The above quote is from David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Commencement Speech now famously referred to as This is Water. The video clip is from ‘I ❤ Huckabees.’ Fantastic scene.
Who the hell knows really, when or what is going on as what we term ‘time’ or ‘space’ seem to move or change during this energy flow we call our lives. My daughter just turned 18. I thought I was still 18. You know- a rebel, an outlaw. Still had a chance for pro ball of some kind. (42 is about it for baseball and that concludes professional sports unless I can get the golf game really going) At 18 I was lying to my parents about a camping trip and driving to Mexico. Bailing out one friend, hitchhiking across Nebraska with another. Possibly coming close to losing my life somewhere between four to five times due to ridiculously inane decisions and choices, like taking off at 3 am in the morning after a night of revelry and a day early for a wedding in Iowa, only to be stranded on a country road somewhere in the middle of the fifth circle of hell, and to then find ourselves being crushed by an old Lincoln come flying over the hill at about eighty miles an hour. My friend and I standing on each side of the truck diving out of the way, the force of the hit, sending our little truck into the side ditch maybe twenty feet from where it had been stalled. Me standing up thinking my friend had been killed.*
Me drinking. Smoking. Sexual activities. Heart going to explode any minute… These are the thoughts that kept me awake the night before my daughter’s birthday. Oh my god. My daughter is going to be 18.
And what is time? Time being that ticking bomb, that countdown to death. That terrible invention of constantly living to not be late. Meetings and deadlines and classes and curfews just to name a few of the spawn. Sure it keeps us socially active, but I think we could figure it out. “Meet me by the Horse barn for a coffee when the cows come in.” or “Hey, when you reach this tall, let’s go to dinner sometime.”
Maybe the most universal complaint among us is “time goes too fast.” And that is right when I think we know we have transcended time. In a flash, your kids went from one to five and walking out the door with their Spider-man backpacks on for Kindergarten. Then to fourth grade and a few detentions and Junior high and training bras. Oh my god she is a freshman. “Where is she going to college?” someone asked. Shut your mouth! She will live with me forever!
Stop and think about it. If you have reached this point or when you do get here -with or without kids- you will be thinking about what you were worried over during this entire ride so far and what mattered and what didn’t. Broken windows. Sneaking out. Smoking. Grades. College entrance exams. Crimes committed. Drinking. Sports teams. Girl Scouts. Teachers who didn’t understand your kid’s needs as a student. Divorce. The so-called friends who were tweeting about your daughter’s boyfriend. Job changes. ADHD. College costs. Your daughter wearing sweatpants every single day. Your JOB. The laundry. Dinner. Thong underwear at fifteen?! Your ex-boyfriend’s crooked penis. The dog’s bad hip. Your friend’s divorce. Your marriage. Losing ten pounds. Your softball team. The inability to follow two simple directions by your son or you. Your happiness. I could go on all day. Some of it mattered. Some of it really didn’t.
And that, is how time is transcended. Too little of the clock. Too much to do. If all you had to worry about was milking the cow. No family. No hobby. Just wake up, walk out, and milk the cow. Then go home, shower, and go to bed. Life would move pretty slow. And life would really be a terrible transcendence of time and space.
Take your list. Cross off those things you HAVE to worry about. Now think about what really is going to matter in a year, two years, five years down the road. Is that C in Calculus really going to be the end of your son? Or is that your problem? Get rid of all that fluff that is wasting some of your time or taking up too much of your space. Bottom line -it should be spent on your family, friends, passions. Time is short, you are right. Better get it straight quick.
And what is space? It is many things. That around us which we surround ourselves with. Houses. Materials. Cars. Everything we can get our hands on. It also encompasses loneliness. There are two kinds of loneliness. The first is where people go out and get away. Maybe to under their bed. Maybe to Chile. Out for a walk or a long drive. But it is one they can return from. A solitude that one needs to often ‘finds oneself’ or meditate. The other is like a cancer, a fog. It enters someone and goes wherever they go. It doesn’t matter how many people surround them, often they even have family. But they can’t help feeling desperately alone, impenetrable to understanding. This is a space so many live in quietly. And this is where transcending space can occur as well.
This is where our children can fall often. Especially in their pre-teen and teen years. They cannot believe there is any way possible that we can understand what they are going through. No way. And it is our responsibility to transcend through that space and time, and show them we can. We fill our lives with too much stuff. We do this to our children too. We make them do things every night. No room to talk and do nothing.
Physically, we fill our lives up with toys and cars and tools and furniture and clothes and whatever we can put our spending cash to good use to. Just to walk out in a small field is a breath of fresh air, and that is sad. And maybe that is the problem these days. Our space is completely assaulted with little room to actually think about anything, thus usually taking what we are told as truth instead. This ‘time and space’ jar is filled to the rim. No room for meditation whatsoever.
Every time I see a young, homeless woman, maybe nineteen or twenty, hard up, maybe holding a sign for help, I think of her as my daughter. She very easily could be. What has been her space and time? I wonder. What will be her space and time, and how will she transcend it? She is everyone’s daughter. I don’t know her story. It may be horrible. It may be simple too. And if her end comes soon, just think of her transcendence and how small her footprint on this human existence will have been. Shame.
So what will your space and time transcendence be? When we leave our journey will we have left something important, a big footprint? Not name recognition. Not celebrity. But something meaningful, that can help others learn from our own successes and failures, all the way to our last transcendence to wherever that may be? Most importantly, will we have shown how not to waste that precious time and space on meaningless trophies and recognition, or tasks and duties, out of fear of what has been defined by society as neat or correct? Not waste, but how to live the life we want to, where we want to, with who we want to. You only have so much time and space in your life. Make sure you fill it up with the good stuff.
I have always been known to say, “I don’t have time for this.”
Maybe I need to tweak it just a little to, “I don’t have time or space for this.”
* He wasn’t. *
In case this didn’t come up – this was quote at beginning…