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.
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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.

How Fast is Time Flying?

imageWhat make time fly swiftly at some periods of life and crawl at others? This is one of the enigmas of time that we all recognize and ponder on some level. As a young lady I was fascinated by time and eternity. In my twenties I wondered why forty-year-olds didn’t know twice as much as twenty-year-olds. I concluded that it was a matter of constantly learning. I defined it as, “falling into a rut of sameness.” I vowed to keep my spirit hungry for learning and thereby to ensure a life well-lived.

My goal became to always keep growing and learning. I promised to never stay static. I recognized that life challenges us and encourages those who fall into being busy to the point of barely holding-on. Through the last decade I have witnessed an extraordinary push in our culture for people to overschedule themselves to the point of exhaustion. I am not sure if it is really more prevalent in our society or if it is a matter of the demographic that I am part of. Are we actually more stressed and overcommitted or is it generation-x coming into middle age? I suspect that both factors prevail. I know that I have been stretched so thin that I collapse exhausted into bed at the end of the day and rise eight hours later to start the whole run-until-you-drop all over again the next day. What I think may be new is that I consider myself lucky that I actually have the privilege of eight hours in bed. Notice, I did not say that I get eight hours of sleep a night. Like most of my contemporaries I battle insomnia.

We have lost our connection to the natural world. I managed to take my dog to the park three times this spring and summer. I did not go to the park without her. I do not have useable outdoor space at home. Three times I went out into nature! Perhaps this is part of the struggle to sleep. Our activity has nothing to do with the seasons, the sun, the wind, growing things.
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If I am going to be true to my youthful promises to myself I need to consciously re-orient myself to the fact that the possibilities are indeed endless. I love to learn. Learning something new has always been refreshing and restorative for me. This summer I am learning to paint watercolors. It has been something I have wanted for longer than I remember. I never painted. Well, not on paper or canvas and painting a room isn’t nearly as enjoyable. No matter how much I want to paint it takes careful planning to achieve time. Time that we do not view as productive is the rarest commodity in our culture. I cannot help but believe that this is one of the reasons that all community groups and church groups are desperate for volunteers. We have become a culture that views anything that doesn’t produce an income as a time-waster. We all have a bucket-list of activities that we are going to pursue, “when we have time.” The reality that we do not allow ourselves time to continue learning doesn’t dawn upon us until it is too late.

My mother was going to write a couple of books. All my life I knew this fact. Someday. She was healthy until she was in her sixties and then developed cancer and went home to the Lord fast. When she turned sixty-five I asked her if she was going to write. She told me she was too tired. She never wrote her books. We have all lost out on her words. I cannot write her words. God gave them to her alone. It is ever thus for each of us.

What gifts has God given you? What have you always longed to learn? Why are you too busy to become a full person? In my early journal I vowed to never stop growing up. I have learned many things in my life. One of the more important is that God wants us to use our time here well. A life well-lived that makes the most of our God-given talents and dreams and is within reach of each of us. It is assuredly a matter of priority. A half-an-hour here and there really does make a difference.

I had a dear friend who was active well into her nineties. She always introduced me as her “youth leader” and I told everyone I wanted to “grow-up” to be like her. She never lost her love of learning and shared my enthusiasm for technology even though she did not personally have a computer. When I bought a new computer with a touch-screen I took it with me on a visit and she happily played along with me, writing with a stylus, taking and editing digital photos, etc. She entered into other people’s joy and love of learning. Need I say that she was a teacher and wherever she went, people would come up to her and say, ”You were my favorite teacher.” Each one of us is demonstrating what we regard as important everyday with our actions. What do your priorities teach? Is your bank account your value as a person? How important are your relationships? Are you growing or are you withering?

Day 31

The best laid plans often go awry. I can’t take credit for such an insight, but I have shared the experience many times. My life has been carefully planned and it has gone awry many times. Today I was going to accomplish many household tasks on my day off including the purchase of paint and supplies, scraping and painting a ceiling.

It has been a grey, wet day with a constant cold breeze. Somehow, I did not want to venture outside and gave in to the barrage of imagined excuses. Rather than follow the schedule I have been curled up in a furry blanket, thinking and reading my old journals. I have not looked into those pages in years. I was actually happier than I remembered…and wiser…and more the…same. On reflection I believed myself to be infinitely more mature and filled with insights now than I was in my youth. The surprise to me is how consistently I have always viewed and processed the world. I know my external surroundings haven’t changed, but I felt that I had become so different with age. On some levels I have not changed at all!

So, here I am again. The past month has not followed the plan so I have improvised…repeatedly. I took on the idea of the 31 Days Challenge on the spur-of-the-moment. This is not a thing I am experienced with, least of all being spontaneous. Well, I was cavalier with my to do list today, but writing a blog series, or committing to write everyday just when life and work were especially hectic, those are not the things I could easily change my mind on. The results prove my overly cautious approach to life sensible. I am too much like Elinor Dashwood to behave that way. I leave spur-of-the-moment plans to the Marianne’s of this world.

Now that I am confessing my shortcoming and owning up to my plodding sensible nature I recognize that writing is how I process life. I have always been this way and I do not think I will ever change. Therefore, I must set up and adhere to a sensible schedule of posting. I do need to make more time to write. I promise to do so. I will post at least weekly. That seems an achievable goal. The idea of a series is attractive, but just at present; I think it best to wait.

I have moved three rooms of my home. That seems strange. It feels exhausting and peculiar. About three-quarters of the items, large furniture included, of three rooms have traded spaces. My study is now in a room of its own! It is upstairs [ (:sad face]. It is less noisy! It is a mess with boxes and piles of “stuff”. The “stuff” consists largely of blanket and comforters, Christmas decorations, etc. My office supplies are also in boxes or tragically filed in bookshelves downstairs. Some of you may recognize this as chaos of unworkable scope, others may find this perfectly normal. Whatever your level of comfort with confusion, I have found the process of getting to this point too time-consuming to allow for writing.

I finally had the time to paint the peeling ceiling (that ought to be a poem) or write about how I feel about the move. Being true to myself, here I am. I am sitting with the wonky walls and other alliterations contemplating the nature of life and its deeper philosophical and theological implications. I am quite a piece of work.

If you have read this far into this post I congratulate and thank you for your patience. I am leaving the Lectionary text schedule for an unknown future date when I can find enough time to do it justice. At this frenetic period I shall resume ramblings on life. An adventure of the spirit is just what I need. This may prove particularly inviting on the rare day off when a cold front has swept through. So from my topsy-turvy world I bid you adieu with todays’ thought from 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” Amen.

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