The older we get, the faster the time rushes by. It’s simple mathematics, really… a week becomes a smaller fraction of our lives, the longer we’ve lived, and that’s what changes our perception of time going by. If you remember waiting impatiently for an important date to arrive when a child… for the end of school and summer vacation, or for a trip or a birthday… it always seemed like it took a long time to get there. And in contrast, as we grow older, we barely turn around, and the week is done… and it’s another weekend.
This week was like that, with memorial day, and another holiday… can it be that we are approaching another Sabbath? What happened to the week? The other day, a friend mentioned something about making plans for retirement. And I shared my experience with her, that my plans came to naught. I had developed such work habits by the time I retired, that instead of finding myself with nothing to do… as I had thought would happen… my life is still full of the same things that were always part of it; work, anxiety, the joy of accomplishments, and even the last minute rush, as certain events approach.
There’s great beauty in every season. And this winter, I enjoyed some really beautiful photography of mist and fog… conditions that once were reason enough for me not to take my camera on a walk. I keep learning. But the beauties of this spring, are just intoxicating. The grass behind the house is as tall as bushes, and there are flowers everywhere I look. I walk along the path with a smile, and Nechama rolls around on the grass and on the earth… cats don’t smile, you know.
I remember regretting that my father wasn’t a farmer, or a blacksmith, so I could watch him work. I thought that if it had been that way, I might have learned the secrets of work. But my father worked with his head, and that is the sort of work you can’t follow from the outside. I thought that I’d missed out on something rather important.
But later in life, I realized that I had gotten some pretty good examples of proper work habits… even for those who do intellectual work. It came to me, as I started to examine my own behavior, when overwhelmed by work, and finding it hard to keep up with all my commitments. I realized that that there was an illusory easiness about working with the mind. One thinks that there are as many hours available, as there are hours in the day. And then I remembered my father saying, I’ve got a problem… and he’d go off for a walk. Sometimes he’d stop everything, and listen to music for an hour. At the time, it seemed strange behavior.
Now I know that those simple pleasures are necessary to keep the mind relaxed, to absorb the things that we learn, and to let the ideas flow, so that we can come up with solutions to what seems unsolvable at first. I’ve learned that free time is often the most important part of the day. That is when I have my most productive moments. Not when I’m wracking my mind to find a solution to a problem, but when I’m taking a walk, with nothing to do but look at the flowers, and the little oddities of the streets.
How much better it is to maintain a sense of balance through the day, than to work at maximum pace all the time, so as to afford a great vacation, or a night on the town, when we really need it, because we’re so worn out with constant work! It is those little pleasures that accompany us through life, that constantly renew our strength, and allow us to take pleasure in our work. Today with multi tasking, and absorbing music or a lecture through earphones, while we are doing something else… it is easy to lose touch with quiet… to find ourselves limited by routine thinking, and uninspired moves. This goes along with my previous post on moderation.
We do need some great moments in life, and to experience thrills that remain in our memories as landmarks. But it’s a mistake to want every moment to be a peak experience. We wouldn’t want to miss out on the simple pleasures of life.