Just as one sends a letter from place to place, one may send, to one’s self or others, letters through time. Photographs, mementos and journal entries are letters we send into the future; and by writing or speaking about events gone by we can communicate to some extent with the past. To do this regularly and intelligently is to expand our being in time.
from Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin
I become increasingly concerned with my usage of time as I grow older, because I realize that, while each day still arrives with a full complement of minutes and hours, I have fewer days to which to look forward. It is hard to contemplate such things, but I’m glad to think of them now, rather than twenty years from now, when I have twenty years less time to enjoy. I very much want to enjoy my time, to make something of it, and to reach the end of my life knowing that I used it well.
It is not such an easy thing to do. People talk the good talk—“Carpe diem!” “There’s no time like the present!” “Life it too short to…”—but hardly anyone seems able to maintain a focused awareness of time passing. A proper awareness of Time is, I think, part of living a full, happy life.
One day I came across an interesting quote about Time and it led me to its source, a book called Time and the Art of Living by Robert Grudin. I borrowed a copy of the book from the library, but failed to finish it before it was due back. I then acquired a copy of my own, but again failed to read it. I have owned it now for years but have yet to read more than a fraction of it. It is ironic that I can’t seem to make time for this book about Time.
As I type this post, Livia is sitting in my lap. Just a moment ago, she grabbed the book (which is next to the computer) with both hands and stuck it in her mouth to chew on it. That is a lovely metaphor, isn’t it? This baby with, I presume, absolutely no awareness of Time, simply does what she wants most to do in life, which is to devour all that lies before her. She doesn’t wait. She doesn’t ponder. She doesn’t plan. She just grabs and chews.
A few days ago, I picked up Time and the Art of Living and tried again to read it. I still find much of it difficult to read. Parts are written in a scholarly style that is, to me, superficially opaque. It requires effort just to get the meaning of the words and even more to understand them. Perhaps some of it is simply over my head. But there are parts that are simple, clear, immediately beautiful (like the quote at the beginning of this post), and that is what keeps me returning to the book. Those parts make it worth the effort to read and understand the whole of it.
I think I approached the book poorly in the past. It is not a book to be read in one sitting. The author probably never intended it to be. He wrote, “I have written . . . a kind of moving picture, a series of statements and reflections which readers may follow at their own pace. Rather than leading readers to preordained conclusions, I wish to make them stop and think. . . . The blank spaces between my writings are as important as the writings themselves.”
Now my approach will be to read one section at a time. Technically, I should put the book aside during August, which I have proclaimed Rainbow of Reading Month, but I’m going to make an exception for this book. I just really want to read it now. Wish me luck with it.