Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Chased By Time

More than ever I feel chased by time. Hounded like a quarry desperate to find an escape hole, away from the merciless fangs biting at my heels. And yet time is relentless, coming in many forms, like the news of a sudden and premature death or in images of a stable country disintegrating into social chaos, reminding us constantly that nothing ever stays the same: that sooner or later we all succumb to the inexorable force of change.

Meanwhile, nothing manifests the working of time more than the Twitter timeline, the repository of practically all of human's activities, events, thoughts, opinions, hopes and dreams in uncountable, simultaneous and constant conversations. Once connected Online, you're part of that journey that measures existence in terms of neverending updates, giving us the impression that we're all heading somewhere and very fast, like suicidal lemings.

So it's nice once in a while to hop off the speeding train of the virtual world and travel in the fashion where your feet actually scrape the ground and the space you breathe in is not crowded with incessant chatter but has the aroma of fresh air that only nature could produce. Of course, here time too still moves, but when you're on the slopes of a mountain or picking your steps along the edge of a lake, the most perceptible change you can discern are the movements of the clouds or the lengthening of the shadows as the sun travels across the sky. The mountain and the lake on the other hand, have a permanence that are more or less infinite, at least as far as you're concerned.

Brought out in the open air, Time no longer chases you with unfinished business, and half-uttered sentences. It doesn't catch you unaware with plans that are never realised and dreams that will never see the light of day. Nor hopefully will it trap you in the embrace of a sudden and unwelcome death, when you're least ready or willing. Because when you're out in the midst of nature, not cloistered in some artificial air conditioned cocoon, physically confined yet mentally dispersed, something falls into place and you realise it is the balance that you've lost all this time. A life of constant connection that ironically disconnects you from truly living. Where time is not a brutal hunter bent on devouring you, but a faithful companion who keeps you in good cheer.

And what is this true living? It is easy to find out. The body will recognise it even if you yourself fail to do so at first. It is putting yourself in the arms of Mother Nature, the places where human hands have had least the least intervention in their shaping, building and constructing and where the turbulences of human passions and emotions have their least pollutive effect. Lose yourself in the majesty of a mountain for instance, as you hike or scale the slopes, following the narrow path between the pine trees and see how long your daily anxieties last before they evaporate with the morning dew. While turning your face towards the sun on a clear day, feeling its gentle rays upon your cheeks, is the only remedy you need to soothe a troubled mind or chase away that angry thought.

You realise then that the fresh and clean air that enters your lung is all you need to keep you healthy and in good spirits and nothing beats a couple of hours of vigorous walk outdoors amongst the fields, the flowers and the trees or on the pebbles by a lake or the sand on the sea shore to give you a renewed lease on life. Because at the end of the day, we, our human body and soul actually need but only simple things to sustain us and keep us balanced. The body is made to be moved while the soul craves for nothing more other than peace. Even when it comes to nourishment our stomach desires not for fancy refined or processed food, but wholesome, fresh and nutritious things.

And yet the irony is, we have to forcefully extricate ourselves from our normal surrounding in order to regain what should be our true state of being. To pause in the midst our daily life that consists of constantly defying what is most natural for us, in cities such as ours that grow less and less fit for human habitation and take us further from the simplicity of our life's needs. The best things in life are free, they say, but not so anymore. These days you have to pay quite a bit in order to be able to breathe air that is unpolluted, stretch your legs in spaces that are unconfined, enjoy views unblemished by human debris and swim in waters that are so clear you could see the bottom.

For simplicity is alien in this sprawling metropolis where people have to jostle for the smallest space, where being outdoors is to choke in polluted air and where we're in constant danger of being drowned in our own waste products or consumed by our self-inflicted diseases. Here, even nature is unfriendly, coming in the forms that destroy and overwhelm us, becoming not our guardian but our enemy, where even the very air itself is toxic, the waters dangerous, the earth untrustworthy and the mountains angry. While nature's silence becomes a prison that breeds mindless chatter, idle thoughts and pointless emotions.

While life itself becomes menacing time that chases us, pursuing us relentlessly and hounds us to exhaustion until at some point, no longer able to escape, we succumb to it.

(Desi Anwar: First Published in The Jakarta Globe)

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