Man Over Time…

December 14, 2011 //

By Jill Blair

Thanks to Hallmark and all the other companies that generate tools to bring good cheer into our lives, the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas now flow into one another seamlessly. This was not always true. When I was growing up there were much more clearly defined distinctions between Halloween – when goblins and candy ruled; Thanksgiving, when turkey, pumpkin pie and crazy families were the main events; and Christmas (in our house Chanukah), when trees, candy canes and too much gift-giving left people tired and abundant. In these modern days, we have managed to change the nature and pace of time and create one long holiday season that starts almost when our kids go back to school and doesn’t end until days after the New Year.

In the Jewish tradition we have two holy days that our sages, not our business partners, have inextricably linked and we are instructed during that period between (the tween days), to give time to reflection and reconciliation. These are the ten days between our New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur (a day of fasting and forgiveness) – and we call this time, “the days of awe.” Our custom is to reflect during this period and to reconcile, with ourselves, and others. We seek and offer forgiveness for the ways in which we have violated our own sense of purpose and the values and ethics of our social bonds and expectations. Not because I am deeply religious, though I have my moments, but because I am concerned about what I see as our evolving relationship with and need to rule over time, I am thinking that there is significant human and social value to the this tradition and it may be worth adopting more broadly. It is a tradition that honors the human spirit but importantly, it honors time itself.

When we rush from one event or meeting to the next – when we schedule our own lives and the lives of those we love from task to task – when we confuse accomplishment (something done) with achievement (sometime done well), we have designated time to be our enemy. We are gluttons for more of it and desperate to conquer it.

But what if…

What if this holiday season we accept the limits of time, and instead of filling it up with action, we save some for reflection?

What if we honor ourselves and those we care about by setting aside the time that is needed to complete our conversations and share our greatest hopes and uncertainties and…

What if we measure the meaning of this season by how well we listen to one another?
By the questions we consider and the conversations in which we engage?

What if we measure the value of this time not by what we do but how deeply we feel when we do it?

December is my birthday month. It is also the birthday month for a friend of the same considerable age. She recently wrote to me about what it feels to be turning 55 this year – it seems like a number that not long ago was completely out of reach – a distant and foreign destination of little concern in her common world. But here we are. And my friend noted, “at least with this age I have found some answers to long lingering questions.”

Which takes me to my conclusion…it is time that answers our questions. But we must be listening.