As a new dad, I’ve noticed that it’s so easy to have ‘instant nostalgia.’ You know the feeling. It’s goes something like this:
“Oh my gosh, look at them when they were 2 months old—can you believe they were EVER that small??!!!”
I’m seeing how quickly our baby graduates from one phase to the next, how the absence of eyebrows, a stable eye color, or even a mane of hair seems now almost unimaginable!
The birth of a child, I’m learning, stamps the passage of time and documents its inevitable flow like nothing else. On its best days, looking at pictures from only weeks or months away can feel like the time capsules we stored away for years as children. On its worst, it can feel like time is utterly slipping away!
If I had a dollar for every person who said to me recently, “Enjoy the time because it goes so fast!” I’d truly be a rich man. I don’t doubt the sincerity and good intentions of this sage advice, it’s just sometimes I wonder.
Would we ever have this phrase about ourselves?
“Enjoy being 32, because 35 or 43 will be just around the corner?”
Would we ever look at the smallest increments of our experiences and treat them as sacredly as we do looking back on our children’s? Would we ever notice the slipping away of time—what the Greeks called chronos-and yet also keep in mind the transcendent beauty of the eternal moment—kairos?
Now I know what you’re saying: the changes later in life pale in comparison to the quantum leaps of childhood or even to the indescribably tender and fraught passage from innocence to experience. But humor me here for a second.
I sometimes wonder if we lose touch with the notion of how beautiful time is for all of us, how utterly infinite and yet transitory each moment of our lives can be. In fact, when I’m given this benediction, I sometimes have to stifle laughter. As someone who loves to savor and steep in the most basic moments of beauty and grace, the advice is surprising and feels somewhat out of place. It’s like telling a Buddhist monk that he really should pay attention to the quality of his breath and to his mind!
Now don’t get me wrong, I know It’s so very easy to lose track of the wonder and beauty of every moment of a child’s life as we can with our own. I think David Bowie was right on the money when he sang:
“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”
It’s so very hard to keep track of time in a life, especially our own. What if children underscore this phenomenon—this seemingly untraceable one– that we only get to experience in slow motion, one that so many of us easily take for granted? What if we only truly tap into the holiness, preciousness, and weight of a life when we see it in the passage of time regarding them?
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could embrace this fact in our own lives as well as our children’s? Wouldn’t it be magnificent if we could as poet William Blake advised:
“see a world in a grain of sand/and heaven in a wildflower/(Hold} infinity in the palm of your hand/and eternity in an hour.”
Who knows, maybe, I’m just new to this whole gig. Maybe in ten years, I’ll be telling young parents to savor their time too. In the meanwhile, my benediction is for us all to enjoy and collect every moment, and make it sacred as if your life depended on it.
Enjoy them both—chronos and kairos—and remember that eternity exists in the moment at all times, whether or not we have our little (or big!) time capsules walking in tow with us!