by Thomas Mcguire

I was born early, so why am I always late? Attempts to reconcile this paradox have so far failed. Perhaps, unconsciously, I have attempted to make up for my premature enthusiasm to crawl the earth with a never-quite-arriving-on-the-dot form of post-punctuality. It is often said that New Zealanders (or ‘Kiwis’ to those in the know) are habitually late to their appointments—“yeah, sure mate, I’ll see you at 7” actually means 7.30 bordering on 8 o’clock. You see, ‘lateness’, like time itself, is entirely relative—especially this far south of Greenwich.

To demonstrate my complete apathy towards clockishness (a made-up word meaning excessive adherence to the artificial, anthropogenic construct known as “time”) I threw away my watch during a recent holiday at the beach. Vowing never again to be restrained by the ruthless straitjacket of alarms, chimes, beeps, ticks and tocks, I spent countless summer days surfing, running and lounging in complete abandonment of all earthly responsibilities.

Here I found that nature has its own rhythm, quite oblivious to the metric measurement of the machine-mind. Surrounded by water and forest, one becomes acclimatised to the ceaseless dance of the sun, moon and stars—the drum-beat of the waves and the almost invisible, but perfectly timed growth of floral abundance. The sun sets, the moon shines, the tide dances back and forth. These are the moments, hours and days of nature’s clock. 

Do we waste too much time worrying about time? Is it possible to be too early, thus accruing large amounts of ‘dead’ time? What if I really am late to my own funeral?

“Watching the clock” is synonymous with boredom, while an atmosphere of fun and relaxation does away with the need for measurement, calculation and comparison.

Yet isn’t each second wonderfully important? One second can turn a billionaire into a pauper. One second can be a gold medal in the sprints. One second can embody a lifetime of enraptured bliss during a wonderful meditation. One second can be the difference between life and death. In one second, all can be revealed.

The scientists reckon that each creature experiences time in a radically different way. Philosophers claim that, when you get right down to it, the passage of time is only in our heads. My favourite spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, spoke of dimensions beyond time that human beings could grow into—yet he, as a master of dynamic activity, knew the immense value of each moment. There is a phrase long hallowed in spiritual literature, and one which Sri Chinmoy often used, the “Eternal Now”. It evokes a sense that each tiny moment contains within itself all that is, was and will be. When I try to identify with this lofty realisation, I can feel myself becoming freed both of expectations from the future and regrets from the past.