Dedicated to Research and Reflection in Formative Spirituality




About Us Programs Staff Links Contact Us


Enjoying One Moment at a Time

October 18, 2010

Enjoying One Moment at a TimeI once asked a close friend why he never wore a wrist watch. He responded that he did not want to be looking frequently at the time as if time were the most significant factor in his life. As I reflected on his attitude, I slowly became aware of the dominating influence of time in my own life. How frequently my life and its activities are controlled “by the clock,” and how often I experience time as a tyrannical slave driver. As I reflected on my friend’s response, I began to wonder why “Father Time” wasn't gentler, a friend and ally, a brother or sister. Why, instead of a tyrant, wasn’t “time" a beautiful gift, an opportunity?

    So strong in the life of each of us is the society-fostered value of “getting things done” that time cannot help but become an adversary. From the simple events of our everyday lives to the larger issues of life itself and its significance, our consciousness is dominated by the absolutizing of functional values.

    Our approach to education is an interesting example of this functional attitude. Henri Nouwen points out the irony for our time in the fact that the word school is derived from the Latin word schola meaning leisure or free time. How often, however, are teachers preoccupied by the concern of “getting all the material in” before the end of a semester. And how often are students insistent on “knowing the precise requirements” for a course? It is not infrequent to hear an “educator” furiously railing against the injustice of “losing an hour of class time” so that his students could attend an outside cultural or artistic activity. “How will I ever complete the course?” is a common plaint of school teachers.

    This “deadline mentality” is reflected ultimately in our attitude toward life itself.  My life becomes a time “to accomplish something,” “to make my mark” before “my time” runs out.  Death is the great enemy for us, the final victory of Tyrant Time, a scandalous event to be delayed, fought against, avoided and ignored. It is not at all “our sister, the death of the body” of which St. Francis of Assisi speaks in his Canticle of the Sun.

    For the person who lives on the merely functional level of his or her personality, “Time” is a mortal enemy. Changing situations, personal limitations and handicaps, increasing age, sickness and finally the death of the body all reflect the contingency and finitude of self as doer. If to be a human person is merely to function, to manipulate, to determine and control by one’s own actions, then life truly is, as Thomas Hobbes wrote, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

    Yet each person, event and objective that one encounters in life is filled with meaning and mystery far deeper than that which our pre-transcendent awareness can perceive. For the teacher, students are not primarily intellects to be filled with my understandings and interpretations, but they are rather persons called to enter their unique journey into the mystery that is their own life call in Christ. Similarly, none of us is merely the social role we assume, but a living presence to mystery and the mysterious life of God.

    It is in special periods of quiet, aloneness and reflective meditation that our projects, anxieties, and even thoughts become stilled that we might simply attend to the mystery and that our distinctively human capacity for awe may be evoked.  Our functional, managing, and controlling self can, in a quiet, reflective and prayerful stepping aside, be stilled that we may remember who we really are in the world.  From this view, all the persons, situations, and experiences of our lives can be experienced in their deeper and awe-filled reality. To live and to act merely from the functional level of our personality is to confuse the world of our thoughts with the reality of creation.  When we still our rampant egoism long enough to listen to God’s Word as it is spoken through the events, persons and situations of life, we can begin, as Nicholas of Cusa says, to see with the eye with which God sees and thus offer God’s view and God’s love to the world.

    From this perspective, “Time” truly becomes “our sister.” “The world and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24) are the Lord’s—not ours. All people, events, situations, time, and life itself are the gifts of a loving God to us. Each moment of time, with all the richness and possibility it contains, reveals a fresh and deeper opportunity to respond to God’s love.

Copyright © 2007 [Resources in Spiritual Formation].

All rights reserved.

Last updated: 11/24/10.