No Clock? What?
Baseball, of course. To be sure I enjoy other sports defined by time and distance. College basketball. Formula One. Track. But baseball is different. For me, it is a constant, a touchstone, and even a spiritual experience.
If she is with me at a game, my wife lives in abject fear of the words “extra innings.” I find those words reassuring. Baseball has to resolve itself in the context of the game. In a game where failure is the rule, nothing changes to decide a winner and loser. There are no concessions to merely make the game end.
I have seen games that were less than 2 hours and more than 5 hours. The game was beautifully the same. What changes in extra innings is the urgency of every play. And still, no clock. For the duration of the game a baseball fan gets to escape the tyranny of time and simply live inside the experience.
For about 20 years, almost every day, I have had a Zen mediation practice. I received my instruction on how to meditate from a Soto Zen Monk. As someone eager to find some calm in my life, I asked the 6’ 4” tall monk, “How do I learn how to meditate?” His response introduced me to the abiding humor and irony in Zen Buddhism. He look down and said, with no change his expression, “Just sit.” He then turned away. Instruction complete.
I adopted his most severe form of mediation as a practice. I just sit, follow my breath and stare into the empty space between a wall and me. With time, meditation does not become easier. It becomes a good habit. Sometimes, when thoughts are a blizzard and the session is a struggle, something surprising happens. Ending the practice in frustration, I look back over my shoulder at a clock. I am sure I have only been sitting for 10 minutes. Often, I have actually been there for over 30 minutes. In the space between my thoughts, no clock.
One cannot retire without knowing you are nearer the end than the beginning. But that’s a thought, a false construct. No one is given a bucket of time that one day runs out. What we have is this moment. I learned this most clearly one morning.
One night I worked late with a dear friend. He was a coworker and then I was his boss. He was brilliant and insane. He introduced me to punk rock and my wife. He was the best man at my wedding. That night, in the bowels of the data center, he was still staring at a computer screen when I left saying simply, “Later dude.” The next morning his fiancé called to tell me that he died in his sleep. His giant brain, raging with amazing thoughts, had turned on him. An aneurism.
We had talked about retiring and going to shows or sitting on his porch drinking a beer just making shit up. That never happened. I had learned with jolting certainty that there is no clock.
So, that is why I call this little thought/communication experiment No Clock. It’s a reminder of 3 of my great loves. It’s a warning that complex things end when they are done, not when I am done. And, in the spirit of Zen it’s an inside joke that comes to you when you make the effort to notice that you are breathing.