Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Grandmother Clock and the Challenges of Passing Time

My Grandmother Mantle Clock
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock, was a most familiar sound in our family home growing up. There was what we called the old "grandmother's clock", that sat on a shelf in our home that was lovingly and methodically wound every day. On the hour it would gong out its reminder of the time and by 12 noon or at midnight, the loud resounding of its voice carried throughout the house a noisy reminder that another cycle of time was about to begin. If it was daylight outside, then it was mealtime, and if nighttime cloaked us in veil of darkness, then it was the beginning of a new day. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock; its rhythm, a steady beat like the beating of our hearts.

Time has a way of just forging on. It has no motivation or need to stop... it just happens. I remember after my grandfather died there was some discussion about whether the old clock would continue to be wound. After all, it was a rather noisy, loud reminder of the hour, and as more modern versions of time pieces began to be used, the loud ticking of that old clock seemed less inviting. A new slender clock, now owned by my brother, had a sweeter voice that chimed out the hours and it had a sleek, smooth, curved look and soon became the main time piece in the home. The old grandmother clock had its place, but its gonging hourly voice sounded, as the chime section of the clock was no longer wound.

Time did not stand still, though the gong on my favourite clock stopped. It ticked on for many years more and surviving a move to another home, still ticked for decades following that. It has a place in my heart, but no honoured place in my home… the ticking has now stopped as well. But time still marches on, while the clock remains in storage for future use soon at out cottage, as a centerpiece, evoking memories for me and perhaps conversation for others. Once we are able to spend more time there, as life settles into a more controlled cycle for us retirees, it will be set on our fireplace mantle and be wound once again... perhaps not the chimes, but the time section for sure.

Advancing years brought many changes. An old friend said just last night, "Who would have thought that a certain item would show up on Facebook, much less on a cell phone?" It seems that each year new innovations, along with advances in technologies, change our lives. Along with those changes come other things less desired, and are often debated as we watch society's mores or accepted standards and customs change, and not always for the better. My Dad used to say that he didn't mind change, but just don't do any of it until after he was dead. That seemed so strangely odd and bordering on the ridiculous 40 years ago, but has a familiar ring to it now, as I hear my inner thoughts evaluating change and wishing that it would slow down, so that we would at least have time to acclimatize to what is here before us now. But time marches on and we have to negotiate our way through the changes, and adapt the best we can in the time allotted.

In the study of human history it was always said that a civilization's existence is very cyclical in nature. The advancement of understanding leads to technology, technology to stability, stability to affluence, affluence to indulgence and indulgence most often to downfall. Great civilizations of the past have fallen, not because of technology, but because they rotted from the inside out. Affluence, indulgence, greed, pride and most of all jealousy paired with moral decay, lead them all to depletion and then defeat. It has its parallel in our lives as we age.

It is perhaps this path leading from understanding to downfall that has created the most fear for us as we begin to age. I know my sons-in-law watch the news daily for changes in the stock market. It is important for them as they are in the commodity business and need to know how both common local and foreign markets are doing and how that will reflect on the sale of their goods worldwide. Each day can bring alarming news and though we panic by nature, we also have to pause and remember that the very fibre of humanity, this cycle of movement and change, is as continuous as the tides of the ocean or the sun's rise and then its setting in the evening... time changes everything.

Just as the twelve gongs of the old grandmother clock on the mantle marked out either the noon day hour or the beginning of an altogether new day , the end of each December marks the passing of the old year, and the beginning of the new. We review the past 12 months and reflect on the good and the bad. We want reminders of all that was fun, exciting and would rather put behind us those that were challenging to the point of exhausting or that lead to disappointment and grief. People spend time making resolutions about how life will change for the better... better dietary choices, better body and mind choices, more time to relax and enjoy friends and family and perhaps for some some lifestyle choices about retirement and travel.

We are a people of plans made, but with purpose often left unidentified. As a child we made plans for the future. Each passing day a new focus took up our interest and we moved from plan to plan, based on the whims of availability and the interests of others. It is often never truly clear when we settled on "the" plan. According to stats over the past decade, people will change jobs more and more in years to come. For instance it was calculated that my generation would average at least 3 job changes in our lifetimes. I am not sure if that included what we do in retirement or not. We can see the fluidity of movement and how both need and interest changes and how we react to both. For some it is a forced change, for others it is a personal decision to seek something fresh and perhaps more challenging or with greater benefit for self and family.

Today the process of New Years resolution making, along with the process of the already guaranteed move towards its failure, will begin. I have never made a new year's resolution. I have decided to make some changes, through the years, when time and situation gave opportunity, but I was never one to strive to suddenly feel that change would take place just because a new year was beginning. Each year, as it begins, has its element of potential for our lives. My concern is for this time to be a reflection, more of a processing of where I went astray or how things may have been approached differently, to make life more loving, memorable or perhaps more tenable for us as a couple, or even as a family unit, distributed about the province.

Change is sometimes necessary, but how do we identify who "we" are and our "purpose" in life; that being function, role or what may become our usefulness to society. I think sometimes about Moses in the Old Testament. He must have wondered many times about his purpose, as he moved from positions of leadership of men to herds of goats and sheep and back to his fellow man again. His struggle in both judgement and paticence, along with a few other human frailties, led him along an uncertain path over a span of a long and tenuous lifetime. Purpose as we see it in Moses, seems to be based on both need and circumstance. It is that way for most of us today? Are we certain of who we are based on what we do daily? After all what we are doing now, here in 2016, may be altogether different in a year’s time. Does that change our identity and is our identity based on purpose?

Another question worth examining as we enter the New Year is, does our identity or purpose need to alway align with society's expectations of us? That may be a more personal question that may take some time and personal wrestling, to find an answer to. In my life I have played in that sandbox and I found little joy and much sadness experienced in exhaustion trying to fit into the world's view of my identity that changed with entoy into the different factes of my work. We can become overwhelmed by the energy it takes to meet the world's expectations and I am finding that I must refocus every day and find my center, my identity, my purpose, based on the needs that I find as I awake and begin to interact with the world that God has given me. Purpose is not as static as it was once thought to, it is a never ending chain of circumstance, environment and availability that cycle along with time and our willingness, or ability, to react in a positive manner. God uses us like he did Moses, perhaps not to lead whole peoples or nations, but to do our part with a resolve to accomplish what can be done, not limited by our skill set, but only by God's amazing grace.

Well... my ramblings will not change the world and likely will not even change your perspective on what New Years means today, tomorrow or years in the future. I have found that even my own children will only occasionally take time to read my "stuff ". When asked if they have done so they most often hesitate and so perhaps maybe even never have, in some cases. People ask if I write to remember or if it is a journal so that my children will have memories recorded for them in years to come, but that was never the case, not really. It may have some importance to them later, but busy lives dictate for them their own focus and we become for our children and grandchildren a reality of necessity more than need at some point in time. Necessity being what becomes their due diligence to family ties. I don't write for anyone in particular, I write because I want to share my thoughts, to scribe some memories that perhaps will touch a life, spur a thought or consideration not pondered before, but mostly just to give peace to my inner being from time to time. Only those who are writers, teachers or who those have had opportunity to create will know how it all works. An artist has to put brush to canvas, a sculpture must mould and shape the medium to create what is held there ready to come forth and a musician must hear the music and be carried by its rhythm to accomplish the depths of its influence.

That is how we are created. Each of us is to be individually important to God's purpose. The key is not so much the importance today to make or propose a resolution, but more importantly in my mind, to find a solution. That solution is most often keyed to what the circumstances of your life are; its flow and ebb, its trials and tribulations and its moments of challenge and lack of continuity of joy. We do our best to mask it all don't we? We diet, exercise, join clubs, travel, work and resolve to be a better "me"! But underlying much of the business and activity is a deep sense of mortality, the speeding of time that has gotten away from us and change that though inevitable, is scary and a constant challenge and bane to our existence. Today perhaps, the solution is something different. Maybe looking first upward and then inward would be more rewarding. I would have said outward, but that can be too exhausting for most of us with the conditions of the world in such an array of unrest and discord.

Start with upward... away from self and consider why we are here in the first place and what it is all about. For some, the precepts of God are not such a challenge… for others, they are mere childhood memories and details of myth and story time. But God is who He is... that will never change no matter the dialogue, debate or scientific argument. Then, looking inward, see if there is a void that has needs, such as unmet joys left behind. Perhaps for you today there is a necessity to just release the past and embrace a less complex design; one based on love of self, as God has made you. But it must be tempered with a love for others, so that together the two loves will shape and form a more acceptable identity of "self", in the image of who you are, not who others would expect you to be. This will be a trip to the edge once again. There may be no need for urgency, but nevertheless we never know. Who we are today and how we prepare for tomorrow is an exercise in preparedness for any daily approach to life.

Are you ready for 2016? I am! I am armed with a confidence that God is with me, His grace is supporting me and no matter the circumstances of the coming year... I will give Him the glory for helping me get up each day, no matter the physical pain of body or just life’s challenges being faced. I have a wife, who is my helpmate, and she is my “sweetheart” who loves me, along with a family that cares... added to that are the friends who pray for me and my family, each day. What more could I ask, I am surrounded with blessings galore. Well there may be one more thing I might request... only this... that people might love one another, putting away all that is folly, and embrace God's design for His creation that peace might reign supreme. May God richly bless you all as 2015 passes into 2016. Stay safe and make the right choices... the wrong ones affect not only you, but those whom you love as well. I continue to pray for you on into 2016!