Being Time in Kenya with Heidegger

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The concept of time is fascinating. From physics to philosophy, the notion of time is difficult to define.

From our normal existence in the world, we often define time as ‘fleeting’ in the sense there is never enough. Frustration builds as the majority of time is spent catching up on work…work that is always running further and further away.

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The more worry about time, the less there is.

This has been the script for me this year.  Just as I am ready to celebrate and enjoy autumn, this great season is fading fast.

Back in September, I noticed the leaves turning color. But instead of picking up my coat and heading out, I dropped my head for a quick analysis of work and business only to look up a couple of months later to find winter staring me in the face.

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Pushing open the window, a gust of cold wind sends my work flying and a bunch of dry leaves swirling at my feet.

Where did time go?

With my work and leaves lying scattered at my feet, I realized I lost the best season of the year.

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Autumn is usually the season when time slows down.  Time to take in nature, people and the simple appreciation of life.

Hunting, fishing, football, photography, cycling or spending time on Hood Canal with family and friends; not existing in time, but actually “being time”.

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The thought of “being time” is refreshing: to reflect on memories, create new memories and actively live and project our expectations of the future in ‘the now’ the moment when time stands still. This is what autumn has always provided.

To be with somebody, to be somewhere, to be doing something you love…these are the moments, a perfect understanding of our place in time, space and the universe.

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Being Time, this is a feeling I envy right now. Sitting on the floor, sorting my papers…seeing nothing but incoherent words and riddles on these sheets of white reflecting past months of work, my eyes fall to a wooden carving I picked up in Kenya many years ago.

Autumn. Kenya. The trip when I first began defining time in a different manner.

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Prior to leaving for the Kenyan city of Nairobi, I was out with friends and they all talked about the culture shock that I would experience, jumping from the modern city of Hong Kong to the much less developed world of the Maasai Mara.

There was some truth to that, jumping into the life of Nairobi was something different, but once into the countryside time slowed down and I synchronized with the culture around me. It was as if I had returned to a forgotten home. Being where I should be. Feeling alive.

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As it turned out, I did experience culture shock, but it happened upon returning from Kenya to the modern world.

Back in the USA, amid the muck of company politics, petty jealousies and listening to the linear definition of time: the loud tick-tock of the clock signaling life is growing shorter.

Fortunately, I kept the rhythm I had found in Kenya and fell into a groove back in Seattle and later Hong Kong. Good friends, good work and listening to how time flowed naturally, rather than how it was measured on the clock made the days mine.

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This ‘Kenyan groove’ took me back to my college days where my roommate, who was a brilliant philosophy major, introduced me to the works of German philosopher, Martin Heidegger.

It took Kenya for me to fully ‘get’ what Heidegger was saying, but he was correct: “we do not exist inside time, we are time.”

The only time we have is now, this nano-second of the present to live, where all we were and will be is defined within this perfect moment to shine. As Heidegger called it: “the moment of vision”

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This concept of time is one of many theories, and helps me define the idea of being lost in a moment and having time stand still. Time is not this one-way sequential path to the end: a tick-tock of doom.

Time, instead, allows us to relive memories, actively experience and create expectations and dreams with which we float between the past, present and future. As silly as it sounds, time becomes what we want to be.

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When I am lost in a daydream…or when a beautiful girl shyly smiles and nods her head, a sensation is created that alters time. It brings into play another dimension I could not begin to define, other than a perfect, subjective component of time that I would not change for the world.

Everything stops and goes, and I want to embrace all that I can get my arms around. Time simply does not exist in linear terms at these moments. It is emotional; the mind can run free, open up memories and take me places I can only dream. In a sense, I am manipulating time. I can do no wrong.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-23Kenya provided an important piece in defining time and its place in nature for me. Time is what you make of it and it only blooms with loyalty and honesty to yourself, to family, to friends and to your work. In this sense, it is the simple philosophy of nature.

There may not be a better place to appreciate time, autumn or nature than in my hometown of Pendleton, Oregon.

Autumn in Pendleton means the end of the harvest season, the beauty of putting in a hard day’s work. You look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day, and see the dirt and character: badges of honor, to be worn proudly.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-10Pendleton, too, reminds me of Kenya…a place where standing out on the plains as the morning breaks, time stands still. Silence along with the electricity of the day that makes me aware I am flowing as one with time.

Time waits for no one, so to understand its value and embrace it for the potential it holds is key: the “moment of vision”.

Kenya Maasai Mara Africa-5And as I continue to stare out my window, smiling with my thoughts of Kenya, Pendleton and Heidegger, I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite philosophers, Dr. Seuss:

“How did it get so late so soon?  It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

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Pre-Dawn Coffee ~ Best Campsite I've Experienced :-)

Pre-Dawn Coffee ~ Best Campsite I’ve Experienced 🙂

 

Flow of Water ~ Flow of Life

NorthFork Skokomish River

Years ago, my Dad and I were sitting in a duck blind in Eastern Oregon prior to dawn and I mentioned how much I wanted to live near the Oregon Coast.  The  gist of my reasoning was that the Oregon Coast is beautiful, and having water around was comforting.

There is nothing quite like the sight and sound of water; roar of an ocean or babble of brook.  The response from my Dad surprised me; he preferred the high desert and mountains…

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It was not the first time I have been surprised by such a response, as my ex- felt the same way, where I always envisioned a place on the water, she felt the opposite.

My dad laughed at my incredulous look, and said he loves being at the pond (one of his favorite places on earth), and it is made better because it is located in Eastern Oregon (which is why he chose Pendleton).  He also laughed at the situation with my ex-, saying that my Mom’s thought on the subject is also the opposite of his and, like me, she would rather live next to the ocean.

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Why I bring this up, is that there is a special connection to water that inspires me, calms me.  I will not think twice to pay more for a sea view room, while others cringe at the thought as they do not see the same value: some people can’t believe someone else would pay so much more for a house (or flat) with a water view, while others cannot comprehend why not.

The beauty of differences in human nature.

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Among us all, however, is a tremendous respect for water, and it is an inherent respect as we flowed like water from conception onwards.  Beyond the most obvious reason that the majority of our body is made up of the stuff,  it is the nature of water that intrigues.

Water is pure: two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen.  It has no desire other than to be itself.

  • try to pick it up, control and squeeze it, and it will elude ~ as will a strong human spirit
  • if it remains still, it becomes stagnate ~ as will our body & mind without pursuing life
  • when it flows it becomes pure ~ as when we flow & move: life, love and our spirits tend to flourish

Natural properties that we should emulate.

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Water is resilient.  Soft yet incredibly strong.  An analogy which is often repeated, is how over time water can turn stone into sand with its relentless flow, creating such marvels as the Grand Canyon.  Water never ceases in its pursuit of life…it just keeps on flowing, bending when necessary, and without question follows its nature.

My favorite verse from the Dao de Jing is number eight which parallels water with human nature.  If I had to summarize the words of this verse it is: be true to who you are, keep it simple and kind, and flow with your work and in life, without expectations, and you will not be disappointed.

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Simple thoughts.  Whenever life throws something at me, a trip to the coast (or a creek) is all I need to gain perspective.

As with all words of Lao-zi, they are words of poetry…which makes translation by any non-native speaker close to impossible.  Below is the Chinese, and an old translation I made 15 years ago with a lot of help.

  • 上善若水。
  • 水善利万物而不争,处众人之所恶,故几于道。
  • 居善地,心善渊,与善仁,言善信,政善治,事善能,动善时。
  • 夫唯不争,故无尤。

The greatest good is like water.  Nourishing all in our world without effort, flowing to depths we ignore.  Water is therefore like the Dao.

In living, be close to the land

In thinking, be simple from the heart

In dealing with others, be kind with sincere words

In politics and business, do not manipulate

In life, be effective and completely present

When you are content being yourself, your flow gains the respect of those around you.

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I do remember when I was studying Chinese and the Dao de Jing, I asked many questions about this verse and finally the person I was studying with said the meaning of the verse “is just like a brook in the mountains: travels from high to low, nourishing, sincere, humble and true to itself…and most of all it sounds beautiful if you shut-up and take time to listen.”

Take the time to listen to what the water (and the world) is saying.

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The Unrequited Love of Ellinor

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Dear Ellinor,

Never do I feel more alive, than when I am with you.  You take me from the mundane and offer me a simple taste of glory.  Our affair spans more than a decade, but each time with you feels like we have just met.

Knowing that I am one of many does not change my feeling, for what we have is special.

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Every time I come back to the Olympic National Forest, my mind goes back to the first time we met: I stood breathless, in awe of your beauty.  When I tackled your slopes, you offered me views that I could never imagine.

While you belong to Mother Earth, I will always consider you mine.

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It is with my hat in hand, that I come again to share time with you…to find peace in the solace of nature.

It is with this same hat I give a tip to the men and women who make you accessible.  Building up the trails, making what would be an extremely difficult climb into something less strenuous, giving me more time to rest in your brilliance.

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The workers of the US National Forest Service (and Mt. Rose Volunteer Trail Crew), give their working life to you, so you can give yourself to me.

You give yourself to all, but forever you will remain free.

A dash of folklore has it that Chief Seattle wrote a letter to the President of the USA, in reply to the government’s offer to purchase the remaining Salish lands.  Within the letter are some of the wisest words ever written:

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“The President in Washington sends word that

He wishes to buy our land.

But how can you buy or sell the sky?   The land?

The idea is strange to us.

 If we do not own the freshness of the air and the

Sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?…”

Respect the wilderness and Mother Nature will in turn respect us.

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Ellinor, looking back on our time together, whether under the heat of the sun or huddled in the icy & snowy depths of winter, every time we part I leave a better man.

When the chaos of this international zoo begins to spin out of control, no matter how long we’ve been apart, inevitably I come crawling back and you always take me in.

I am grateful for your unconditional support of this restless wanderer.  Your gift of courage to take that extra step into the unknown.  To achieve greater heights.

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Above: Mt. Rainier in the distance.  Below: Descending in the Dark

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My knees ache more today than they did when we first met decades ago, and there will inevitably come a day when all I can do is stare up at your grand magnificence.

Jealousy may arouse in my heart while I watch younger generations march proudly up your slopes, but it will be in the guise of pride.  While impossible, I will always consider you mine.

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I will shed a tear when this day comes, not in sadness or envy of those you welcome to your peaks, but a tear of grace for the time we spent together.  I love you and your brothers and sisters who surround you.

The Skokomish Wilderness and Puget Sound that form your front door, will always be there to welcome.

I simply love the life we have shared together.

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You share.  You support.  You inspire.  But you do not love.

Unrequited love.  Such love holds no significance to me, for if I love you, I am happy.  With this I am secure.

It is true that you are difficult, cold, and as moody as the unpredictable weather, but when you shine you are the essence of life.  Mt. Ellinor, there are so many incredible places in the world but only in your house do I feel I am home.

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On the topic of ‘unrequited love’ the philosopher Nietzsche had this to say: “indispensable…to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference.”

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