Monday, April 15, 2013

The Unprecious Life (Fka Clerking 14)

The Unprecious Life
(Clerking 14)

One of the great truisms of life, or perhaps one of the most popular stock phrases of easy philosophy is “Life is precious.” What follows this is almost invariably that “You must make the most of each moment.” There are a breathtaking number of books in our Library's collection in which the author asserts that they attained much of the wisdom required to write their book through the mastery of this lesson, which was usually imparted by some wise elder figure. I do know that just because something appears frequently in books does not make it true. Two thirds of all our books now contain vampires, for instance, but I think this precious life thing is more like an aphorism or a proverb. Is a chain only as strong as its weakest link? I'm not inclined to put up to big a fuss about something like that. Besides, I feel it. Life is precious! I am old enough to note it racing by. It makes me feverish and dizzy. If I am prone to occasional squandering it is hard not to regret it. Days blur in their speed. Projects close to my heart flounder in backwaters for years while I am cleaning the bathroom or watching youtube videos of fluffy bunnies. I calculate, with eager hunger, how much sleep I can get. The minutes are like trying to hold sand. I try to be full of the wisdom of all the authors who have mastered their life-changing revelation but who tend to be ever so slightly less clear on how one actually makes every moment count. I schedule, organize, try to extract the full richness of all the luscious, succulent, ticking, accelerating seconds until...

I go to work.

And time, mundane, inscrutable, miracle, time, comes to a screeching halt. I have somehow stepped out of the precious life. Seconds sprawl heavily on the floor, inert and unwilling to move on. If the precious life can be seen at all it is off distantly on the horizon like half-imagined land. My co-worker turns to me,

“Do you see that?” they ask longingly, hopefully.

“I think it might be land, or it might be a fog bank.” I reply, then pause, looking. We gaze earnestly for awhile. “Well, it might be land.” I add, “But I don't think we're moving towards it at all.”

The Preciousness of life has been relocated to lunch maybe, or quitting time, or is it never? It feels like never. My soul leans towards towards it and all its succulent goodness. That glorious, storied land where I drive home, reunite with my loved one, and be free telescopes away from me as time plods, extends, and becomes wanton.

And here I am. At work.

And I have a lot of time. Time is unprecious. A patron comes to me at the Service Desk. They need to update their address. They slowly search through their huge, fat wallet for their drivers license. They know it's there somewhere. They tell me long stories about their medical problems. Okay. I don't have anything else to do. I type in their new address. I look up Peter Lorre movies for them and request two. No, I didn't know that Peter Lorre's second wife was Karen Verne, an actress I had never heard of. Fled the Nazis did she. Yeah, I hate Nazis too. They have a fine of 65 cents. No, not the Nazis, the Patron. Do we accept pennies? Sure we accept pennies. We count them together. I print out the patron's receipt, check out the patron's items, wish the patron a good day and check the clock. Total time elapsed: 7 seconds.

Vague, only half serious ideas I have about time are suddenly able to be examined in all the fecundity of time itself. The elasticity of time becomes quite nearly visible. I take a one hour stint on the big check in machine. Standing there feeding transit items onto the belt I face a bank of windows that looks into our break room. Two of my co-workers sit peacefully eating and reading as their lunch hour passes by. I know that time is moving differently in that room, moving differently for those two people. It's like dry heat venting into cold air. You can see the warp in it. It looks like a distortion of reality. But reality is not distorting. It is simply that time does not need to move at the same speed in the same place. It is simple and it is real. Time stirs with each consciousness to create whatever pace it wants. There is no master time. All time is personal.

So, do I fail at the precious life then? I don't know. I struggle like anyone. I mean, anyone other than all those wise authors with the elders and all. I do try. Sometimes I even get it and life's preciousness makes each moment as sweet and rich as a perfect truffle. Days are bliss, my concentration perfect in its appreciation.

And then I come to work.

And I kick. I kick and I kick and I cannot break it. And sometimes my co-worker says “Does that clock not move!?” And I say “It is still 3:43!” And we groan in small agony. But sometimes, and this is most nearly never discussed so I don't even know who else it includes, sometimes, I forget to kick. Time stops and I float. I cannot make moments count when they cease to come in multiples. I am free. Instead of work lasting forever I am on a vacation from time and all its ceaselessness. Nothing matters and nothing happens yet I am alive and I breathe and I feel good. The world spins, the machine checks in, patrons approach the desk, I shelve a book and all is beautiful and unprecious and squanderable and endless and moving and still. It is 3:43 forever.

And then I kick, again.

1 comment:

  1. Sublime, Mon Ami. Your writing has always moved me in a magnetic invisible way.


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