The idea of time niggles at me when it gets close to a new year. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Doctor Who. Consider this if you will: Time is arbitrary and a portion of time is as much under our control as it is for the fictional Gallifreyans.
Actually, not time itself, but rather the way we name and talk about time is arbitrary. This present moment is the one time under our control.
Right now for me it is a Friday night in November 2020. Cool. Gregorian is good. According to the Julian calendar, it’s something like two weeks ago. 2020 a crazy year? No problem – just call it 5780 as it is on the Hebrew calendar. Let’s hear it for 2563 B.E.!
“Time has no meanings except the ones we give.”
I honestly don’t remember if that is something I read, saw on a poster somewhere, or if is from one of the poems I chucked out in the final edit of Triquitera – but it captures the niggly idea about the arbitrary side of time. Take Thanksgiving, for example. It’s less the day than it is the things we DO. No doubt holidays are deeply tied to the time of year in their aesthetic and energy. I suspect it comes from a time when we celebrated the natural seasons rather than cultural or religious things. Thanksgiving is, essentially, a harvest festival. Regardless of season, couldn’t any gathering with family to enjoy a special meal be Thanksgiving? If you can’t celebrate on the exact day you usually celebrate, would it be any less meaningful if you did the exact same things with the exact same people a week later? Or months later?
Have you caught where this is going yet? Yes, I’m looking at you bare faced germ bags that value your individual fleeting entertainment over human life. Cultural events and social stuff change all the time. It won’t kill you to stay home, wear a mask and celebrate differently this year – but catching a potentially lethal contagious illness just might. Or kill someone you love. Or kill someone that someone else loves. If you put your “freedom to celebrate the holidays” over life and love, then you are a slave to present moment, not a master of it.
With the slightest effort we can all be Time Lords.
We are the ones to place meaning on time…we are powerful enough to observe and celebrate whatever thing at whatever time we choose, either individually or collectively. Thanksgiving or Christmas or what-have-you can happen any day or time that we say it happens. That’s exactly how it all started. Thanksgiving happens on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S because the 1941 congress said so. Or it is celebrated the second Monday in October because Canada said so. Christmas is the 25th of December NOT because of anyone’s actual birthday, but because Emperor Constantine ordered it – probably as a tactic in archaic culture wars.
Holidays and traditions derive their meaning from the intense personal emotions and connections we place on them. If we give holidays their power, then we have the power to assign when and how they happen. If by necessity, the time and manner of celebrating a holiday has to change for the sake of human life, so be it. We have the power to change it. We have the raw power to imbue any time, any place and any activity with all the love, all the emotion, and all the meaning of a holiday. We have the power to help each other through the normal, natural feelings and disappointments that come in times of change and uncertainty. And we have the power to change it all right back again when the crisis is over. We can dominate time through compassion and adaptation. We can take time itself in our stride if only we have just the tiniest bit of the compassionate, protective strength that the Emperor card teaches.
Or, if you prefer, the lesson the Grinch teaches. Even if a green furry dude take all the stuff, the holiday still happens. Even if one year out of your life is different, the holiday still happens because your intention makes it so. Holidays happen inside of you, not out in the world in the best of times. If you give the day meaning, if you suffuse any time with emotion, meaning and commemoration, then that holiday – that time – is yours.