Around 2 p.m. every day, a serene quiet settles down in our house. My husband, Howard, naps. If I am working from home, I use this time to read. Howard’s aide rests in the den. Calm and peace appear to be our context and process. It is a moment I cherish.
Of course, the reality in this house, as in many others, is much more complicated. We live with tension, stress and the burdens of illness and aging. Yet within those frames and realities, I try to find tranquility and harmony.
I remember when our children were little. Those rare moments when they all slept or napped were like gold – cherished and hoarded. We seemed to appreciate them the most when they were not active, and we eagerly waited for time to pass, for when they would grow up. Instead of relishing each moment, we sought the future too quickly. We should have heeded the words of the Simon and Garfunkel song more closely: “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last!”
Now I am at the other end of the cycle and I can see how fast time moved us through our lives, how quickly the children grew and we aged. I wish I could get back those moments and relive them. I wish I could hold on to time. How soon we regret our impatience.
Obviously, the moments of peacefulness are now welcome elements. They provide me – and I hope you – with the opportunity to slow down and appreciate, finally.
All of this reminds me of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s book The Sabbath. In this slim volume, Rabbi Heschel mapped out an illuminating view of Judaism as centrally concerned with the holiness found in time, not objects or rituals. He claimed that Shabbat revealed to the world a religion not of cathedrals or large structures, but rather one that relies upon the architecture of time. It is a fascinating thesis, one with much insight, and a worthy read.
Of course, in biblical Judaism, we did have a large Temple. But with the beginning of our many exiles, Shabbat (and holy days) became our transportable temple. Time became our consecrated field and we took it with us wherever we went.
Rabbi Heschel claimed Shabbat is a sanctuary we build in time. What a wonderful perspective! Not just about Shabbat or Judaism, but about time itself.
Time is precious. It is a refuge. Time should never be taken for granted or hurried, but we are human, and we ignore it and rush through our days. So how do we slow things down?
Time should never be taken for granted or hurried
How do we set up parameters of appreciation?
I suppose the best we can hope for is to find those moments of peace in our week and cherish them. Our quiet time is best used not to complain or grieve, but to assess the good things, the harmony available and the inner peace. Surely, we often have to search to find those elements, but the search is worthwhile.
We have days and weeks filled with all sorts of activities and purposes. That is appropriate and really good. Sometimes we find purpose and goodness, other times there is sorrow, loss and trauma. All are part of our humanity. But somewhere within this mixture of action and daily existence, we need to cherish the moments given, find solace in life itself and see the splendour of creation, which, after all, is continuous throughout time.
As Rabbi Heschel puts it, “Creation, we are taught, is not an act that happened once upon a time, once and forever. The act of bringing the world into existence is a continuous process…. Time is perpetual innovation, a synonym for continuous creation.”
And for this, for our serene time, I am thankful.