Chronocide (Killing Time)
At the rate we are killing it, we must hate time.
At first blush, though, we don’t kill time all that often. As a rule, we only own up to intentional chronocide when knowingly (and impatiently) waiting for someone or something, say a bus that’s late, or a tardy dinner date—especially when we’re waiting for something or someone that we just can’t wait for to happen, occur, arrive, appear. Not too far up ahead, we know it will (or surely should) happen, occur, arrive, appear, only there are these many intervening seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, perhaps even months until then, all of which time now has somehow to be killed and consumed—and the more thoroughly the better, for waiting for something we strongly desire to happen, occur, arrive, appear is not far short of painful.
Yes, we admit, in these situations we are definitely killing time, or doing our best to strangle the beast.
But if we look closer, we will see—that is, if we dare fully to open our eyes—that time must be one of our worst enemies, for we slaughter it at every turn.
For really: listening to music is killing time. Reading a novel—especially if it’s for sheer entertainment: adventure, crime, lurid, what-have-you—is nothing but killing time. And what’s more time-killing than television? It’s the killingest of time there is.
We give this chronocide habit of ours many names. We call it relaxing, we call it winding down, recharging, kicking back, whatever; but when viewed from the perspective of striving to reach true and lasting (spiritual) happiness, along with the notion—a notion more evident at some times than at other—that we’re here on this little planet for a reason, then we’re simply standing time up against the wall (not even a blindfold) and firing away.
The Buddha once said that we should pursue truth enlightenment with the same urgency as if our hair was on fire and only truth would put it out. It would be safe to say that couching in front of the television would not count as such a pursuit.
Sometimes, though, when listing to Bach or Haydn—music truly spiritual; or when reading a heartfelt story where the author wishes nothing more than to conjure forth what he or she sees as truth, then we get the feeling (along with the feeling that we’re on to something) that we’re not killing time so much as sailing time; still, at the core of things, we are still, if not committing, at least an accessory to, chronocide.
Please take another look at this, for this is pivotal: there are those things that we do that we feel nears us to something holy, something worthwhile, and this feels, whether or not it brings us closer or not, this at least feels like we are doing something better with our time than killing it. We feel like we’re not actually sinning when listening to classical music or reading sincere poetry, when time passes as wind in our faces to then disappear behind us. Surely, this time is not wasted, not killed.
Still, at heart, it is nothing but a more tender way to strangle the beast.
And for the most part we’re just consuming years, looking forward to retirement—there to discover more mountains of time to kill.
My mother, during the bedridden years leading up to her death, would swim in the past, would re-live her childhood: would again tend to the cows; would again be recognized as the brightest, most promising student in the county; would again catch the candy tossed from the slowly passing train cars by the German soldiers heading farther north and into wintery war against Norway or Finland (aided and abetted by, to my mind, a traitorous Sweden who let the Germans use its railroads—at least when seen with Norwegian or Finnish eyes).
And on her long runway to death, she clung to her final two pleasures: reminiscing and food, especially sweets. She would hoard any sweets we brought her, hiding them from the nurses (say under her pillow) so they would not find them and eat them—her biggest (although imaginary) fear—and then, one by one she would retrieve and consume these sugary treasures—the little lights of her day.
All the while helplessly sweeping downstream on that big river toward the end, toward the estuary of death.
Time, so we sense, is either our greatest friend or our darkest enemy. The older we get the darker time, it seems.
But, truly, this is much ado about very little, for at heart he is nothing but a conjurer’s trick, time is, a lie. There is no such thing as time—though he’s making a valiant show of it; and we’re helping him along by pretending to kill him.
In the stillness of meditation, I now and then glimpse the roots of time, and I know that once I find them, really find them, I will have killed time stone dead—forever.
And that’s not a sad thing, not at all. Nor is it a crime.