Am I standing or floating in the stream of time?
“We do not let satisfaction be a reality. We try to achieve it in the future, to capture it and tie it down, making it a ‘present’. Under such circumstances, we experience great tension and pressure.”
Time, Space, and Knowledge, Page 128.
I look at the brick wall in front of me and realize that I am looking at my last stop. Or at least I hope it is and that I will not be dragged out of here into one of the end-of-life way stations: the nursing homes and assisted living facilities from which few ever leave on their own two feet.
Looking at the wall that used to be the outside of our house—until we built the sunroom in which I am now sitting–and where I sit every morning for a few hours–I realize that the bricks on that wall are much more stable than me and my body are.
It seems that the atoms that compose a brick are much more willing to stay where they are than the atoms (and molecules and cells) that compose a human body. The processes involved in being carried along by time (especially for mammals and primates) constitute a dynamic flow in which an individual intersects with larger organic communities, so that it can replenish its resources and restore its component systems. Whether it’s a human being or a skin cell sloughing off, each organic entity eventually steps aside, leaving a place for others to take up residence.
For now I am the entity who sits looking at the bricks that used to be outside in the weather and now have been invited inside into a temperature-controlled environment where electricity fires up a lamp next to where I am now sitting. It’s a great privilege to be able to stand up and move throughout the house, to go outside to check if the moon has yet risen over the Sandia Mountains, to enjoy food, and to breathe in the pine bough-laden breezes that slipped across the Sandia Crest a few miles from here earlier today. Mortality seems a small price to pay for sensation, perception, feeling, and creativity—as inconvenient as their side-effects may sometimes be.
But I also have much to learn from the brick wall in front of me, standing sentinel in the march of the centuries. Like me, this brick wall moves with the winds of time and reflects back to me how I am looking at my own life. It seems to know, without boasting about it, that it will be here after I am no longer the one sitting on this couch waxing lyrical about its stable presence.
Three brick layers are kneeling with trowels in their hands when a passerby pauses and asks the first man what he is doing. The workman responds: “I’m laying bricks”.
The sightseer moves along a few feet and asks the second workman “And what are you doing, Sir?” To which he receives the response, “I’m building a wall.”
He moves further along and in response to the same question, the third man says, “I’m building a cathedral.”
If someone were to ask me what I’m doing, how would I respond? Am I laying words down next to one another (my Bic pen the trowel, nouns the bricks, propositions the mortar, and verbs the way that time allows a construction to arise)? Or would I respond that I’m building a blog post–hoping that if I send my thoughts out to others I will feel more connected? Or am I raising a voice that aspires to resonate with other voices—each of us uncertain whether we have earned the right to join a community that remembers what it means to be a human being?