Category Archives: time

It Is What It Is

What would it be like to freeze one moment in time? Like Keats’ Grecian Urn, fixed for eternity. But a moment is so short. Nothing more than a photograph. What would it be like to freeze an entire segment of time?

It sounds ideal, to go back to a point in your life when everything was going well, and replay it. Except, how many times can you replay the same thing? Like watching Groundhog Day on a loop. Don’t you want to move forward? Wouldn’t you want to experience something else?

I guess that is the point. The ideal is unrealistic, and once plucked out of fantasy, becomes quite undesirable.

But reality can be beautiful in its own ways, if taken as is. Sometimes it is good, other times bad, and when bad, it won’t be so for long. At least not if you can still find glimpses of happiness. And enjoy them in the moment for what they are, accepting that they may soon fade. That might be all that happiness is – enjoying something in the moment without worrying about the future of it. I don’t mean the practical future, which you should always worry about, but rather the whimsy future. How can you enjoy anything if you are always poking and prodding at it? That is how the happy moments get overlooked.

It could have been. It might still be. But right now, it is what it is.

The Everlasting What-If

In reading Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn the bittersweet parallel, or better yet, juxtaposition between reality and fantasy becomes apparent. Especially in the second and third stanzas.

Stanzas 2 and 3:

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter, therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
They song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 

The everlasting sentiments embellished on the urn emphasize the ephemeral nature of reality, specifically in terms of joy, or the bits of happiness we are privy to. In other words, what we know to be real is only such for a moment.

In the fantasy world on the urn, everything is in a state of forever, and ever, and ever, unchanging, suspended in time, and unreal. Only in art is this possible. But is it beautiful? Maybe some sort of ideal, but… to never change? Trapped in one moment, never experiencing anything else, subsiding on potential? A constant state of “what if…”

The last lines of the poem have been interpreted in dozens, if not hundreds of ways, but I think they address this particular division between reality and some perceived form of the ideal.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Those lines are inscribed on the urn. But what is beautiful is not the image on the urn, because that is not the truth. On earth we don’t live in a suspended state of reality. Truth on earth, all we know, and need to know, is living, moving forward in time, rife with experience, a wide array of emotions and encounters. Each one is magnificent in its own way. The image on that urn is a vignette of happiness, captured in its prime, plucked from reality at its most ripe point, but never allowed to mature, or fully exist. The potential is never fulfilled.

Leaves fall, seasons change. And each time it is a little different, nevertheless beautiful. Yet if you don’t live life with this knowledge, time will still pass, things will still change, but you will remain stuck in your own fantasy enthralled with how wonderful everything is. You are not living in the moment, but in one moment, blind to how much else you could cultivate that millisecond into if only you just let it pass. As for everything you still want to do and experience, all the questions you have… well there is always tomorrow. Except there isn’t always time, and by the time you realize this, it might just be too late. Then you can eternally exist in a different state of “what if.”

I Need to Slow Down

A few days ago I wrote about how pleasantly surprised I was at my high math scores on the practice GRE despite the fact that I haven’t actually done math in many years. The few mistakes I was making were silly calculation mistakes that could be easily remedied.
Six practice tests later I am still making the same mistakes. This is a problem. Yes I am glad I remember the concepts, and am using the right formulas. It is far easier to correct inattentiveness than to learn entire theories. Unfortunately on a multiple choice test a wrong answer is a wrong answer.
The GRE people don’t care if I accidentally inverted a positive and negative sign on the third step using the quadratic formula. I don’t get points for having remembered which formula to use in the first place.
I know I am only missing a couple of questions per section, but on a section of only 20 questions missing two or three is actually quite egregious.
My problem is time. I am not using enough of it. I am given 35 minutes per section. I am finishing in 15 or less. I try not to look at the clock so I don’t worry about it, but then by not looking at the clock I panic thinking I am running lower on time than I actually am, and I rush. And that is when the careless mistakes happen.
A couple dozen more practice tests should fix the problem.