“I would like to spend the rest of my days in a place so silent – and working at a pace so slow – that I would be able to hear myself living.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things
The world today seems to be the direct opposite of this silent, slow-paced place Elizabeth Gilbert describes. I can easily feel overwhelmed by things beyond my control and time seems to be racing by faster than ever before. I can’t believe it’s again time for Xmas decorations in shops… How to find/create this place? How can I slow things down enough so that I can process all the madness?
Alma, the dynamic protagonist in Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel, “The Signature of All Things“, presents one way. She describes different types of Time: Divine Time, Geological Time, Moss Time and Human Time. From the perspective of Divine Time, time as we know it, does not exist. There is only now, the present. In Geological Time, time can be experienced within the context of geological evolution over billions of years – the lifespan of mountains, from their dramatic creation to their slow erosion. Human Time is the fastest time, our lives only the tiniest moment compared to the other times. “One thing was certain: Human Time was the saddest, maddest, most devastating variety of time that had ever existed. She [Alma] tried her best to ignore it.” In the book, Alma (a botanist) seeks solace in Moss Time, which is faster than Geological Time, but much slower than Human Time. Just think how long does it takes moss to grow over a stone and slowly over time, even start to erode it. She now has all the time she needs to explore the richness of mosses (I would recommend you read the original, beautifully written passage pp 171 – 172).
Shift in Time and Space
These shifts in perspective of time also relate to space. Moss Time goes hand in hand with the microscopic world, zooming in so much so that another mini universe opens up. Within the context of Geological Time, we zoom out to a global perspective, the view from the moon perhaps. And the Now of Divine Time exists in the ultimate no/all space. Sometimes what we need, is to zoom in to the tiny, which can help us feel contained. Other times we need to zoom out to the much bigger perspective for a sense of spaciousness.
Mountain or Moss Time
When I feel rushed or overwhelmed, I now choose to take a break from Human Time (no matter how small this pause) and shift my perspective into Moss, Geological, and/or ultimately Divine Time. Is it really true that I am running out of Time? Is it not more true that my To Do List is ongoing and will never really be completed – or only will be done when I die? Can I prioritise what’s important over what is seemingly urgent? What needs to be I let go? Within the context of Divine/Geological/Moss Time, is this worry true, is it significant? From these vantage points, I gain perspective, greater ease, and a space to breathe.