Here's a photo of a lotus flower. They grow abundantly in Thailand, and they flourish with their roots knee deep in the mud. That's a good visual metaphor, a symbol of hope for 2018. No matter how muddy the waters have got this past year, no matter how mired you feel, all that sludge is bound fertilize a few lotus buds.
2017, from what I hear, has been a year of sludge for a lot of people. But as I'm in Hua Hin, Thailand, writing this, and not the West, it's not New Year's Eve, 2017 here, but New Year's Eve, 2560 BE.
Thais are 543 years ahead. They officially follow a Buddhist calendar, so here we all are, no matter what calendar any of us follow, 2560 years after the reckoning of the Buddhist Era. And January 1st hasn't always been the New Year. Before 1941, Thai's celebrated the New Year on April 1st. Even more so, Thais still follow a lunar calendar, which means there might be 12 or 13 months in one year, or 354 or 384 days.
Those variations on ways to mark time have me thinking about time's relativity, about all the myriad cultural ways time might be experienced alongside the uncountable personal variations. I won't get all Einstein on you, but Christian mythology narrates a beginning and an end; Buddhists speak of beginningless time; and Australian aboriginals incorporate "dream time" into their thinking about their experience, giving a dimension to that "time out of time," where supernatural and ancestral beings mind their days.
Plus, the coming of a new year rouses all sorts of musings about time passing. It's a time for celebration and reflection, for embracing and releasing, for cheering and reminiscing. As "Auld Lang Syne" goes, "Shall old acquaintances be forgot / and never brought to mind?" I guess it depends on who the old acquaintances are.
Anyway, I find myself asking myself how I've used my time here, on this planet, not only this year, but in all those accumulated years since birth. This time of year brings pressing questions of how well I've lived, of how much I've learned, and of where I've invested my time. The clock is ticking. We sometimes characterize time as slipping away, as if the abstract concept of "time" is something we might fathomably hold between our fingers. We conceive of time chasing us, like waves, gentle or ravaged, or counting the lines on our skin to the tune, or terror, of a metronome. When we're late for a plane, there's never enough of time. When when we're sitting on a runway on a flight that's delayed, there's always too much.
Then there's Heraclitus' metaphor of time, "You could not step twice into the same river." Or here's another quote from the man, in various translations:
Everything flows and nothing stays.
Everything flows and nothing abides.
Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.
Everything flows; and nothing remains.
All is flux, nothing is stationary.
All is flux, nothing stays still.
All is flux, nothing stays.
Or how about David Byrne's rendition on the old maxim?
Time isn't holding us, time isn't after us
Time isn't holding us, time doesn't hold you back
Letting the days go by, letting the days go by, letting the days go by...
Ehei Dogen, a monk from the the 12th century, offers other reflections on time. He describes the mountain as time, or you as an embodiment of time. Time itself is being, and all being is time. He starts out his Uji or Time-Being:
An ancient Buddha said:
For the time being stand on top of the hightest peak.
For the time being proceed along the bottom of the deepest ocean.
For the time being a staff or a whisk.
For the time being a pillar or a lantern.
For the time being the earth and the sky.
However you want to conceive it, chew it, feel it, may you have peace with your time on this eve of the new year.
And I must apologize. I've been a lousy muser these past few months. Time has asked me to cross time zones, more than once, and those the knuckles of time have demanded I buckle down and invest its hours earning, saving it and allowing it to flow and grow.
That said, my resolution in 2018, or rather 2561 BE, beyond the resolution to allow wealth to flow, is to keep up with these musings. At least once a month. I've fallen off the wagon, and I'm feeling it. Writing, reaching out in the dark to the lot of you, keeps me sane. Maybe the uselessness of poetry is an act of rebellion against the pressure to monetize our time? We must invest in the wealth of our spirits, our creativity.
Adieu, 2560 BE. Thanks for the mud. May 2561 be full of lotus buds.