It’s about time

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel praying with his feet alongside Dr. Martin Luther King (Google images)

I hope you’re blessed like I am with dear old friends, by old I mean knowing them for over 40 years. Usually there are two things that come up each time we get to be face-to-face. The first is we feel that no time has passed between the time we’ve seen each other, and the second is when we stare at each other’s gray heads and wonder where the time has gone.

Like many, I’ve taken time for granted, working, parenting, fixing, traveling, and on. For all of our lives, we’re constantly moving through space doing and getting things done. I’ve constantly complained about never having enough time, rushing through space, feeling exhausted.

Nowadays, besides my family, time is my most precious commodity. I’ve learned to respect time and to try and get the most of it to the best of my diminished capabilities.

It wasn’t until I read the work of the Jewish teacher and sage Abraham Joshua Heschel called “Shabbat ” that I learned the difference between space and time. If you’re not familiar with his work, you may have seen a picture of him walking arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King during the freedom March when he said he was praying with his feet. In the book, he put me back in touch with the true meaning of Shabbat. Its the seventh day when we’re told to rest. He says the first six days are for going through space, but Shabbat is about time; focusing on rest, reflection and rejuvenation. Mary Ann and I decided we’d take Shabbat more seriously and not run errands or feel obligated to get yet another chore done. Instead, we learned to take advantage of the morning, read, put the chore list aside, take the dogs out, have an early cocktail and a leisurely evening. Mind you, we’re not orthodox so our guidelines are a bit more lax in strict observance of Shabbat do’s and don’ts. Our engagement with Shabbat was all about respect for how to use time.

These days, I think more about how to make use of time rather than space. Much of it is not knowing how much time I have to use my fingers to type this blog, or speak understandably, or how long I can enjoy eating take-out. (I have to admit I have been ordering out more than I have before.) And I’m trying to write this blog as much as possible. I’m also finding that though Mary Ann and I love to have our friends and family visit, we also need to make time for each other lately. It’s all about time.

Soon I’ll be hitting two years since my symptoms first started and much has happened since. I’m wondering what life looks like for me in a year from now, but I try not to dwell on it, though of late, I’m being asked to make decisions unimaginable two years ago, each with its own impact on myself or my family. It is an in-your-face lesson in being mortal. We are all mortal and that’s the toughest reality I’m facing.

I don’t want to end this and walk away on a down note. There are two ALS folks who are inspirational. A young woman named LoLo who was diagnosed at age 14 and has already been a model and an actress. Her message is that living should never be diminished because of disability. Another is former 49’er Bob Green who, stricken by ALS has written over 30 books, some using an eye tracking device to type out the words.

There are decisions we have to make on how we use our time and take it from someone who has turned a cliche into reality by being hit by the proverbial bus that its not just time that’s precious but it’s how we use it. Do we just go through space or use our time to enjoy the rest of life with the goal to make ourselves feel we’ve truly had an unregrettably full life. We all need our own form of Shabbat.

19 thoughts on “It’s about time

  1. Yes, so true to make the most of each moment and live in the present, no lists. Keep reminding us, Harry! See you a week from tomorrow.


  2. You teach us such valuable life lessons, Harry. We do take time for granted, yet you crystallizet the need to reflect on our choices we make as to the expenditure of our moments. You are indeed a person who has come to appreciate your days and everything contained therein. Thanks, teach. You are an nspiration.


  3. I look forward to your entries. Thank you for sharing the difficulties and the insights. Since it’s shabbat today, Shabbat Shalom.


  4. Hi Harry. I enjoyed and appreciated reading your post. Although our religious backgrounds are different, our spiritual beliefs are so convergent.
    Time is a precious gift, and truly one of the few things that is equally distributed to everyone on a daily basis. How one chooses to use it, is where there is there are great differences. I admire your appreciation of time, and your gratitude for life and attitude on how to live it. I guess you are a Buddhist after all. Seriously though, I always enjoy spending time with you, just wish I had more. I look forward the next time I see you. Love, Denny


  5. Hey Harry, this is a very well written and insightful piece. I’m so sorry you’ve been dealt the hand that you have, but I am glad that you are focused on maximizing the time you have and the quality of that time.

    For those of us lucky enough to be healthy this is another reminder of what really matters in life. Thank you!


  6. Hi Harry,

    Thank you for this poignant and well-written piece.

    I am so sorry you have been dealt this hand but I am happy for you that you are maximizing the time you have and especially the quality of your time.

    For those of us lucky enough to be blessed with good health, how you are dealing with your situation and your insights are reminders what matters most in life. Thank you.🙏😘


  7. My sweet friend, such beautiful, thought provoking writing. Your earnest attempt to gently take us along on your journey is such an act of generosity and grace. No one wants to talk much about death and here comes Hesh beating his proverbial drum! You have infiltrated my days and I love you and am honored to call YOU my friend.


  8. Hi Harry — I just read your piece on Tikvah but thought it appropriate to comment here. I didn’t know you’ve served on two boards and that’s a pleasant piece of info.

    Have I ever mentioned ny “out-of-body” experience to you? It occurred in 1977, as I recall, not that long before we met. It was life-changing for me.


  9. Harry, this was so beautifully written. I’ve been working with a Pilates instructor and yesterday she asked me what I wanted to get out of my sessions, which are sporadic. She commented that I would make progress if I were more dedicated. This got me thinking. I had a sudden insight that so often I am going through life on automatic pilot. I don’t know how much time I have left. I am a baby boomer and the notion that mortality is real is starting to sink in. I was struck by how you and Mary Ann take time to honor time. Thanks so much for your beautiful post. Sending you lots of love.


  10. Hesh,
    I look forward to each and every visit. You amaze me and I feel honoured to have you as a friend. We look forward to this coming weekend!


  11. Really wish I could be there. Will be in California at the end of the year. We’ll get together then. Love you Harry.


  12. Harry, you have always inspired me, even more so now.

    So much in appreciation of you and Mary Ann.

    Love, Julia


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