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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Food for thought from "Time and the Art of Living" by Robert Grudin,
chapter 7:

VII.9  Chess, which exists predominantly in two dimensions, is one of the world’s most difficult games.  Three-dimensional chess is an invitation to insanity.  But human relationships, even of the simplest order, are like a kind of four-dimensional chess, a game whose pieces and positions change subtly and inexorably between moves, whose players stare dumbly while their powerful positions deteriorate into hopeless predicaments and while improbable combinations suddenly become inevitable.  To make matters worse, some games are open to any number of players, and all sides are expected to win.

VII.13  Individuals who have, from one cause of another, flirted with genuine self-knowledge, are aware of the curious impulse to become their own opposites.  And those who one way or another achieve these reversals, expecting strange new experiences, are often surprised by the native and intimate familiarity of the forms they have assumed.

VII.14  Learn your own faults and vices; but do not assume that all of them should be eradicated.  Sometimes, like beasts serving a greater master, they provide necessary balance and thus deserve indulgence; sometimes they are the indivisible shadows of virtues themselves.

VII.15  Because time is continuous and homogeneous, every action or emotion has meaning and value of its own, irrespective of cause, purpose or result.  Love, admiration and reverence have positive meaning, even when it turns out that their object does not deserve them.  Care, patience and courage have positive meaning, even when the project fails.  Conversely anger, scorn and disgust, no matter how justifiable, lower us, make us less; and boredom is not only a judgment about experience but a sin against ourselves.

VII.16  The mind projects its joys and woes so powerfully onto the face of time that changes in mood can all but create new temporal worlds.  The negative or painful emotions – guilt, anger, envy, greed, etc. – usually involve a fragmentation of time, a sense of isolation in the present or fixation on some aspect of the past or future.  The sunny emotions – admiration, generosity, love, courage, etc. – foster a sense of continuity, of time extended and shared.

VII.17  The best we can do, I think, is to consult broader purposes, taking time off every few days to review our position in life, evaluating the present in terms of past and future, memories and plans, and determining the ways in which recent and present choices may suggest larger patterns.  In so doing, we rise temporarily above the ordinary flow of time and reacquaint ourselves with the larger pattern of forces which is our enduring identity.

VII.20  Every time we postpone some necessary event, we do so with the implication that present time is more important than future time.  Seen more extensively, habitual delays can clutter our lives, leave us in the annoying position of always having to do yesterday’s chores.  disrespect for the future is a subtly poisonous disrespect for self, and forces us, paradoxically enough, to live in the past.

VII.24  You may cure yourself of a depression by forcing yourself to perform, in rapid order and with excruciating concentration, half a dozen or so unpleasant chores, especially if they have long been postponed.  This is a kind of homeopathic purgative, a treatment of like with like.

VII.26  [re:  a digital watch]  Looking at them we see a particular time, divorced from its context in the broader picture of the day.  The round faces of the older watches and clocks speak to us not only of the present but also of the past and the future – when we woke, when we will work or play or rest, where we have been, where we wish to be or must be.  Intricately and persistently they remind us of our existence in a continuum, which includes not only the social and natural world but also our own extending identity in time.

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