Thursday, December 2, 2010

On busy-ness and time

Busyness, we say is the syndrome of the malady of modern life. There are always more things to do than the hours can accommodate. It almost creates a surreal wish for an additional 12/24 hours (as per the individual needs) or for cloning of the self in many of us. We imagine life would be so much better if there was more 'time' in our hands. What this leads to is a constant sense of incompleteness, a constant feeling that so many thoughts, ideas, desires, possibilities have to die due to lack of what we know as time. The Irishman, James Joyce, talked very candidly about time as we perceive it. If we are 'busy' doing something that we love, or, participating in something that we enjoy, time seems to fly. It seems time has walked its space a little faster when we are doing things that that we are fond of. When I used to attend Bharatnatyam (a classical Indian form of dance) classes, the two and a half hour rigorous routine of practicing dance moves and steps, repeating them incessantly till the gestures are right, seemed like a fleeting evening. At times, I wanted the clock to slow down, so that I can dance a little more. In a similar vein, try doing something that is a pain-in-the-neck. No matter how little clock-time such a thing would require, it would seem like an eternity. For me, it can be anything from making the bed to dusting the furniture. Time can and does (if you will notice) fly or creep, depending upon the involvement of the mind, the body and the soul in the act being performed.
Time leads where we want to go...
Joyce charted out the difference between the clock time and the psychological time exquisitely in a novel titled Ulysses. (If you love reading Joyce, you will sail through the book. If you don't, you may end up making several attempts to read the novel, each with a fresh surge of enthusiasm, for a period spanning from 5 to 15 years.) Without involving ourselves with Joyce's particular novel, let us rest our case on what such different categories of time would mean in our common, down-to-dust lives.
In the previous post, I had confided in you that I was assailed by too many tasks and ideas, thus leading to a serious need for a stopgap post!!!! When we have to undertake several important tasks (each with a red priority tag), the mind takes the easy route of escape. It simulates tiredness and acts as if it is too much burdened. (This almost reminds me of stomach aches I 'had' in order to stay away from school.) The mind tells the body - "Gosh, you are sooooo tired! Why don't you take rest?" The body believes in the mind and thinks, "Yes, I will regain my strength if I rest." And so, the mind and the body, along with a little pricking in the soul, draw the curtains, arrange the pillow and sneak underneath the tugged blanket. Off to sleep. Off to a world away from the real world of red-tag-priorities, until waking brings back the horror of priorities. Continuing to postpone the priorities create Hamlets out of us. To wake or not - that becomes the crux of existence. The only unfortunate thing in this entire episode is, that, the priorities never lessen or die. Every time we shut our eyes, the priorities flash like the headlights of an approaching vehicle. It keeps getting bigger.  
The only way to avoid the evident imminent disaster is to keep awake the whole while. Instead of giving in to the bullying mind, we need to master over it by understanding the way a bully functions. A bully has the might to threaten because the victim has the fear of the bully. If we choose to be unafraid in the face of the bully, traditional wisdom asserts that the bully will crumble. The definition that might constitute the idea of being 'unafraid' is pretty ambiguous. It may appear to mean the absence of fear, while I understand it more as the act of walking through fear. This is because denials doesn't help me usually. When the priorities loom large, in number and/or in complexity, take a break but do not go to sleep! 
The 'psychological time' that flies is the time that we enjoy, that relaxes the mind such that it leaps beyond the continuous hammering by the clock-hands. Create that 'psychological time'. Do something that gives you immense sense of pleasure and peace. As the mind falls into the rhythm of the relaxed psychological time, it calms down and stops its hysterics. Then, you can simply sit with pencil and paper and chalk out a routine that accommodates all the priorities. As the routine is sketched, with each unit of time allotted to a particular priority, the next important gesture is required. 
In each bundle of priority-allotted-task, we need to train the mind to focus. As we focus, we simulate the absorption in an act that we feel during our experience of 'happy' psychological time. And then we conquer the inhibition that clock time injects in us. What we do in the process is simply see the priorities in perspective. They remain priorities that need to be addressed, but shed the aggression  implanted in it by the unbridled clock. At the end of it all, we realize, it is all about perspective.
close up

from a distance


"Time leads where we want to go". Spiral staircase inside Salzburg castle. Salzburg 2010.
"close up". Structure in museum in Vienna. Vienna 2010.
"from a distance". View of Prague from top of a tower. Prague 2010.
All images copyright Susmita Paul 2010.



Sandipan Roy said...

Araby is one of the finest slice of life pen pictures that I have read till date.Seeing the things from the fresh eyes of an adolescent whose imagination are not grimed by the dust of time and who finds the incoherency in words and habits of the matured people and lack of love to their own city and fellowmen.Joyce is a master story teller with a captivating narrative form that keeps us tucked to his tale.Though his eye for details and depth of probing the nerves of a generation is comparable to Nikolai Gogol yet his romanticism is much more fluid than him.Time is unlimited if we have captured it through disciplined effort and very limited when we keep worrying about things that are beyond our control and waste whatever time available to us in procrastination.Yet it is easier said than done as wisdom remains frozen in us whereas practice flows.

Susmita said...

@Sandipan: Thank you for your detailed response.

I identify in the disciplined effort the fact of awareness in one thing at a time. else rules and regulations don't always appeal to me