We need to allow life to talk to us and to follow our natural rhythms of ups and downs. Not every day is a barn burner or “I just climbed Mt. Everest day.” Life is a series of energy cycles. Allow a cycle of work, play and rest to become part of your life. Maybe we would all live longer and enjoy life more if we had more “down” days.

Does your life seem to follow natural cycles of play, rest and work? How do you think your life would be if it did? What would you have to change to create a more natural cycle time in your life? When was the last time you had a day just running out and you really did not care?

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