My dog rolls over on her back, legs wild in the air, entreating a tummy tickle. I decide to ignore her smile, her beseeching eyes: “ I haven’t time “ – but then I think “what’s a minute in a lifetime?” What indeed! I give in.
A minute can change your life; a moment can be momentous. It can be just that, 60 seconds, or it can stretch into what seems a lifetime.
‘Seems’!’ ‘Seems’ is a momentous word ; it is the half of our lives that shadows, sometimes mirrors what we see as ‘real’. Sometimes we cannot tell which perceived ‘reality’ is which.
Time, seconds, minutes, hours, itself has different speeds: looking back on my childhood I remember long summers which now are fleeting. Days, weeks, months, years, even decades fly past until our last moment comes. We cannot choose it: we say “her time is up” as if each of us has an allotted span of time. Do we?
However our philosophers and poets struggle with moments and their passing, they can never resolve their mysteries: it’s like trying to capture mercury or thunder. Individual moments are unpredictable. We should grasp the unexpected joy , held for that instant. That moment will never come again.
One moment I was driving along in the sunshine, the next I was upside down in a field, petrol pouring out of the tank, scrambling out through the window with my little girl, kneeling in the field to thank my guardian angel.
Perhaps less than 5 minutes had passed, yet at the time, as I skidded, then flew, time seemed so stretched I could not name it.
And a moment can shrink too – you have one brief but brilliant sentence to add at the end of your qualifying exam when the adjudicator calls “one minute ‘time’s up!” That is the shortest minute you’ll ever have!
A moment in time, even an exact moment, can make all the difference, life or death. A man is reprieved just a moment before the drop, the hood already in place or the switch about to be pulled – such things really can happen. One hesitation in crossing the road and you’re a casualty, one moment to read a text and the ambulance is too late. Many a time a driver has died because of a moment’s glance at the radio dial or a passing runner. A chance encounter between two strangers, one about to post a letter, the other with knife and intent to kill, has, in the time it takes to say ‘hello’, brought death.
There is chance escape too for someone who cheats death because he’s lost his passport or is gated by his mother. Survivor guilt seems occasioned by chance or a fleeting moment separating the living from the dead.
We have no power over these influential moments in our lives yet even the power of Time, its pattern, ticks and chimes is imprisoned in its manmade structure, its measurements in clocks and bells, in signals and alarms, in calendars and diaries, in each moment through our lives, however momentous…….
“Yet Time, however loud its chimes or deep, however fast its falling torrent flows, has never put one lion off his leap, nor shaken the assurance of a rose.” *
*from: Our Bias by W.H.Auden