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I did have an Apple. It was an Apple IIgs computer. Had a color monitor and everything and at 256 kb of embedded memory, it was a real wonder compared to the Apple IIe it replaced with its all-green CRT screen and 56 kb of memory. The IIgs also had this cool external disc drive that took 3.5 inch hard discs with 1.44 mb (amazing) of capacity, a vast improvement over the former 5.25 floppies (though those were better than the mini-cassettes we used for external memory only a couple years before that).
In the day of my IIgs, “Amazon” was a place in South America and “google” was a word no one much ever said (even as the @ key on the average typewriter or computer was the least used key of them all).
As I write this on Monday, July 8, 2019, it is my wife Rosemary’s and my 30th anniversary. So allow me a few mid-summer reflections on that mysterious yet all-consuming thing we call time. Thirty years, of course, is a while in the average person’s life—a full third of even a good long life if one makes it to 90. Probably any given span of three decades witnesses significant changes for us all, though the pace of especially technological changes in the 20th century and now into the 21st is properly staggering compared to any similar stretch of time in recorded history.
That Apple IIgs I had really was a great computer at the time, though the average toaster probably has more computer sophistication now than the IIgs had then. I also had a phone in 1989—it was on my desk and could store up to 10 numbers in its memory (it would be a couple years before we could afford a wireless handset phone from Radio Shack). On our honeymoon to Maine we took lots of photos—they all came home with us on rolls and rolls of Kodak film that we dropped off at Rite Aid to get developed and then picked up 3 days later. We used some wedding money to get one of the new CD players and also began stocking up on those discs with the crystal clear sound (no pops and hisses like on our record player, though Millennials are turning back to vinyl now I guess).
Of course, far more significant than these gadgets are all things related to people. It’s sobering how many of the people in the pictures from our reception at Gibson’s restaurant have either drifted out of our lives or have shuffled off this mortal coil altogether. We lost the two remaining grandmothers we still had in 1989 and in just the last six years also both of Rosemary’s dear parents. Most of my wife’s uncles and aunts on her Dad’s side are gone as are several of my cousins who left us far, far too young. Several of our parents’ closest friends who attended are also gone. And a few younger, happier couples in our wedding photos are now divorced.
Positively, there are also all those people we did not (or could not) know then but who mean the world and all to us now. For all couples who choose to have—and then are blessed to have—children, it is difficult even to remember a time when not only had you not met those people yet, you had never even taken their (now precious) names upon your lips! Some friends have drifted away but new ones have come, some of whom are now confidants you would not want to do without. The years have a way of taking things but also of giving new ones.
The arrow of time flies in only one direction. In the last 100 years it was Einstein and a few of his colleagues who confirmed that time is an actually existing dimension and not merely a fiction of clocks and watches. You can even affect time’s passage if you travel fast enough (time slows the faster you travel). Scripture, however, knew long before Uncle Albert that a person or a whole community can have an effect on time. That’s what Sabbath is for: it slows time down, creates what Abraham Heschel called “a cathedral in time” in which one can take stock, realize all over again Who is who in the grander scheme of things, relax into the rhythms of a world that is always finally a gift and never an achievement.
We would all like in some literal—yet hard-to-define—way to slow down time’s passage. As most anyone over 50 can testify, the years do seem to perform the cruel trick of speeding up the older you get. Fifth Grade seemed to take forever. The decade of my 40s more or less seems to have evaporated. But that arrow of time keeps flying in just the one direction, and none of us can travel close enough to the speed of light to slow things down (and if we did take off in a rocket to travel fast and thus slow down our individual passage through time, when we returned home, everyone we knew would be long dead so who would really want such a thing?).
“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.” So wrote The Teacher in Ecclesiastes 3:9-10. Part of our “burden” is precisely that sense for the eternal that God gave us. We exist in time but, as C.S. Lewis once noted, if we had been made to pass through time as quickly as we do, we would no more be aware of time’s passing than a fish is aware of being in water. We’d be in our natural element. Yet we do sense, and even lament, time’s passage. We are not fish in water but somehow sense we were made for something more, something other.
So it is good to take stock, to take Sabbath. And then there’s the one claim of the movement known as Process Theology that I resonate with: the idea that our God travels with us in the times of our lives, tenderly prehending into the divine Self the very memories and events, people and places, we most wish we could hold onto but are constantly having to let go of in order to move on to the next phase of life. But nothing is finally lost if God is with us. Cynics and unbelievers, agnostics and skeptics may find that to be nothing short of saccharine pious wishing. For followers of Christ Jesus, though, such musings are among our fondest hopes and an answer to our deepest yearnings.