Saturday, May 16, 2015

Life Goes On

Time passes differently in Narnia...
In my family we’re big fans of the Narnia series of books by C S Lewis. Over the last year or so my five year old daughter and I have been working through the books at bedtimes, and we’re currently reading the Silver Chair which is the penultimate story in the series.

We love the drama, imagery and methaphor in the books, the simple truths and acute observations. We particularly love the character of Aslan, and my daughter confessed the other day that she’d tried getting into Narnia by climbing into her wardrobe. By all accounts she was pretty disappointed that it didn’t work. I suspect that many of us over the years have done the same thing!
"Life goes on in Narnia very differently to our own world"
A key feature of the stories is that Narnia time is not the same as time in our own world. When Peter, Diggory, Lucy or Eustace return from their adventures in Narnia they find that no time at all has passed since they left. But each time they find themselves in Narnia again time there has passed very differently – sometimes hundreds of years have gone by since their last visit. Life goes on in Narnia very differently to our own world.

Have you ever been so tired that you’ve slept much longer than you realised? It’s only happened to me a few times, mainly when I’m very jet lagged and I’ve woken up late into the day or even the evening! 

Funnily enough as I get older I’m becoming an increasingly early riser. Sure, I think having kids awake at the crack of dawn has something to do with it, but I do find that I’m at my most productive in the morning. If I’ve got a big piece of work to finish in the office I’ve learnt that it’s much more effective for me to go into the office earlier than stay later. I guess it’s a function of my circadian rhythms.

Are we sleepwalking through life?
As a student it was a different story – I stayed up later and got up much later. Sleeping in was the norm rather than the exception. As a result my productivity in the mornings was drastically affected. 

These days I have to hold myself back from mowing the lawn before 8am at the weekends and get frustrated when I can’t get going on my task list first thing – the day marches on, and while our neighbours sleep in I want to be making progress!

As much as life goes on while we sleep, there are times when we sleepwalk our way through life. Going through the motions and not necessarily paying attention to where we’re going. 

In a counter-intuitive way, we can often be so busy with the demands of our work or family that days, weeks, months and years can go by in a blur without us especially paying attention to our direction or to what’s around us. I hear stories of fathers who spend their lives working so hard to provide for their family that without meaning to they miss out on playing a bigger part in family life. Life goes on without them in a way. As Dolly Parton sagely said “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”.
"...there are times when we sleepwalk our way through life"
Rob Parsons puts it a different way in The Sixty Minute Father, saying that we kid ourselves into thinking a slower day is coming. The challenge for all of us is to wake up to the most important things in our lives rather than simply sleepwalk through our usual routines and busyness.

Are you frozen in time?
Every now and then a news story will catch my eye about something that’s been discovered that’s been preserved by ice. For instance in Siberia the other year a 39000 year old woolly mammoth was found remarkably well preserved, right down to hair, skin and muscle. 

Reading a book about climbing expeditions up Mount Everest I discovered that the frozen bodies of missing climbers are often found decades after their disappearance. It’s not quite Narnia but life also goes on while things are frozen in time.

There are times when my habits or thinking have been stuck in the past, somehow frozen to a particular set of circumstances. My most recent example has been what I’ve been clothing myself in for my regular run-commute to the train station. Over the winter I layer up with gloves, hat, coat and long trousers so that I stay warm for the 1.8mile journey to catch my train. This is fine during the winter, but I found myself this year wearing far too many layers as spring has blossomed and temperatures have been distinctly milder. 

Despite my circumstances changing I’ve persisted in my usual routine. Maybe you’ve found this too, until that alarm clock moment when you’ve woken up to the fact that life’s moved on, seasons have changed and you need to take action. Perhaps your dreams have thawed out. Practically speaking I don’t need my coat or gloves in the mornings anymore!
"There are times when my habits or thinking have been stuck in the past, somehow frozen to a particular set of circumstances"
I’m well aware that we all suffer loss, trauma and setback in our life which can leave us frozen and numb in many ways. As we go through the cycle of grief there’s a real tension between “business as usual” and allowing ourselves enough time to process and heal. Life does go on, but sometimes we’ve got to allow ourselves to go on a bit of a detour before we catch up with everyone else. For me, one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is how to keep functioning well following setbacks and disappointments. That can be a slow process if I’m honest, but I think it’s ok and probably even healthy that we have wintry seasons in our lives. Hibernation is an important self-preservation technique for many animals, where life does indeed go on but at a much reduced metabolic rate. Watching a documentary about sharks last week I learnt that the Greenland shark (which lives in the extremely cold seas beneath the Arctic) has such a low metabolic rate that it can live for 200 years.

Whether you’ve been having wonderful adventures in Narnia, whether you’ve been sleepwalking through life, or even if you’ve been in hibernation, is there something you need to wake up to right now? Perhaps you’re still layered up for winter and the season has changed. There could be people, circumstances or opportunities that you need to pay attention to. Life goes on, and the more present we are in the midst of it, the richer life we’ll lead. 
" there something you need to wake up to right now?"


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Unknown said...

Love this line - Life goes on, and the more present we are in the midst of it, the richer life we’ll lead. Thank you for this thought-provoking post containing such an important message. Thanks for linking it up to #bigfatlinky

Martyn Kitney said...

Love this post for many reasons. I adore the Narnia series and you'll love the concept of the next book the Last Battle. It's got some really thought provoking ideas in it. Also loved that you mentioned the Rob parsons book. I love all of her books and reading this instantly reminded me of that so am glad he got a mentions. It's difficult living in our time and not realising that within that there is things out of our time that can easily be fluttered away. I try to live in the now and embrace what we have but it's difficult because in life as in time things seem to have a habit of their own. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week