Recognizing the territory of time


Time creates a marked boundary, a territory. While it doles out in the abstract, we all have it. Some of us have too much. Still others, not enough. Interesting how something so relative can create a view that is as night is to day.
Here’s a question: Are we chalking up time as a spend or mapping an investment? One thing is for certain, the choice is ours to make. And, only through the lens of heaven’s camera will any of us know what we have parsed.
A favorite poet is William Blake, who lived a contradictory life. He would be wealthy in a world to come, but a pauper in the world which he lived. His words danced invaluably across the pages of history, but were silenced with a cost.
At the time of his death, his wife, Catherine, had to borrow money to bury him. He was laid to rest in an unmarked plot at the Non-Conformist Burnhill Fields in London. I can hear Catherine’s farewell now: “Even in death, he did not gain any territory on earth. Where he lay, he didn’t even own.”
Some labeled William an eccentric, but most thought he was insane. Yet, 200 years later, his words stand the test of time and are the mark of this great man.
“To see the world in a grain of sand and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour,” he wrote.
Those words were likely thought to be frivolous when penned. But living these words in eternity, I am sure he has proved them to be true.
Blake’s belief was in God, the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, angels and saints. Blake was a man who believed that he saw angels and talked to God. He is quoted as saying, “I should be sorry if I had any earthly fame, for whatever natural glory a man has is so much detracted from his spiritual glory. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art. I want nothing whatever. I am quite happy.”
He might have done well not to take a wife. How happy was Mrs. Blake? Did she relish all of his fancy words, his deep thoughts, or his profession as an artist and poet?
As a wife, I am certain that I would be questioning the kind of man I married. I am also certain that I would be echoing the words of the world: “Being a romantic doesn’t pay the bills. Get out and get a job.”
But, William Blake had a job. Although he didn’t realize any immediate dividends, time would be his greatest asset. What he didn’t possess in life would be his gain in a world to come.
He knew no acclaim or commercial success for his poetry or art, unrecognized during his lifetime, posthumously known as an important figure from the Romantic age.
Blake said that when his energies were diverted from his drawing or writing, that his time was being devoured by jackals and hyenas. He knew that time would just be counted, if he didn’t make it count. It seems that he understood that he wasn’t taking up space today, but carving out an enclave for tomorrow.
William Blake lived and worked in truth, providing us with words and imagery that has taken up residence in the hearts of many. It is in that space that we know, we are “holding infinity in the palm of our hands, and eternity in an hour.”
Final brushstroke: Time creates a territory of cost or value. Is what we embrace an asset of any value? Does our legacy yield a moment to behold or offer something previously cast aside?
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