By: Ellen Nimmo
Naivety can be helpful, if one doesn’t mind learning.
But frankly, I feel naïve about much more than I have time or capacity to learn about, so, I must decide and frequently be nudged, guided along in my learning. Moment to moment we are all choosing what to give our attention and time to, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
I’m not always great about using my time well. Are you?
But what is time anyway? Legions now ask.
During the past nine weeks, the mysterious notion of time has become for me (perhaps for many) a foggy, slippery, ever-present illusion of control and dimension. Something to remember. To measure and weigh. Something we submit and tend to; curse then beg for. Time is a nasty, frothing beast and a delicate, fluttering fairy. Real and contrived, a paradox of reality.
Striped of routines and normalcy, there’s a whole 2020 world wrestling with the illusive damnation, the sacred gift: time. Me too world, me too. It is as though whatever organizing, scheduling, building, spending or planning we’ve done can be swept away as ‘the times’ have their way. Time can drag by and be gone in the flash. Simultaneously if you aren’t careful. That ever happen to you? It has been happening to me lately. So, what are we to do with time?
The resounding voice of the poet answers us clearly, unafraid, “It is not the length of life, but the depth” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Sounds nice doesn’t it? A quote to paste up on the fridge or dangle from a keychain. But depth of life? Who measures that!? What contraption? What device? How do we know if our lives are lived deeply and can we rule over depth?
Unlike time, whose mystery and beauty has been chopped up, assigned task and tedium, all counting and loss, depth appears left alone. With depth, the responsibility and evaluation is curated by the individual. The virtue of a life examined, free will.
Now virtue, in my opinion, isn’t worth discussing much unless you’re prepared to discuss beauty. But, I didn’t come up with that notion. Jonathan Edwards, philosopher and theologian, wrote and spoke on that very thought. In fact he writes in The Nature of True Virtue: “Whatever controversies and variety of opinions there are about the nature of virtue, yet all . . . mean by it something beautiful, or rather some kind of beautyor excellency.”
What do you think?
That take on virtue gives me some hope. Bringing the desires and the naiveties I have (which are many) on to the examining table and saying, “well, what about this?” Is this worth spending precious time on? Does it have in its makeup any excellence? Any beauty? Does it possess splendor which is washed away in an instant, or is it the kind of loveliness that lasts and lasts and makes things whole? Is there depth here?
Easy to ask, hard to answer.
Toiling to consider what creates depth in my days, hours, and minutes I’ve surmised – depth comes from connection. In peeling back the layers of my life where I felt meaning and purpose and joy, connection was always an essential part of the equation. And connection here is not a limited term. On the contrary, it is full of possibility; deep as oceans. You do your own examining, see what layers you go through to get to connection. I’m betting it is there. Your answer might be different than mine, but answers there will be. Take your time too. These things ought not be rushed. The Emerson quote lives on, it’s up there on the fridge, dangling from that keychain and the subject of blogposts for a reason: “It is not the length of life, but the depth.”
Psalm 42:7 takes a poetic, encompassing look at depth.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
In a time of uncertainty, with the roar of the waterfalls, the breakers and waves washing over him, still yet, deep calls to deep. The psalmist refuses to let his circumstance (‘the times’) be reduced to hiding, a mere counting of days gone by. No, he cries out to deep even as it appears his life may be a short and troubled one. Still, what is deep? Edwards explains our longing for depth as, “the enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied.” It seems right to conclude that the psalmist and Edwards might agree that deep flows out of and back towards an infinite Being; a Creator God who has placed an imago dei of depth within each of us to discover and spend time with.
Sounds deep to me. Worthy of a bit more time on the exam table.
Whatever your view of a life of depth is, may it be worthy of a spot on the fridge as well as your dedicated time.