Stopping Time

3/9/11

There are times when time should stop. When you just can’t deal with 20 new e-mails highlighted in green, and watching the Uncle who always kept it together finally shed tears that make you want to sleep for a week.

There are times when time should stop. But it won’t.

There are still projects and readings and obligations. Everyone still expects you to keep up. Or maybe they don’t, but you expect yourself to–churning your legs and bobbing above water. It’s times like these that you start to re-evaluate what “meaningful” really means.

We buried my Pop yesterday. With the sun on our backs, his ashes were sealed in a beige plastic box. The funeral was full of tear filled eyes and choked laughs. Everyone had a story to tell. I understood what it means to be successful in life–to make hundreds of connections over decades and to maintain those connections. I’m beginning to think the life my Pop lived is a lost art. We have lost the ability to listen attentively, and to make a point to care.

My Grandpa (“Pop”) loved the song “The Circle Game.” It was the last thing he ever heard. My aunt Susan sang the chorus to that Joni Mitchell song in the ICU the day we took Pop off of life support. His heart rate flatlined in electric blue as we all joined in and hit the final note–encircling his hospital bed. Those lyrics will always speak to me. They are the words sung around countless campfires at the cabin, and they were echoed throughout all of our family’s hard times. They are words of life and death–happiness and suffering. They remind us that everything is circular, and how intertwined we all are:

The Circle Game

Yesterday, a child came out to wander
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Then, the child moved ten times ’round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like, “When you’re older”, must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town
And they tell him, “Take your time. It won’t be long now.
‘Til you drag your feet to slow the circles down”

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty
Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through.

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and ’round and ’round
In the circle game
And go ’round and ’round and ’round in the circle game

I believe that the lessons of these lyrics are the lessons and values we need to teach to our children–the worth of personal relationships and the merry-go-round view of life. Perhaps if we started thinking in circles, and making continued efforts to personally connect, we would be more capable of finding solutions to the problems we all share. Maybe we would breed a new generation of compassion, and learn from one another. We could learn to listen, and collaborate to live more sustainably and measure intelligence and worth beyond test scores and arbitrary ratings. We could live life as one big circle game–the way my Pop always did.

 

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