It’s about time . . .

What does time mean to you? Are you chasing it, or is it chasing you? How do you mark the passage of time? How are you marked by time?  In this week's HSD blog, Glenda Eoyang shares her thoughts on time.

I am always surprised by this time of year, and 2016 is no exception. Somewhere around mid-May I lose track of time. Then, suddenly, it is the middle of December. What happened to those warm days of summer, the scents of autumn, and the first cold winds of winter? Somehow they slipped past me. I know I was busy, I have lots to show for those long days and busy nights. I remember flashes of satisfaction or surprise. Each one can assure me that there was a trip to the Yukon in September or a great week in Barcelona in August. New friendships, new opportunities, and new creations mark the passing of time, even while it seems to have flown.

The same thing happens in a really good meeting. The beginning can be slow and intentional, setting the stage for what is to come. Somewhere in about the middle, the flow takes over. The group becomes more conscious of its work than it is of the clock, and something important is accomplished. With a shock, I notice when the time begins to draw to a close, and my attention turns to the next, “Now what?”

I have read that the same patterns shape a lifetime, and my experience is beginning to prove the point. Poets and philosophers capture points in time and arcs of time. Musicians shape time with sound, and rituals mark times of significant transformation. On each birthday, I try to remember where I was half my life ago.  I started this when I was 18, hoping it would give me a way to make sense of time as it was passing. Now, half my life is too long ago to remember!

Time seems to be the thing that lies at the intersection of experience and consciousness. I am; I act; and I know; all within the context of time. Often, I feel that time is my enemy—never having enough for everything I want to do. Other times, it is a gift, when it seems to expand to absorb all kinds of joy and possibility. While the clock is ticking along with absolute regularity, my sense of time ebbs and flows. What choices do I have to see, understand, and influence the patterns of time, as it passes me by?

I can keep a record. Formally or informally, I can mark time as it passes. I can capture bits of thought or experience, store them away, and revisit them with different understanding at another place and time.

I can share it with others. Moments are multiplied in community. When we are together, I have one and you have one, and that makes two. It really makes three because we have the one we generated together, as well. Whether they are painful or joyful, times spent in company create time that is richer and deeper—greater than the sum of its parts.

I can watch it flow. Like a river toward the sea, time moves relentlessly along. Sometimes I ride on its currents, but I can also step onto the bank for a moment.  From there, I can observe as the stream slides and swirls past me and beyond.

We at the HSD Institute, wish you good times as this year comes to a close and best wishes for times to come.

Glenda H. Eoyang, PhD
Executive Director
Human Systems Dynamics Institute

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