Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Mexican Time/Gringo Time

Amidst the busy-ness of daily life, we received an inspiring and impressive email from our friend Dagen, who is currently in Mexico, having successfully created a life in which he is living three to six months of the year here in New England and the remainder in Central Mexico. As the house which he purchased is repaired, the land reinforced, terraced, and walled with stone, Dagen has realized that the pace of the culture is seeping into his bones. He writes:

"The most obvious change that has occurred in my perception of reality here has been my conception of time. I noticed it when I was in the colorful public market standing in line for some roast chicken. By the time I got to the head of the line, an hour had passed by and I hadn't even noticed it fly by. And all I was doing was standing and watching. This is new for me. And since that day I have been far away from the demands of the clock. It is a new practice for me to allow whole pieces of a day to breeze by with nothing to account for other than a readiness for the next adventure. When I have no appointments I live by the time of the sun - morning, mid-day, evening, night. I am finally learning to 'allow' my day to unfold instead of measuring it by my output of productivity. I still get things done but now they seem to get done on their own, in their own time. Instead of doing, I am letting doing be done."

For me, this epistle sums up what I feel is missing in my lifestyle. It isn't just time, it's the notion that one can choose to lessen one's awareness of time. I spend so much of my day intently tuned into the clock and roped into the vicissitudes of following its dictates. I long for a lifestyle in which the clock doesn't rule my every action and thought. Everything I do from Monday until Friday is ruled by the clock's domineering hands. It may seem idealistic to overcome this most modern of afflictions, but I know that it's possible, however it seems wholly impossible in the current chapter of my life. Dagen continues:

"I give thanks daily for being in a world where I admire the people and am captivated by the culture. But I have forsaken something in this transition and I feel afloat in a universe of new and unknown possibilities. I no longer have that sense of building a life or a career. I no longer look forward for more than a day or two. I no longer make my goals my taskmaster. Something new is happening to me here and I can't quite pin it down. I miss my compulsive, frantic quest for career success that has been my ally for so much of my life; but on second thought, thanks for the memories! I'm ready for all of this, I know good things are coming, I believe in my dreams, it's just hard being between two realities, on my own. Writing this dispatch is a way for me to connect with 200+ friends and acquaintances, giving me a semblance of connection."

I wrote Dagen that I'm so pleased for him, and can truly see what he's doing as a model for others wishing to do the same. I also feel concern for how it will be for him when he continues to return to the US to earn some money, and the inevitable culture shock returning to the States can surely bring. In response to my concerns, he added:

"I am very curious myself about my return trip this time. Either things will work for me or I am ready this time to move down here full time......I might need to use you as a compassionate ear to help me figure this one out."

My ear is ready to listen to the tribulations of our friend as he engages fully in being a person living in two cultures, two distinct realities. For someone as creative and open-hearted as Dagen, I imagine he'll find the right balance.

Carlos Fuentes wrote in A New Time for Mexico (1996): "The Mexican manana does not mean putting things off till the morrow. It means not letting the future intrude on the sacred completeness of today. There is nothing more distant, I agree, from the Anglo-Saxon sense of expediency---and nothing more attractive, either, to the Anglo-Saxon rebel."

Can this Anglo-Saxon rebel---and others like him---find the path to such a way of being? Mired in the trappings of North American life and all it demands, this is highly unlikely, lest one rid oneself of desire for material comforts to which we are all more or less addicted.

For myself, as Mary just reminded me as she drifts off to sleep beside me, each day is a gift, for better or for worse. It's your life---you choose, blessing or curse. The modern curse is the slicing of the day's pie into 24 segments to which we're tethered. How we use those hours is the measure of our ability to confront time and its limitations with joy and wonder.
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