I struggle with devoting mental energy to time when countless people through history have already done so, though to no sure conclusion. I can say for a fact, however, that I revere few things more than my reverence for time.
I remember when I was growing up, I asked my parents to let me play the Horn in school band. At that time in my life (5th grade), I valued the horn, but not time, at least, not in the way that I do now. My Mother arranged for me to take private lessons on the french horn, and every Saturday, at 1:00, I had a horn lesson, right before or after my sister had a trumpet lesson.
My teacher was named Mr. Harris, and he was, looking back, one of the most amazing people that I’ve ever known in my life. I remember going to lessons each week, and testing his patience by not studying my music or practicing at all in between our weekly lessons. He would patiently review each of the previous weeks’ lessons and still push me to gain insight and skill development, despite my efforts to the contrary. At this point in my life, holding a Bachelor’s of Music degree, I can attest that he taught me more important lessons about music than my college studies. I could write a doctoral thesis about Mr. Harris’ techniques and impact on my life, but suffice it to say, I received an inordinate amount of his time over the years.
Then, he was gone.
Mr. Harris was about eighty years old and a WWII Veteran. I know this because one day, I brought him a march from my school band music called the ‘British Eighth.” He then told me, in only a few sentences, about his time in Italy during ‘The War,’ when the US V fought along side the British VIII, taking the entire peninsula, south to north. He told me that he was the tank commander, ‘The guy with his head sticking out of the top of the vehicle.” Only then, in my early teenage years, did I even begin to appreciate this man’s amazing life experiences.
Then, he was gone.
When I was in the tenth grade, Mr. Harris cancelled lessons for a week so that he could return to Italy for the first time since The War. While he was in Italy, he succumbed to some sort of illness and died. Only then, did I appreciate his finite time with me. I look back and still have several sheets of music that Mr. Harris hand wrote, specifically for me, and I treasure these. More recently in my life, another musical mentor of mine told me that he, in his old age, considers each amount of time spent with a student or band member to be a portion of his ever decreasing life, gone forever.
How many people throughout the ages have pondered time?
I don’t have the privilege and vocation of being a married or family oriented man, but I certainly appreciate the finite time of those who do. A few weeks ago, a parent of one of my band parents offered to help me fix broken cases in my band-room. “Wow!” I thought, this guy, who has two kids and a wife at home, is willing to give me and the school, some of his time, for free, to help fix some cases that are at least thirty years old. I asked him when was a convenient time for him to come in, to which he told me, “Right after work.”
“Don’t you need to go home?” I asked.
“This is important too,” he said. “It’s how I can help.” Or at least, that’s what I remember him saying. What a guy! Yesterday he and I spent over two hours of his family time fixing stupid cases that irresponsible students have worn down over several years of hard use. I told him to not waste his time here, but we enjoyed each other’s company, and I even cleaned my classroom as we went.
Today it seemed like the best two hours I ever spent at school. Can I keep that appreciation for the limited time of myself and everyone else? How different can a certain length of time feel, according to a certain circumstance?
I remember spending time in military training, wondering, why am I wasting this time? The event that burns most clearly in my memory is survival training, when I was put into a locked box in the fetal position. I could not move an inch. Literally. Think about it: being stuck inside a box in the fetal positon. At the time I would have guaranteed on my honor that I had been there for at least an hour, if not half the day. Upon reflection, I realized, I must’ve only been there for about 10 mintues.
Does ten minutes equal half a day? Obviously not, but who’s the one being asked-the person in a box, or the person who just reunited with a long separated family member?
What is our time when compared to eternity? Certainly it must be something, since we’re here, but is it anything of note? If the Lord’s time is eternity, how can our time even be noticed? And then, why should I be protective of something that’s not mine to begin with? Somehow, I feel responsibility for it.
I remember, somewhere in high school, realizing that every school year seemed to be faster than the one before. Then I think about our elders, telling us that time is limited, and to enjoy our youth! Is my realization an empathy of their regret, or a more accurate understanding of the true concept of eternal presence, with no real time to measure? Namely, does time really, and I mean really, matter? Or is it a watered-down function of eternal being, made ready for the modern world?
These questions could keep my head spinning for days, but even now, I feel time telling me to stop. This is the finite reality of time. I have to work tomorrow, but who’s time is it that I’m spending, mine or God’s?
Editor’s Note: Joe Trudeau is a long-time friend of Tony Ganzer, and regular contributor to AnthonyGanzer.com. His thoughts come as part of an on-going series of terrestrial reflections on metaphysical curiosities.