Review of Time and Despondency

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Despondency is not a word that we use very often in the twenty-first century. It is our loss since we are just as plagued by this silent evil as our ancestors. In her book, Time and Despondency Nicole Roccas, places the concept of hopelessness as it was understood through history and the Church.

i long to be really present. i carry the ubiquitous phone everywhere. In fact, it is right beside my computer as i write this post. i feel torn. There is real struggle between living in our society and being an authentic Christian. Life is hard for everyone. There is an honest tension that we all need to live with unless we are in a Monastery. Living fully alive to the present-tense is in some ways harder now than in any time in the past.

What is most distinctive about this book is that she postulates that despondency is the rejection of the present time. When we become despondent we think about the past or the future and refuse to contemplate our current reality. It is incredibly easy to be lulled into fretting over past problems, future worries or enticed by fantasies about the life we wish we were living. Many of us have had the experience of falling into a reverie and losing our sense of time as we live out our dreams of the glorious future we should have or rewrite history by telling off our nemesis after some past encounter. 

How many of us have behaved like Walter Mitty for a season? That time is all lost time. When we are dreaming or demanding justice we are missing the present time. This idea startled me. God is present-NOW! When Moses asks God to give His name God tells Moses that, “I AM!” God is in the present. He is in the future and the past also, but He engages with us in the present. When we let our dreaming become despondency we are no longer engaging with God. It is no wonder those who fall into despondency have a hard time making it to Church to worship. The physical struggle is compounded by allowing ourselves to be lured away from communion with Him for so much time.

Roccas says, “Potential time becomes actualized (Kairos) time when we respond to God’s love…. Actualized time consists of re-sponding, unfulfilled time of de-sponding.”

i believe she is on to something when she refers to the time we give in to despondency as unfulfilled time. In my experience, it is singularly unfulfilling in every way. From this perspective, real/actualized time is all the time when i am open to and/or engaging with God. St. Paul told us to pray without ceasing. This challenge is the subject of countless books. What Time and Despondency has done is carve out the idea that the only time in which we are real and present is actualized. Too much of my life has been wasted! 

In our culture, it is hard to remain focused on the present for more than a few minutes. Our multi-tasking, smartphone checking, disorganized, yet highly self-controlled minds are rarely focused and open to God. Whether hyper and distracted or despondent and trying to escape our present reality we cultivate extremes. 

i thought the book Time and Despondency was engaging and profound.

“Whatever the present looks like at any given moment, there are only two possible ways of responding to it: to enter or exit, to respond or despond. To enter the present is to surrender with thanksgiving to the time and circumstances God has placed before us, to abide in God’s presence in time and space. To exit, by contrast, is to reject this gift-really, to reject reality. Despondency begins when we step away from the present and fashion reality on our own terms.”

May i interject one word- Pinterest?

Time and Despondency goes on in part two to offer ways of combatting despondency.  The book is not large (177 pages) and well worth the read. 

Time and Feathers

“The day is done and the darkness
Falls from the wings of night
As a feather is wafted downward
By an eagle in his flight.”

Thus begins the poem, “The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Since I was a young girl this has been one of my favorite poems.

In this poem Longfellow compares the passage of time to the way a feather falls. Gravity inexorably pulls the feather toward the ground. The feather, however, is aerodynamic and falls slowly as the air passes through it’s buoyant shape.A feather falls slower than most objects, but even a feather will silently, steadily fall.
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Time sometimes falls like a meteor and other times it descends like a feather. Most often in my life, time rockets past me at the speed of light.

Only when I allow myself grace to pause does time slip slowly though my fingers like a feather.
Softly passing time sounds like a dream.

I have lived too much of my life without pausing to notice the day wafting toward night.
Version 2
I have chased time. I cannot outrun the passage of months or even years. They slip by before I realize they have half begun.

I may not be able to catch time, but anyone can mark time. We mark the passage of time not on a clock, but by paying attention to the present.

I find the need to chase time because I am distracted by the future and my all-absorbing To Do List. If I were to notice now, and not tell myself that I will make time to be fully present when I finish ___ it is possible that I would be more satisfied with the passage of time.

There is always some “important” work that need attending. I do not remember what most of those things were. What was it that I was so consumed with ten years ago? I could guess, but I cannot tell you the specifics. Indeed, some of it was important. Some of what has consumed my life has not been as important as I thought. I have been distracted by the trivial more than once.

I need to make time to permit time to waft like a feather. This brings us to the crux of the matter. The first word in that sentence is the root of the problem. I. I cannot make time. No creature makes time. God, the Creator made time, we live within time. Hence, the statement, “I need to make time” is a priori wrong. As a human I will never be able to “make” time. Therefore, the time I will make is never. What can I do?

I can schedule time to notice. Scheduling time to be fully present seems incongruous. Unfortunately, it is the best that I can do. I live in 2015. Time is precious I want to make the most of the time that I have. The most effective way that I have found of doing this is to schedule reminders. Funny how we have become so programmed by our fast paced lifestyle that we schedule and set alarms to remind us to fully live. Do any of you, readers, have a favorite method to notice the present?

I will let you know how the scheduling “now time” to slow time works. The day once descended into evening as slow as a feather. It ought to be possible for me to slow down and let time waft a little.