Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Tyranny of Time: A Meditation

The more you know, the less you understand.  --Lao Tzu

Time is a liar. It tells me I am dying. Which is true, we all are; but that since I am dying, my options are limited and I must fit into smaller and smaller spaces and move more quickly through them. Time rushes, pushes us, urges that we must shelter, save, hoard, protect. Grab all you can and hang on!--the world spins faster the older you get.

Time is fear. I feel it, this need to solidify and consolidate. To gather my meager wealth around me, grab a gun, hunker down. Without it, death is certain. Time and fear whisper ugly things: you're a sitting duck. A target. There is nothing you can do. Across the ocean, a little man with a big weapon is waiting to blow you off this planet.

Of course, death is certain no matter what I do.

I wasn't given a syllabus for this life. I don't know how many days, years, minutes, hours I still have left. I don't even know what I'm supposed to be learning. I thought I did, but the more I knew, the farther I fell behind. Strange how that works: the more you know, the less you know. But why should I let that stop me from loving, being loved? Why push pause on my wish to drive down empty no-name roads that end in quiet fields filled with sunflowers? To rise up incandescent from a salty embrace, a love-bite, a tangle of sheets? Why not take flight across another ocean, explore a new continent? Am I too jaded, too fearful of what might happen, the insanity of the little men in charge?

This is not a test. I'm not asking rhetorically; I'm asking because I really don't know. I've lost my hunger, my capacity for joy. Joy, who used to ride my shoulders like some crazy bright angel; I've lost her. Or--somehow--dropped her along the way and never gone back for her. And I am so far down the trail now. We parted when I started focusing on the "should" and the "must" and the "might happen." She saw that, and she curled up and dropped away. I don't know how to find her again.

Time is not a thing. But it is not a no-thing, either. It is the spun fluff of a dandelion, the steady beating of your heart, the slow spin of galaxies turning in the night sky. Time is an orchestra just tuning up, these past four billion years, in a symphony that's about to begin. How many cycles have we been through, now, how many times have we destroyed ourselves and come back to learn again? We don't know. We don't remember. But self-destruction seems built into our genes along with survival, like the good twin and the evil twin, living side by side. Tiny bloated tyrants stand on opposite shores holding tiny bombs like footballs, ready to hurl them at one another, breathing threats: You first. No, you. 

I went running down an old trail the other day, all loose and cool in the wind, breathing in the smell of salt flats and clean mud. Blazing along at the edge of the world will empty your mind, shake it free of cobwebbed fears and dark imaginings. I was plugged in to a good soundtrack; a familiar song came on, sent to me long ago by a lover. And I realized that I had run right by his house, unaware, and that a sudden warm weight was riding in my belly, bittersweet. It wasn't joy and it wasn't regret; it was a mix of both, a sweet and strange infant they'd made, tangled with my DNA, pulling me toward that house.

I spoke to my feet, gave them wings, breathed deeply, flew back along the trail. The sun pressed into my back, pushing me along. I heard the music, the wilder deeper symphony, and felt the infant weight flying up and out of me: not mine. I never had any children. I never left anything of mine in this world. That is one thing I can choose to regret, or not, and today I choose not. It is a sadness I cannot carry, that rides in on waves of relief. I will not self-destruct this time around.

Time is a liar. Time is a friend. Time is the spiral on the face of a sunflower. It has taken certain choices from me, merely by letting me decide nothing while it stretches out like pulled taffy.  I have worked and played and walked with joy and lost it and found it, and now, lost it again. Time will drown us if we insist on diving too deep into its spinning waters; but it is possible to push away, into the shallows, where it plays idly by our ankles.

I can still run. I can still take flight. I will still, whether or not the little men hurl their bombs, be alright.



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