Life is lived in increments, measured by moments, events, experiences. Shaped by the wariness of clocks and the dancing of digital frameworks, increments of time set boundaries and determine pace, provide real evidence that life is not a solitary experience. Gift and burden, increments of time demand attention.
There are the 15 -minute increments of a dental office, the forty minute classes of a school teacher, the pacing of a postal worker’s delivery. There are the lazy mornings of a retiree’s encounter with the morning news, and there is the nursing home patient’s wait for attention. There is a child’s clamor for breakfast and the maintenance worker’s goal to complete a project. And there are the clashes of increments: a driver’s schedule and a re-scheduled event; emergency room overflows and tragic weather occurrences. We are all marching through increments of time, ourselves and everyone else’s, often seamlessly unaware and sometimes stressfully conscious of every second.
Within that is the heartbeat of the sacred, that hint of the divine that exists in all those spaces, in every increment. In essence, it is that breath of life that sustains a vision of the whole, enables the sense that each life is somehow woven into both past and future. To be able to see and touch and breathe the wonder of that, is both a gift and a skill.
The gift is born in awareness that the increments are temporary, evidence of the rigor of human structures and a resilient dedication to goals. Complementing that is the sense that there is something greater than self, some sense of humanity that is common ground among the created.
The skill is the discipline of breathing deeply and consciously recognizing the vast milieu in which all people and time exist. It is the place where people see, and think and wonder, need and want and become. It is based on the ability to realize the finiteness of self and the possibilities of deep truth in the experiences and lives of others. Skill comes into play with the purposeful practice of such an awareness.
For me, as a Catholic, that space is in prayer. It is in the quiet and in the collective, in the richness of silence and the bold notes of music. It is in the rhythm of beaches and the stillness of a chapel. Prayer is the space where increments of time drift into a bigger pattern, a broader, deeper space. Prayer provides the spiral of discovering what is deeper and most meaningful.
It allows the increments to become a mosaic that speaks not of just one moment but of the whole journey of human life experiences. As critical as the personal choices and experiences are, increments of time are reminders that ours is a world of collective experience, good, challenge. And so we breathe and the seconds pass and slip into moments and minutes, and the increments continue.