47: Two Views On Time (J. R. R. Tolkien)

                “It’s really not so good to have time. Rush, scramble, desperation, this missed, that left behind, those others too big to fit into such a small space–that’s the way life was meant to be. You’re supposed to be too late for some things. Don’t worry about it.” -Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
                “Do not spoil the wonder with haste!” -J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

                A few days ago my little brother was doing homework. At least, homework was on the table in front of him, though it wasn’t getting done very quickly. We talked about that, and he said,
                “But I’m not trying to make it take a long time, so who is?”
                That got me thinking, and I think we define our own connection to the concepts on which we build our lives. That means we can choose to relate in a new way to something as fundamental as time or history, work or worth, love or community.
                Here’s an example: I know someone who hung a bell from his rearview mirror. Whenever the bell rang, he’d say, “The world is beautiful.” Of course, the bell rang when he slammed on the brakes, or hit a pothole, or jerked the wheel because someone cut him off. In other words, it rang at times when most of us would say something else. If he didn’t get in a car accident, he told me, he would rather be a bit more breathless before the awe of the world than a bit more stressed. If he did get in an accident, he’d rather go to the hospital (or his death) with “The world is beautiful” on his lips.
                We choose our time. We can live hurried, and the truth is, sometimes that’s nice. I have a friend who fills every minute of every day: he likes that, likes his time like Tarzan’s trip on the vines through the jungle. Always falling, always swinging. Beagle would understand. I know others who live closer to Tolkien: who see more wonder by slowing for the space of a breath. I’m not sure what relationship I have with time, but it’s nice to remember that I have one. Time isn’t all its own: it’s something we hold onto. We choose how we hold.
                So I won’t let haste spoil the wonder–or if I’m scrambling, I’ll remember that I’m a kitten with catnip. That’s not a bad thing to be.

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