Emanating from a cathedral in the center of Rome, a line of ten thousand people stretches radially outward, like the hand of a giant clock, out to the edge of the city, and beyond. Yet these pilgrims are directed inward, not out. They are waiting to enter the Temple of Time. They are waiting to bow to the Great Clock. They do not glance at their watches, for they do not own watches. And as they wait, they seem oblivious to the passage of time. Watches and clocks are forbidden, except for the Great Clock in the Temple of Time. Inside the temple, twelve pilgrims stand in a circle around the Great Clock, one for each hour mark. The pilgrims chant with each period of the pendulum, with each minute subtracted from their lives. This is their sacrifice. This procession continued for centuries. Long ago, before the Great Clock, time was measured by changes in heavenly bodies: the slow sweep of stars, the arc of the sun and light, the waxing and waning of the moon, tides and seasons. Time was measured by heartbeats, the rhythms of drowsiness and sleep, the recurrence of hunger, the menstrual cycles of women, the duration of loneliness. Then, in a small town in Italy, the first clock was built. It was magical, it was unbearable, it was outside natural law. Yet it could not be ignored. Now, every action is no longer free. For all people know that in a certain cathedral in the center of Rome swings a massive bronze pendulum that measures out their lives. And each person knows that at some time he must confront the loose intervals of his life, must pay homage to the Great Clock. For they must watch measured that which should not be measured…..Alan Lightman
the soul is the final ticking….the end game of the quest….an indestructible witness to our measured breath…..this introspection guards us against the entanglement of deep illusion…sweet listening to the infinite realm allows us to hold each other close…..breath to breath with the ticking of the clock…..
Recently, I was in Sausalito, looking at the sculpted hills against the morning sky. As happens, things begin to speak. This is what I heard:
We can grow by simply listening, the way the tree on
that ridge listens its branches
to the sky, the way blood
listens its flow to the site
of a wound, the way you
listen like a basin when
my head so full of grief
can’t look you in the eye.
We can listen our way out
of howling, the way the heart
can soften the wolf we keep
inside. We can last by listening
deeply, the way roots
listen for the next inch of
earth, the way the old turtle
listens all he hears into the
pattern of his shell…..
That morning, my understanding of listening expanded and I was reshaped yet again. Just as we can’t see all the phases of the moon on any one night, we can’t hear the phases of truth or the heart unless we listen for how the truth of feeling grows full and dark and full again over time. Patience, the art of waiting, is the heart-skill that opens the world. I’m discovering after all these years that listening deeply over time is one uninterrupted growing- one continuous act. In this way, the tree on that ridge bending to the wind till it grows to the bend is how it listens over time. And in the act of receiving our darkest cries, the heart begins to soften the howl of our wound. The old turtle is mastered by time, until moving at the pace of being is how it listens. Loving you over time, I take you in, until watching you sleep in the hammock is enough to break my heart into blossom……Mark Nepo