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Monday, April 04, 2005

Time Is a Tricky Little Bastard

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Every April and October, we enter into and exit from a collective deception we call Daylight Savings Time. (Apparently, the middle word of that is supposed to be singular, that is, “Saving,” but the will of the People is a difficult thing to fight in matters of the word, and “Savings” is what we get in real life.) I dread it, each year, and spend slightly more than six months at a time feeling logy and unfulfilled.

The experts talk about energy savings, which may be true, but in a society that vibrates like a quartz crystal 24/7, one must wonder whether those savings aren’t squandered like the Federal surplus was. As a nation, we are not savers, but compulsive wasters. To me, however, Daylight Savings Time is a symbol for how we delude ourselves into thinking that we can manipulate and control time.

Time and its passing has been on my mind of late, thanks in part to the Schiavo case and the death of the Pope. I was raised Catholic and have had my brush with adherence in adulthood, but I am, I guess officially, a lapsed Papist, although I prefer to think of myself, in Woody Allen’s phrase, to be “the loyal opposition.” I find things to admire in it, and its use of ritual—the reenactment of the myth—makes it the one Christian faith I can go steady with. However, the habit of people to reduce the sacred to the level of the profane and the hypocrisy of those who swarm closest to the center of any church (and I’m excluding those who have taken Holy Orders in that statement) have served to keep me at a distance from the Church, interested observer but no longer active participant.

The death of the Pope—which, by the logic the parents and their supporters in the Schiavo case, was suicide—has been dominating the headlines the last couple of days. At one point, a Cardinal was quoted as saying that Jesus had opened the door for him to step through. However, it seems that Jesus actually just looked through the peephole and asked for the password. (“Swordfish,” I’ll bet.) The Pope lingered a while longer.

The previous three weeks worth of news had been dominated by the Schiavo case, in which the remains of a young woman were dangled before the public in a way that was once reserved for relics like the shard of a bone of St. Stephen. And while a few seconds of videotape selected from hundreds of hours worth were played in continuous loops on a few cable news channels as proof of Terri Schiavo’s sentience, examinations of CAT scans and a flat EEG prove that the opposite is true.

It interests me that the people who were trying to keep Ms. Schiavo alive were religious believers. If I understand their beliefs correctly, their stated aim was to keep Ms. Schiavo from the arms of her Redeemer and the blessings of heaven for as long as possible. If I recall my Dante correctly, Purgatory is not much of an improvement from Hell, since we are still denied the ecstasy of experiencing the Glory of God unfiltered.

And why did they wish to do this? Let us consult Mark Twain. (Twain is a wonderful authority on these matters. He had a wisdom forged in sorrow and tempered with laughter.) In “Puddinhead Wilson,”he said, “Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved."

It seems to me that the real culprit here is not Michael Schiavo or his in-laws, but a medical culture that has the tools at its disposal to keep the carcass going even after the spirit has returned from whence it came. It is an American culture that fears death and that has concocted an absurdist sitcom in which to live based on the tenets of the worship of youth and the denial of death.

At one point, after the feeding tube was removed, Ms. Schiavo’s father was quoted as saying that this wouldn’t happen to an animal. And he was right. An animal would have been euthanized long before. To have kept an animal in the condition in which we found Terri Schiavo would have been considered inhumane. Of course, as John says in A Hard Day’s Night, “We usually reckon dogs more than people in England.” Sometimes that is true in the U.S. as well.

Finally, I'd like to leave you with this pearl of wisdom gleaned from today's entry on the Three Stooges page-a-day calendar I use at work. This is what met my eyes as I tore the page today: "Curly says: 'We're toys of fate. It's Kismet!'" That Curly was a real smart guy.


Anonymous said...

Here here- well said. I'm working on trying to be no more attached to life than it appears to be attached to me. You've also given me pause to refract on light and time and I've decided that all along what I've been committed to is Daylight Wasting Time. Set your clock as you like it but be on time for dates.

Tyson Mex

Len said...

"Daylight Wasting Time" is a good description of my job, at least as performed by yours truly.