Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Time Enough At Last

Few things brought me more pleasure in my younger years than watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone. I loved the intrigue and the plot twists, and even the poignant life lessons that the show always offered before the dramatic final closing note that Rod Serling would deliver.

One episode in particular stood out from those years, and that was the one with Burgess Meredeth as a harried banker who loved to read, who finally got his ultimate wish to spend the rest of his life quietly reading without interruption, following a nuclear blast. “Time enough at last,” he says with great happiness when he finally realizes the power of having his biggest wish finally come true. The phrase always stuck with me, and it’s something that still rings in my head even to this day. How nice would it be to have time enough at last to get all of those little things on our wish lists finally accomplished? Take that little road trip we’ve been meaning to take, fix up that car that’s been sitting in the garage gathering dust, or even just do a nice small thing for ourselves like going to a nice restaurant or spending a day relaxing and walking in the park.

The story in the episode does not have a happy ending. Poor Burgess Meredeth breaks his glasses right before he’s about to tackle his glorious stack of books, and comes to the realization that he was destined to live the rest of his life tantalizing close to his greatest wish, without the ability to act on it. “That’s not fair!” he cries as the episode comes to an end, and we are left with the lesson that it is sometimes wise to be careful what we wish for.

I relay this story, because I think that it is a wonderful metaphor for life. I suspect every one of us wishes for time away from the chaos and hustle and bustle of our lives to do the things we want to do. But life intervenes. Somehow we continue to keep drawing breath amongst the chaos and confusion of our lives, and find little ways to find moments of happiness and meaning, however fleeting, as the powerful play goes on around us. “One day we’ll have more time,” we tell ourselves, while the laundry pile gets a little higher, the dishes get a little dirtier, and the stack of unread books continues to pile up.

What strikes me in these moments, is that perhaps, just perhaps, there is also some meaning in the chaos, and that maybe it is the very elusiveness of time that makes us crave it so much. Perhaps that is our cross as human beings, to always have the very thing we think we want just slightly out of our grasps. We fill up the moments of our own personal grail quests with a series of little moments, all the while failing to realize that we are spending the very thing we crave the most all the time. What makes it even more vexing is that what we often think of as tedious, boring, and cumbersome in the present moment sometimes become the stuff of our fondest memories when we have the luxury of polishing them off with the magic of reminiscence.

I reflect on this because I was grateful to have found the time to write these little essays for this book, and remember some of these little moments from my own past life, which are now a part of my personal narrative. I hope I continue to find the little moments to reflect and ponder the moments of my own life, as they have helped me to better understand both where I’ve been, as well as where I hope that I am going. I would urge you to do the same in your own life. Take a record of the little moments. Even if it’s just a little snapshot in your head that you promise to remember. The lessons are always worth the time.