I have been overwhelmed for a few weeks. It has been difficult to find time to do everything I need to in my life. I scrimp on sleep. I am always running behind. And I am always, these days, always late.
This is not my fault. It is time's fault. Time pretends to be absolute, studied, dispassionate and utterly objective. It isn't. Time is mercurial, thin-skinned and easily slighted, vengeful, playful, tricky, comical, and vain. I'm afraid I have gotten on the wrong side of time lately, and I am really paying for it. I am now getting by on a paltry seven hours of sleep a night. I find myself trying to desperately shave five minutes off my bike commute and yet somehow end up only going slower. I am slipping quietly into the back of the library hoping no one notices that I haven't already been there for ten minutes. It is a stressful way of life.
And yet, having offended time, probably through some futile, desperate attempt to cheat it, or because I stole a few minutes somewhere (which I have now given back ten-fold!), and even as I am being hammered by time, I am finding it pretty fascinating. The thing is that when time is pretending to be all just and passive and imperturbable it is nearly impossible to see what it is capable of. But when it starts working its mad tricks on you the bizarre magic of it is exposed. And if you aren't too overwhelmed with suffering you can catch glimpses of strange miracles fueling the center of our universe.
I suppose this makes it sound like I'm going to tell you something grand indeed. But that's not how magic runs. The gods, who can be strangely quiet about so many things, are most quiet about magic. And so they hide it in small things. The petty magics of the god Time are scrupulously held in the mundane. So be prepared to be unamazed. But it's still magic.
1. I am ready to leave the house. I check my watch. I am late but maybe if I walk very fast I won't be too late. I unlock the front door, step outside, then I relock the front door. Walking away from my front stoop I check my watch again. Elapsed time to unlock door, step outside, lock door, and walk five steps: four minutes.
2. I am at the front desk of the library. In twenty minutes I will be off the desk. I have just thought of a few sentences I need to write in the blog post I am working on, but it is very busy at the desk so I need to just hold onto my thoughts if I can for a short time. A couple comes to the desk, both needing cards. I register them and answer several location questions and explain our DVDs for them. A woman is confused about some items and charges on her card. We track down her history and I find a picture of one of the items on Amazon for her that refreshes her memory. She pays her fine by tediously pulling out bits of change from a deep bag, pennies and dimes predominate. The next person wonders if we have a book but has the wrong author. We work out what it is and request the book for him. A small child wants to say hi. We say hi. Thankfully I still remember the few sentences I wanted to write. Elapsed time to register two cards, answer questions and briefly explain a system, resolve a fine issue, collect money and put it in the cash register, find and request a book, and greet a child: one minute. Yes, one minute. I still have 19 minutes to go before I can write down my sentences.
3. It is just after ten in the evening and I want to write a blog piece about the strange, hostile, and mundanely magical ways that time has been moving for me. I go to my basement studio. Half of the post was already written during the day. I diligently type away on my computer. It's not my best piece or anything, but it goes smoothly enough, and I am fond of the first joke, known as the "four minutes" joke. I hope to get to bed by 12:15 so that I can still get close to eight and a half hours of sleep. Two hours and 15 minutes to finish a piece that will have taken you one or two minutes to read seems entirely reasonable. And what time is it now?
It is just after two in the morning.
I have got to go to bed!