Quite a few years ago, I took a couple semesters of Art History classes. When we studied the paintings of the northern European renaissance, we learned that what looked to the casual eye like a quiet domestic scene, of a woman reading in a window seat, for instance, was actually rich with symbolism in the details. For instance, the type of flowers in the vase next to her had a specific meaning, and the little mouse down in the corner of the painting was symbolic of time. Because time nibbles away at things, just the way a mouse does. Right then, I wanted some day to make a clock out of mice, and call it Tempus Niblit.
Lent is a good time of year to re-examine our relationship with time. As I was working on this, I asked some friends to tell me what eats away at their time in a way they wish it wouldn’t, and I was thinking of their answers as I constructed the piece. Quite a few people mentioned things having to do with technology; from time spent trying to track down computer problems, to the compulsion to be in touch all the time, with email, cell phones, texts, facebook, and so on. More than one person mentioned driving, for others it was housework; dishes, laundry, shopping and cooking. Several people identified worry and fear; worrying about things they can’t control, worrying about what people will think, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of being hurt.
How all these things might be nibbling away at our lives! I’m afraid I don’t have a magic wand to wave to relieve us from all of these little mice. But it seems that the people I know who have the best relationship with time in their lives are people who have put some thought into it. Perhaps they have worked on identifying those thought patterns that start spiraling into worry and fear, and found a way to remember to turn those areas of their life over to God, even if they have to do it over an over again. Some of them have worked out their relationship with technology by setting boundaries around it; devoting a certain part of the day to reading and answering email, and not checking it at other times. And some of them have figured out ways to make the time spent in the car or doing chores into holy time, by listening to podcasts, or praying for each member of the family as they load dirty clothes into the washer, for instance.