Stopping Time

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Walking along the tan sands on the beach at Longboat Key yesterday, I felt the gentle breeze and the warming temperature that had just barely pushed aside the morning chill. I noticed the sun, about halfway on its journey toward noon. Its rays bounced off the softly breaking waves, which had created a mini tide pool in which the Sandpipers alternatively danced and bathed. The outgoing tide had left fabric ripples in the sand, sculpted as if Rodin had chosen to create hundreds of overlapping satin sheets in translucent marble. It was a perfect moment, but it would not last. I wished I could have stopped time.

Some experiences are like that. I don't want them to end. I don't want them to go away. I want to savor them, to freeze time because of the lift in my spirit, the sense that I am, in those moments, somehow magically transported to a place that is as close to heaven on earth as earth can ever be.

But the moment passed, as it had to do. It was only afterwards that I realized that the end of my perfect moment was a good thing, as necessary in my life as the perfect moments I did not want to end, as necessary as the bright sun is to burning away the rainbow that has turned the sky into a glorious prism.

If I had, indeed, stopped time, I know that the perfection of that instant would fade from its very perpetuation -- just as chocolate, after all, tastes so much better with the first bite than the last. If I had stopped time, there would be no mundane moments to bracket the sacred seconds, for the former are, in the end, essential to the latter. It is against the everyday that the eternal gains its majesty.

If I could stop time, I would have a power I would be prone to overuse, and thus the ability to experience sensory delights would itself weaken because joy is not joyous when you can prolong its without end.

If I could stop time, I would also stop memory, for the emotional power that stores memories and enables their retrieval and endless appreciation would fade with the knowledge that I could keep this moment itself endless -- in the present as long as I wished.

If I could stop time, I would never learn that most valuable lesson -- living in the moment. Life for me is, in the end, enriched most by casting my mind and heart in the waters of now. When I live in the past, I must face the fact that it can never be recaptured. When I live in the future, I see that its presumed promise is easier to create than its reality. And in both cases, I go there alone. But when I live in the now, I have the power and gift of engaging all of my senses and doing it in the company of nature itself and with those I love at my side.

Yesterday is gone forever. I do not mourn its passing. It produced something precious. That will happen again, I know. I will not be able to stop time then either, but I can now look to that day and that moment -- and how fleeting it will be -- as a blessing. The timepiece that is my life winds on, and in that realization itself I feel unalloyed joy.