There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, and a time to keep silence and a time to speak, and a time for many things under the sun. This is how the poet in Ecclesiastes put it.
He was talking about time in the sense of what happens in it, that is the type of time that can’t be measured, what the Greeks called kairos time, as in, ‘I had a fantastic time waterskiing on the lake and here is a photo of it.’
This is the sort of time that is different from chronos time, that is the time it is when I look at my watch and say to the children that it’s now time for bed and let’s finish this tomorrow at such-and-such a time.
The week, by the way, gives us 168 hours. And if we use about 56 hours for work and study and another 56 for sleep and then maybe another 21 for some sort of meditation and family life, that still leaves another 35 hours.
It’s easy to wonder where in the world these 35 hours go, but TS Eliot gave us a clue when he said that ‘We’re distracted from distraction by distraction.’ Certainly there are plenty more distractions now than there were in 1936, when Eliot’s well-known phrase was published.
So, this is the thing about time. We all get it in equal measure. And we also get an equal measure of what is both danger and opportunity.
No, none of us can change the length of time that we’re given. Not in the week, nor in the unknown days that any one of us is allotted. But, depending on how exactly we use that length, we can change time’s width and depth, that is we can improve the quality of our time.
To this end, my son is asking for two things for his birthday. One is a watch. This is, of course, to tell the time. And this is probably a good idea to the extent that he will be able to look on his own wrist to see when it’s his bedtime.
The other is a camera. This is to tell that other sort of time. And not just a camera, but one that is waterproof, so that it can take photos in the bathtub or a pool or that lake that Jon recently tried to waterski on.
As far as time and distractions and gifts go, I think one can do a lot worse than these two items.
But even if he starts taking photos in a more serious way, Jon has still made it clear: “I still want to be a farmer, though.”