I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Four thousand weeks

Whatcom Falls on Saturday

Yesterday Melanie, Dianne and I walked just under five miles in Whatcom Falls Park, stopping (as usual) in front of Whatcom Falls to see how the water is running. As we expected, it's totally roaring, with all the rain we've had lately. We were so lucky to have had a dry day on Thursday, when the Senior Trailblazers had their annual Start the Summer potluck and hike. I joined the group, but Mel went out on a solo hike. The group was really large, with around fifty Senior Trailblazers from two different hiking groups all gathered together. It's too many people for comfort on a regular hike these days, but I sure enjoyed myself. You can read all about it on that link.

But today I'm going to talk about time, once again. The title of this post is referring to the number of weeks that a usual mortal gets to spend on earth during one lifetime. One of my blogging friends pointed me towards a book by that name: Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. And you know how much I enjoy writing about, and trying to figure out, what the heck the whole concept of time really means.

Although I haven't finished this book yet, I'm finding it fascinating to consider how time has been perceived in earlier civilizations. It's interesting to think what it was like before people had any sort of clocks or need for them. In medieval times, people woke at sunrise and went to bed when the sun went down. Burkeman says that monks had to figure out how to get up before the sunrise, so they assigned a monk to stay awake all night and watch the stars to tell when it they should wake up, but if he fell asleep or it was cloudy, it didn't work. I laughed at that, realizing that something else would have to be considered. We humans are nothing if not a resourceful lot. 

But to come all the way from sleepy monks to thinking of us as being stuck on a conveyor belt that constantly speeds up to help us get everything in our lives done, well, it's a real stretch. When I consider how little actual time we humans have to get anything done before we die, it's amazing that we actually accomplish anything. I am beginning to understand why some people have long to-do lists and are constantly trying to keep up within the constriction of our short lives. Four thousand weeks is surprisingly brief, isn't it?

I looked up on one of my favorite sites, timeanddate.com, how many weeks I've been alive and found that I've already had 4,184 weeks of life and have another 26 weeks or so before I turn eighty (and might have another 500+ weeks after that. Who knows?) It's not much time, but then again, the whole of human civilization is only four to seven million years old. We are definitely a young race, but look at how much we have accomplished, both good and bad. We've changed the entire world, and explored much of the universe beyond, but look at what we have done with time itself. We have become its slave.
There is an alternative: the unfashionable but powerful notion of letting time use you, approaching life not as an opportunity to implement your predetermined plans for success but as a matter of responding to the needs of your place and your moment in history. ― Oliver Burkeman

And we are actually standing at a critical place in history: right at the end of a pandemic and trying to figure out how to use our limited time more appropriately. I know that I am endeavoring to enjoy each day, especially when I consider how lucky I am, having a warm and safe roof over my head, enough food to eat every day (too much sometimes), a partner to share my days with, and friends and family who care about me, and whom I also care about. I can still read, even if my eyesight is not perfect, and I can sit in the dark and type on my laptop and reach out to infinity through the miracle of the internet.

But still, I am also lucky because I can look back on a life well lived, with lots of memories of people and places that I cherish, and it feels like enough to me. I had a productive career as an editor and helped to create many books that now sit on countless shelves; I had a productive avocation as a skydiver, piloting canopies, teaching others how to fly their bodies in freefall, and I am satisfied. Getting up and greeting each day with a sense of wonder and happiness, happy to have another day to find a way to manage time instead of letting it manage me. I'm determined to change my vision of time from being on a conveyor belt into one of being a creature IN time, with infinite possibilities ahead.

Using that calculator on the timeanddate.com website, I realize that I've also been alive for almost 30,000 days (29,040 to be exact), and have breathed in and out for 41,900,000 minutes (almost 42 million!) and find it possible to inspire myself to continue creating many more Sunday posts, one a week here on this blog. Why not? I enjoy it, and some of my followers enjoy it too. While my time might not be infinite, it's enough once I step off the conveyor belt and consider the expanse my consciousness can reach. 

I have all the time I need. And I am hoping that you will consider for yourselves what you would like to accomplish in your own life, hoping that the possibility of rethinking your life to become one filled with infinite possibility will give you another way to ponder how to spend your days. It's possible to find fulfillment with every breath, if we allow it.

It's time (!) to wind up this post and begin the rest of my Sunday. I do hope you will find love and joy in your day, and that you will smile as you consider your options. I am listening to the drum of rain on the roof, and realize that I'll need to wrap myself in some of my rain gear when I go outside to meet my friend John for a breakfast trip to Fairhaven. Until we meet again in another week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.


Barbara Rogers said...

I enjoyed this post, as most of yours have been as well. Thanks, as I turn my personalities into the various tasks of this Sunday...with the assurance that what isn't done today before that old sol goes down, will wait to be done on the morrow!

Anvilcloud said...

Sometimes time goes quickly and sometimes it goes slowly.

Linda Myers said...

Reading blog posts this morning is my last planned activity for this day. I'll take a nap and then see what this Sunday has in store for me.

Arkansas Patti said...

I did the math before I started reading your post. That to me sounds like a lot of time. The odd thing is that just this morning I lay in bed for quite a while going over my life and the people in it. Finding out yesterday about the death of my ex-husband prompted it. I am happy to say, I am quite pleased with the way I have spent my time.

Marie Smith said...

As I ponder time, I think I am generally satisfied with my life. I made mistakes but I have come to understand myself better and why I made the mistakes I did. I will make good use of the time left, whatever days or weeks they make be.

Have a great week, dear Jan.

Elephant's Child said...

Time is an infinitely flexible trickster isn't it? I like your approach to it. And thoroughly enjoy these Sunday (our Monday) posts of yours.

Linda Reeder said...

It takes a long time for me to get going in the mornings now. It's already 1:00 on the Sunday. I have done the weekly grocery shopping with Tom's help. I have been in touch electronically with distant family members and some near by. So much is happening and needing responding to that I finally got to my goal of posting my blog. I'll have to fit PT in this afternoon. But I have plenty of time to do that. I'm trying to pack my days less full now. My time is mostly mine and I usually control the belt speed.
Good post. thank you.

Red said...

Time becomes more interesting when you break it down to weeks or days. I've never thought of my life in those time units. You're right that we should plan and control our time for a more happy productive life. By my calculations I've lived 4212 weeks. Doesn't sound like much.

Galen Pearl said...

That is so interesting. I love thinking about time. A Course in Miracles talks about the concept of the holy instant, which I think of as eternity in each moment. When I lived off the grid during my back to the land youth, I had no clocks or any way to know the time, so I learned to live my days in harmony with the sun and stars. On cloudy days, as you noted, I had no concept of time passing. It was strange. Those days were sort of mystical. Like you, I've lived much of my allotted weeks. But I have the sense now of having all the time I need or want. I'm not in a hurry. Time is more precious to me and at the same time I'm not concerned about it. Another thought provoking post!

Glenda C. Beall said...

Time is doing strange things to me. My concept of time isn't what it was. I think I have been at the computer for thirty minutes and then realize it has been over an hour. I am constantly late for appointments because my concept of time is off.
As I move on to another era of my life, I am planning to do more of the things I postponed in recent years. I still want to publish a couple of books and I look forward to making more friends when I move to the city later this year. Like you, I am blessed in so many ways and I am grateful.

Gigi said...

I thought specifically about you when I mentioned the book (I still need to get around to getting it) as I know how interested you are in time.

Have a great week, DJan!

Far Side of Fifty said...

I figured from your blog title that it was you that had all those weeks racked up!

Debbie V. said...

I've started reading "Four Thousand Weeks". I'm about a quarter of the book in. I like the idea of dropping some things from my to-do list. It might be hard to decide. Today I decided to take off my Fitbit (I won't have to monitor it) and I told a friend that I usually have lunch with every other Wednesday that I needed an extra "stay at home" day this week. I get his point that we have too many irons in the fire and we need to let go in order to appreciate the ones we still have.
So thank you for mentioning the book.
And thank you for sharing your thoughts.