Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip # 96:

“Gone fishin’, be back at dark-thirty!”

Author Unknown

When one engages in something one truly loves, time has a way of standing still. We enter a timeless realm and lose all perspective of so-called real time. We say things like: “Where did all the time go?” or, “I can’t believe it is this late already!” This is why practically any activities that have to do with being around the ocean, a lakeside, in the mountains, or almost anything to do with nature, we are cued-up for the possibility of being in the moment and where our spirit dances.

So, yes “we do lose all track of time,” even doing such ordinary things, such as, gardening, or doing a crossword puzzle, or painting a picture. Some call it living in the moment. Some call it being in the here and now. Whatever it is, it’s exactly what life is meant to be.

This brings me to ageism; that discrimination against individuals or groups founded on the sole basis of their age. We do it to ourselves. I’m no fan of people who say things like, “I can’t do such and such at my age.” Or “I’m getting too old for …”Or “it’s too late for me to…”  This is utter nonsense.

Someone is either able to do or not do certain things almost totally based upon a particular strength and bodily condition. And this has a lot to do with how one takes care of his/her body, and how one thinks about his/her physicality in general. Our mind plays a key factor in what we get from our bodies. There are thirty year old people that cannot walk a mile, while there are eighty year olds that run marathons. This is largely due to training and conditioning, and, to a great extent, attitude. Of course one’s DNA and genetics play a part, but often much less of a part than we give to them.

Clinton Eastwood, who is now in his nineties and still actively acting and producing films, says each morning when he first wakes up, “I don’t let the old man in.” I like that. Part of feeling vibrant is having something to get up for and go about doing. Retirement is sometimes the kiss of death – at least for some. That’s because some retirees have never cultivated any other activities, hobbies, or interests outside of their careers (usually this is mostly about men). They’ve defined themselves exclusively by their jobs – what they do. These are people that believe who I am is what I do. So when their doing ends, they no longer know who they are. Tragic!

After being president Jimmy Carter got busy making furniture in his garage workshop. He also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, as well as, volunteering at his local church Sunday school teaching children. He is 97.  

George W. Bush took up portrait painting after he left the Whitehouse. His paintings are quite impressive. He also took on other new interests and volunteer activities. He is now a mere 74 years old. 

We are more than our job or career. Typically mothers have to reorganize their role as mothers – their job – and figure out what they are to do when children leave home. If they were stay at home moms, some start some new venture, or go back to a former occupation. Some launch right into grand parenting, or some combination of both grandparenthood and another fulfilling activity. It could be they go back to school, get training, or take up a new career or interest, or something they tabled while raising children.

Getting back at dark-thirty reminds me of my childhood. Although we had organized sports back then, it was nowhere as developed as today. Mostly we had the freedom to occupy ourselves as we saw fit. We played street ball and neighborhood pickup games of every sport, including some we invented. We did all sorts of things that taught us risk assessment – things today would likely be illicit and/or dangerous, or both. Some of it was not smart on our parts. Looking back I wonder how we survived all of it. We called it learning experiences. This means that since we often came pretty close to injury or death, and we survived, most of us learned not to do those particular things ever again! I’d call that a silver-lining. As the credit card commercial says, “Priceless.”

The point is our parents told us, especially in the summertime, to “go outside and play and come home by dark.” That was it. No periodical phone messaging or texting or checking in; no wrist watches; no “did you have lunch?” even. Just us using the sun and the street lights to guide us about when to go home.

These were not bad parents. They were just from another age. They certainly were not helicopter parents. I am all for safety and making things better for children, but I also think we’ve tended to go over-board. Over-parenting our children has impaired them with an inability to think through what is smart or dumb, and has deprived them of valuable learning experiences. It is a new form of child abuse.

We’ve also deprived them of opportunities to discover truly timeless experiences, and where they can be found in everyday life. Here are just a few simple, and even silly, ones that I’d classify as possible timeless experiences:

The joy of popping bubble wrap; hand written letters; the smell of old books; playing old music albums; reading a great novel; spending quality time with a loved one; playing a board or card game with family or friends; watching the sunset and/or sunrise; hearing a great poem or gazing at an inspiring piece of art; hanging out with certain friendships; moments of intimacy with our beloved; and, of course, fishing.

There are also the most profound timeless moments any of us can ever experience: drinking in God’s infinite love. These are the pinnacle experiences. This, above all others, requires us to slow down and be quiet. This quiet is both a bodily and mental quiet.

There are so many potential flashes of timeless moments. Most are, at best, fleeting ones. Part of the difficulty is that we are NOT often slowed down, or slowed down enough. With many demands and huge expectations in our very full, busy schedules we are constantly in motion. Even on weekends and non-working days we have an assortment of tasks and obligations to attend. Actual down-time or what we traditionally call time off is often not all that off. Our off times are infiltrated with other things that scream at us to be addressed as important or urgent or both. We get side-tracked; derailed.

I remember reading of a guy hired by a company to spend his work days in a quiet, isolated office. His job was to sit there alone and to think. He was hired to be creative, to take company problems, and think out of the box. It was a hopeful expectation that from this seclusion he’d come up with interesting and novel solutions – ways to improve and even transform the organization he “worked” for.

Image this: getting paid to actually think, to be creative, or think expansively.

If you want to wreck any business all one needs to do is ONLY what you are told to do; and do nothing else. This will guarantee undermining any business. In other words, don’t think. Yet so many jobs people quickly discover disincentives for taking initiative and doing more than required. They are not rewarded, but rather punished, for doing over and above their job. They learn to never go beyond their job description. Such businesses are plagued with a controlling leadership problem, with no incentives other than for being safe and unassertive.

Such company cultures do not foster any shared sense of ownership. When one works at such an enterprise the work day feels anything but timeless. Instead it is long and dreary where time drags on … and on and on.  

I offer an antidote to having time drag on, and instead having a life that is timeless; one where we do experience joy and on-going aliveness.

This is the action plan:

Take on the Jewish belief (it is also a foundational Christian and Muslim belief) that all people are created in the image of God. This belief means that our rights do not come from the state, but rather, originate from God. Such belief requires that we hold that there is a force bigger than the state assuring each and every one of us dignity and respect.

One cannot hold these truths without humility and without fostering equality because we all stand before the God of our lives with equal standing. This foundational belief is what enables us to recognize each other as full brothers and sisters, and that we are all in this together.

Rabbi Marc Gellman tells this transformational story that I am compelled to retell:

Rabbi Nachman of Berdichev was once with his disciples when he stopped short and pointed to a man walking across the street. “Who is that?” he asked.

His disciplines looked up and replied, “Oh that is nobody, Reb Nachman. That is just Moshele, the water drawer. That is nobody.”

Reb Nachman scolded them, and said, “None of you can be my students until you say about any person you see, ‘There goes the image of God walking down the street.’”

Our politics and our personal lives depend upon our ability to see others not just as a worthless mob of Mosheles. We will only get to live into that awesome timelessness that is ours to have and fully enjoy when we first are able to see the divine within one another and within ourselves.

I invite you to reflect and consider if when you have a timeless moment are you aware you are seeing yourself and other people as the image of God?