Monday, July 25, 2011
After realizing last summer how much having clocks in my face created an artifical sense of urgency, I made a conscious effort to keep them out of sight. I turned off the clock in the corner of my computer screen, take off my watch unless I have a reason to wear it, and have moved the clock off my physical desktop as well.
I really didn't need to know what time it was as often as I looked to see what time it was. I watch the clock when I teach, I wear a watch when I have an appointment (or set an alarm), but most of the time I can be "off the clock." And more and more I'm choosing that option.
Last week Math Man had some minor surgery done. There's a lot of waiting involved, but once you are there, no real need to know the time. It takes what it takes, as my mother might have said. At one point, I looked at my wrist, wondering what time it was, only to realize (1) I had been writing before we left, so wasn't wearing it and (2) I didn't need to know, they'd be done when they were done. It was just a reflex. (And it's clearly a hard habit to break. I've been trying for a year!)
Somewhat counterintuitively, I tend to wear my watch more often on retreat. Meals, Mass, meetings with my director -- none of these are good to miss, and unlike at home, no one is going to come looking for me for the first two. Still, on principle I prefer not to use my watch for prayer, but instead set a timer (I have a lovely virtual meditation timer on my iPad). On retreat at Wernersville last month it was hot (though not as hot as it's gotten lately) and my favorite spot for prayer in the chapel (third floor balcony) was unbearably hot. Instead I went outside and lay on the grass near the eastern cloister, looking up at the midnight stars.
The second night I went out there, I realized that I'd forgotten my iPad with the timer and wasn't wearing my watch. I thought about going back to my room to fetch a timing device, but given that my knee was seriously unhappy about stairs and taking the elevator at that hour threatens the peaceful sleep of those whose rooms are nearby, I decided to simply stay until I was done and trust that I would take the customary hour.
As I lay there, I realized that the constellation that had fed my contemplations of the previous night was once again overhead (the heavens do run like clockwork). I remembered that as I had finished, the constellation was just edging out of my sight behind the cloister roof. And so I let God's clock time my prayer, aware again of God turning my face toward the immensity of creation, letting one more strand fall from my hands.
You can watch me talk about unplugging during the Spiritual Exercises and afterwards here. Click on the square with my name (and find out how old I am).
The column I wrote about watching the night on retreat last year is here. And if you want to see a magnificent photo of the night sky at Wernerville, check out Robin's vignettes of her retreat.