Time and the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. I love to watch the children, who, starting with Halloween, both anticipate and revel in the celebrations. I can remember, not only as a child, but also as an adult, looking forward to, preparing for and enjoying the holidays.

Now, it seems that there is an additional component – time. It seems to me that time has increased its space, telescoped, inflated – however one calls it, it seems that more time is needed to accomplish an increasingly greater menu of activity. As most people I know seem to have experienced this, I don’t think I am crazy in noticing.

I remember planning or helping to plan Halloween costumes, carving pumpkins, handmade treats, and admiring the costumes of excited trick-or-treaters. Now, I buy candy (my daughter insists the kids will be quite offended if non-candy treats are offered), and answer the door for two hours. The trick or treaters seem serious, out to get as much candy as possible in the shortest amount of time.   No more chatting. No pausing at any door. Yes, it is still Halloween, but what has time done?

I remember several days of preparations for Thanksgiving. There were family gatherings, pleasant or not, in which one could travel more or less at leisure. I remember being able to sit at table an hour or more, having real conversation. Now, cooking a Thanksgiving meal is rushed, and the people eating it finish as soon as possible. Travel is rushed – hurry to get ready, see how quickly one can get there, and shorten the visit because one needs to be at work the next day. What has time done? Or is it our devices that lure us away from each other?

I remember sitting at a kitchen table wrapping Christmas gifts. The aim was not to get done as soon as possible, but to make each gift as artistically beautiful as possible. Yes, there was preparation work for Christmas, but not the rush to hurry up and get done as much as possible in a short time. There was time to choose “the right” gift, to bake cookies and cakes, to attend parties, to work together to prepare. Now, I feel more like the manager of a warehouse trying to fill orders under a deadline. Decorations, if any, need doing in a hurry; the house needs to be cleaned pronto.   All these things need to be done as the pace of work life also increases, with deadlines to be met before the holidays. Yes, those things were there before, but not nearly as rushed as now. I am not Scrooge.   Holidays are still enjoyable, and the spirit of giving is an important part of life. I just wish there were more time to savor.

Perhaps there is a way to work with time’s increased pace. Perhaps the trend to fragment ourselves into smaller and smaller living units has something to do with it.   Many hands, after all, make lighter work.   Perhaps we again need the extended family, the tribe, the community.   Blessed are they who have successfully managed to support each other and share the joys and the work.

I wish for all the gift of time.

Peace, Diane

Go Forth in Peace, Find Joy

Grandmaster is retiring on Halloween.   My martial arts school is closing.  In the grand scheme of things, that is probably not news of great significance. Yet, it does set ripples in motion, and who knows where those ripples might lead.

For those of us who are students at the school, the change is definitely significant. We will need to transfer to other schools, find other schools, or retire ourselves from what has been a part of our lives – for some of us, a large part of our lives. For Grandmaster, the change is immense – he is retiring from what has been most of his life, and now must find another way forward.

So, life changes. What ripples will this change bring?   Grandmaster is an old school teacher. Along with kicks and punches and self-defense, he teaches patience, respect, courage, kindness, persistence, focus, confidence, resilience, and responsibility – things the TV portrayals of martial arts lack. The irony is that these qualities, often subsumed under the concept of “strong mind”, are actually more important to the growth of the martial artist than is the skill of high leaps and fancy forms. That is not to demean the physical skills – they are important, too, for self-defense, and for competition for those so inclined. Even more importantly, they facilitate a balanced and healthy body, which supports a balanced and healthy strong mind.

With Grandmaster’s retirement, those skills are lost to the world in the measure that he gave them. New students will no longer learn from him. Hopefully, enough of us have internalized what he taught so that we can carry them forth into the world, perhaps in ways not directly related to martial arts.   Hopefully, they will not be lost, just included in other ways, transmuted but preserved in essence.

Godspeed, Grandmaster, in your retirement. May your way forward be smooth, and may we all also find our ways to the next steps in our lives.

Peace, Diane



Progress Has a Price – Do We Know It?

Almost every day, someone will remark to me that time is moving faster. Sometimes they will say that they have less of it than they used to, but the result is the same. I experience this in my own life, too. It seems there is a constant rush to complete tasks and catch up, and that one is never quite caught up. My precious reading time, my occasional trips to the mountains, even my time to visit friends have all fallen victim to this phenomenon.

What is happening? As of yet, no one has been able to give me a complete explanation.   Some say that the (not quite defined) vibes are moving faster; others say it is simply the effect of age, although young people also remark the shrinking of time. Still others think that there is an explanation in quantum physics. The pattern I see is the steady and increasingly rapid onward march of technology.

We humans, with our innately creative minds, have a tendency to eagerly embrace the newest development without first taking the time to assess what will be the probable outcomes of those developments, projected, say, ten or twenty years into the future. We are thus thrust partly aware into living with consequences we had not foreseen, and are often quite unprepared to engage. In other words, our minds have leaped ahead, and the rest of our being is doing its best to catch up. Catch up – sounds familiar.

I do believe that all these wonderful things we have created to save us time have, in some indecipherable way, actually robbed us of the time we thought we were going to gain by availing ourselves of their services. For example, when my grandmother was growing up, they swept the carpets or put them on a clothesline and beat them with a paddle. That did take some time. When the vacuum cleaner was invented, the housewife was then predicted to have leisure time resulting from being freed from the task of cleaning the carpets by hand.   However, most housewives found themselves busier than ever. The time supposedly freed by the new device, which everyone now had, was taken up by other work that suddenly needed doing? The same situation repeated itself with other new appliances, such as the electric washer and the electric clothes dryer. Newer and faster automobiles seem to produce more places that need to be rushed to.

It is not that these developments are bad; they are certainly awesome in their own right. However, for each of these developments, something is lost, and we do not seem to be aware of what is lost until it is too late to recover it. For example, now that we have highly convenient clothes dryers, we no longer have the scent of the wind and fresh cut grass that used to adorn the clothes we hung on the clothesline. Or, now that we have the wonderful GPS to tell us to turn right or left without our thinking much, the skill of map reading is vanishing; in fact, it is difficult to even find any updated maps to read. The use of calculators in schools to do simple math computations has resulted in fewer students who know their number facts, and cashiers who are unable to make change unless a computer tells them what to do. Did we want to lose those skills???   We didn’t ask those questions, as we were moving forward.

I think we need to ask those questions, and figure out how to include in the relentless march forward the values of what we have lost. It is wonderful to have, for example, an excellent cook to serve us meals. However, if we have lost the skill of knowing our way around a kitchen, we are vulnerable, at the mercy of the cook, or at least of having a cook. As we go forward, who will be the masters – the marvelous devices, or ourselves?

Peace,  Diane



Welcome to The Voice from The Back Row

Like many other people last week, I spent time glued to the TV (unusual for me) watching the unfolding progress of Pope Francis’ historical visit to the United States. I wanted to be aware of history being made. The pope’s visit was most impressive, for the extent of its coverage, the warmth of the welcome extended by most to Pope Francis, and for not only the controversial content of his message, but for the eager acceptance of that message by so many. In addition, the pope himself is impressive. He exudes a magnetizing energy often manifested by those who have overcome dark periods in life and managed by strengthening connections to the universal unseen which surrounds us, called myriad names by myriad people. He also sustained a Herculean schedule which would have been beyond many a younger man, and remained centered throughout.

In a way, it is fitting that I begin this blog – the start of which has been postponed many times – concurrently with the lift in awareness I sense in people now that this historic event has taken place. I, too, wish to participate in raising awareness, and my contribution, too, may also at times cause controversy. As controversy has always been a frightening thing for me, I must give myself a pat on the back for risking (no, probably inspiring) it. It would be wonderful if people could learn to cooperate and find the center of the continuum between the opposing views that are often argued, but apparently that is not the case. I like to find the center, but in trying to do so, often appear to be siding with one end or the other. Maybe one day, I will understand that better.

I cannot promise just now exactly how this blog will go, nor can I promise an individual response to every comment I get. My goal is to post approximately twice a month, to respond to some comments personally, and to summarize for myself the content of other responses and reply to them via the content of future postings. I also intend to post things that come up for me. I ask for your good wishes and prayers, as this endeavor is in addition to a schedule already full of responsibilities, and as it will also at times be an effort to make sure the baby is not thrown out with the bath water as the perceptual changes now occurring worldwide increase in pace.

To all of us, Peace.                                                                                                          Diane Drummond