Out of time


When going for a run on the morning of writing this column, I saw something out of place. Sitting on a park bench, all on its lonesome, was a clock – the kind you might place on a bookshelf or mantlepiece. Seeing a timepiece meant for the domestic indoors out in the great outdoors left me a little confused, but it got me thinking. As we live through yet another lockdown, perhaps we need to place ourselves outside of time, somewhat. Or, to put it another way, maybe we need to put the clock outside (like on a park bench) for a while, so to speak. Living in this COVID loop, I’ve found myself having to avoid keeping time. By that I mean that I’ve been deliberately avoiding looking back to find out how many weeks lockdown six has been going for. Front-of-mind awareness of the amount of time spent in these conditions is just too much to bear, I guess. Perhaps, though, being out of time, as in outside of it for a period, might have utility beyond mere sanity-keeping. In the 19th century, the composer Richard Wagner and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche both felt that being a thinker or composer out of, or beyond, time was precisely what one should seek to be. In other words, they believed that being entirely out of touch – in the best possible sense – with the happenings of the day can lead to original thinking and true creativity. As it turned out, they were both able to do exactly that which they aspired to. By seeing things not just from the perspective of the “right now”, they were able to make lasting contributions that still affect people generations later. The Christian tradition emphasises a similar notion. It’s commonly understood that the believer trusts that Jesus of Nazareth, after being crucified, rose from the dead, and that in light of that miracle, the Christian also will not find death to be permanent. But what is less commonly understood is that Christian theology also understands that the abundant, resurrection or eternal life that we have with Jesus has already begun! In this sense, Christian spirituality is one that should be somewhat at peace with living through challenging times, like this COVID crisis, because living out-of-time is the Christian spiritual reality. In these tough times, whether we take a leaf out of the book of Nietzsche, Wagner or the person who left their clock on that park bench, it might just be to our benefit if we understand that, for the present moment anyway, letting our minds dwell beyond the constraints of time may be both a psychological necessity but also the pathway to creative achievement. On top of that, it might also, lead to a deeper spiritual acceptance of one’s purpose and creative path, be it inside or out, off the clock or on •

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