I walked outside the other day to the refreshing bite of frost. I went to open my car door and stopped. A bee was sitting motionless on the door handle. I touched it tentatively with my finger and it fell to the gravel below, frozen solid. One lifecycle had ended as the grand cycle of things continued. I opened my car door, turned on the heat, and drove to work.
As early as the 11th century, clocks were invented for the sole purpose of tracking passing time. The Chinese emperor Su-Sung created a water clock consisting of a forty foot tower which accurately measured time by the rate at which a steady stream of water was able to fill buckets. The project took 8 years to complete. The clock was stolen when invading armies ended the Sung dynasty in 1126. I would cynically assert that this was the best thing to happen to civilization for quiet some time. For the next 400 years or so humans were forced to continue relying upon the world around them to tell time, to somehow exist within and as part of the world.
For the past several months have slept with my windows open, noting the progressive drop in nighttime temperatures. The other night I awoke shivering and closed both of the windows in my room before putting on a sweatshirt and going back to bed. Temperatures were close to freezing that night. Since then, I’m not sure I could tell you if the weather has gotten colder or warmer. Until I found a frozen bee on my car.
I recall a night I spent backpacking a couple years ago. I was completely alone and was forced to realize that the fabric material of my tent was a terrifically thin barrier between myself and everything going on out there. The veil could easily be ripped in two, so to speak, and I would be exposed to the elements without an off switch or window to close.
I haven’t been wearing a watch lately. Not for any philosophical purpose, mind you, the watch just didn’t match my outfit and I’m trying to put out a professional facade. Nonetheless, an unanticipated and blessed side-effect has been the need to somehow guess what time it is for at least five milliseconds prior to consulting the clock on my computer or phone. Sometimes I actually glance out the window. It leads me to wonder if wristwatches have become a sort of lifeline for us between the world we’ve created apart from the world that is.
Celtic mythology believes in the existence of “thin places”, specific locations where the veil between heaven and earth is particularly sparse. A.W. Tozer argues that all of life is just as sacred as every other corner of life; to deny such would be to deny the omnipotent nature of the Divine. I’m not sure where I fall on this discussion but I am sure that if I believe anything then I must hold to all locations on the veil being particularly thin; it was ripped to shreds two thousand years ago.
I’m filled with an innate desire to see time tick, ticking that isn’t caused by a wrist-watch but is rather fueled by falling temperatures and life patterns that are much larger than myself, my race, my species, my everything.
But I’m also reminded of how much I spent on an expensive rain coat to keep myself dry on the walk from my apartment to my car, of how quickly I close my windows with the first frost and of the light I burn through the night in order to read of the thin veil that was torn in two when Christ breathed His last on the cross.
So I am tempted to stop checking the weather each morning and instead take the day as it comes; showing up to work soaking wet without a rain coat would signify that I am not losing my grip on reality but am actually more in touch with the way things are. I am also tempted to keep my windows open through the winter but I’m getting married and such an act might prompt a prenuptial.
But I am convinced that there cannot be a world out there and a world in here if there’s to be any hope for engaging the world, the cosmos, as it is. If heaven will have no walls then “thy kingdom come” consists of me accepting that there might be a wall between my heart and the world around me. It means realizing that this wall may be propped up my wrist watches, rain coats and closed windows and perhaps and that a dead bee may be more in touch with reality than myself.
Such am I, in relation to the world.