Time is a precious treasure that cannot be replaced or returned. It is a gift that, once opened, will only end with the cessation of our mortal life. As St. Augustine (354-430) notes, “Indeed, we cannot truly say that time exists except in the sense that it tends towards non-existence.” (1) How then do we properly manage our personal time? How do we give our time value and, ultimately, immortality so that its lessons can be utilized by our grandchildren? In my experience, as a 63-year-old man, the most important part of time is to realize its intrinsic value and to truly understand that it is irreplaceable. It is not like money or beauty (Yes, even beauty can be restored: hence the abundance of plastic surgery clinics). It is slipping away before our very eyes like gold or sand through our fingers on a beach.
Food is the elixir of life: the better the quality, the better the joy and satiation. This enjoyment of the table has a long pedigree. Our Roman ancestors were renowned for their culinary expertise. Marcus Apicius (1) was a well-known gourmand of the 1st century AD who revolutionized the art of gastronomy due to his inventiveness and creativity. According to the philosopher and statesman Seneca (4 BC-65 AD), this chef was so dedicated to his creations that, when he realized his fortune had been voided by his devotion to his cuisine, he committed suicide rather than live in poverty: certainly a touch extreme.
I believe in anthropomorphism: animals have feelings and human qualities. The more theological quest for the soul, I will leave to the learned people involved in these issues. When I was six, I had a bantam rooster by the name of Charlie. He was only twelve inches tall (30.5 centimeters), but he thought that he was a giant. He controlled his flock of hens tenaciously, fending off the intrusions of the much larger Rhode Island Red roosters. Charlie, however, as do many seemingly powerful people, suffered from an advanced state of hubris and constantly forgot who he truly was.
The frustration a young man expressed to me the other day is endemic to us all, I am sure. He had chosen a path of study, but upon arriving there had come to discover that it was absolutely not to his liking – not his chosen métier. Now what? He has told his friends, his parents, his classmates — he had, in fact, told the whole world. Put yourself “in his shoes,” as they say. You now feel imprisoned by your own words. How can I possibly embarrass everyone (meaning myself) by withdrawing from school? How can I move from law to art history? It is a dilemma that we most certainly all face: how do you tell your betrothed, for example, as you approach the marriage ceremony that the one you actually love is not you — hard if not impossible to do.
The iconic traveler traverses life’s path aspiring to arrive at his destination. Along the way, he (1) encounters many frustrations and challenges. Why does the traveler not stop and discontinue his journey – why not make a placid life and forget that ambition, that need? Simply put: he can’t — something drives him on. But there are many days that he himself does not know why he pushes onward. Some force, some hidden resolve, resides in his breast and whips him forward. That power is the belief that, in all men, there is a mission: an intrinsic obligation comprised of something mystical and magical that must be completed before the end. What does that energy want? What is the traveler to uncover? Initially, he cannot fully comprehend his calling, but much like the layers of an onion, each time a piece is peeled away, the underlying flesh is whiter and clearer – an understanding develops.