Time spent in the hourglass
Unlike most other methods of measuring time, the hourglass represents the present time between the past and the future. This has made it an enduring symbol of time itself.
The hourglass, sometimes with the addition of metaphorical wings, is often depicted as a symbol that human existence is fleeting, and that the “sands of time” will run out for every life. It was used on pirate flags, to strike fear in the hearts of the pirates victims. In England, hourglasses were sometimes placed in coffins, and they have graced gravestones for centuries.
“Sands of time” also represent my personal journey through the hourglass. The bulb shape at the top, is my childhood and the earlier years of my life. The narrow middle, is my working life, raising kids, buying a house, all the striving parts. The bulb at the bottom, is where I am at the moment, after completing most of the journey. The two bulbs have many things in common, there expanded for a reason. They represent the parts of life where freedom without fear mostly exist. The younger “childlike self” and at the bottom of the hourglass an older more “eccentric” self . Around the narrow middle, is the most problematic part, where most of the problems reside.
Top of the hourglass.
Bumps, bruises and broken bones were an integral part of childhood. Out of the house first thing in the morning, with the only rule “be home before the street lights come on.” Experimentation, exploration and innovation, the freedom to discover and freedom to make mistakes, without fear of failure. A self sufficient world, where the only boundaries were the street lights. Physical boundaries are generally more restricted now, but technology allows freedom, if it’s used in the right way. The fear of failure is often taken away as modern parents in general, are far more conscientious than previous generations. Fathers are far more hands on, than fathers once were. Mothers, even though they spend more time working, tend to nurture children more.
Parents are more concerned about their children, because the sense of community is not as strong as it once was. They make conscious decisions, to protect their children because of concerns that the public realm has become more hostile. “When I look back at the freedom of childhood, which in a way is infinite, and all the joy and happiness, now lost. I sometimes think that childhood is where the real meaning of life is located, and that we as adults are it’s servants-that that’s our purpose” (Karl Ove Knausgaard). Parents have always wanted their children to succeed in life, with different value judgements, but trying to arrive at the same objective. “Values” are learned in a different way now, one example is, that children earn money for doing chores that once had to be done for free.
Middle of the hourglass.
Go to work, send your kids to school, follow fashion, walk on the pavement, watch TV, save for old age, obey the law. Repeat after me. Modern electronic gadgets, the internet, and other 21st-century trends, have conditioned people not to think for themselves. Everything is at the push of a button, meaning that less brainpower is needed to accomplish tasks. Electronic media is all pervasive and does most of the thinking. The childhood mistakes that used to be made are sins now, because everyone is terrified of failing.
Watching directors cuts of friends on face book and imagining it’s real, but in reality, life is unedited. Money status and power is an important tool of social media. Attempting to make people discontented and unhappy, with the only cure being, consumption.
As children we learned to overcome the fear of mistakes, as it was essential to learning. We tried to walk, fell over a hundred times, hurt ourselves, but at no point did we ever say, walking is not for me and give up. In the middle part of life, we seem to reach a point where we’re afraid to fail. “I’m such a loser” we tell ourselves, as mistakes make us feel unworthy, so avoiding failure at all costs. If younger people are doing OK and older people say there isn’t anything to be afraid of, what’s going on in the middle?
Peoples fears of aging reach a fever pitch in midlife, which is evident by the most popular punchline “midlife crises.” The problem is compounded by a comparison driven society, where we postpone happiness till the future. While not being aware, that what we are waiting for, may be something we ultimately, don’t want.
Bottom of the hourglass.
Nobody cares too much down at the bottom of the hourglass, we’re just an afterthought. “First they ignore you then they laugh at you then you win” Gandhi. Those physical boundaries are back again, only this time, in our bodies, but we can stay out after the “street lights come on though. ” Feelings of Superiority and Inferiority where I was always comparing myself to others, is gone now. I’m getting used to a feeling of interiority where I don’t need to compare myself with anyone else, with no fear of failure and a renewed sense of self sufficiency. I’m 65 now, the problem with that chronological number is, it doesn’t fit my internal age, I still feel young on the inside, with thoughts that hopefully don’t let me down.
I should mention death, after all that’s the reality of being down the bottom of the hourglass. I thought I may be terrified but it turns out I’m not. There’s probably a good reason for that, obviously, not something unique to me. Childlike now eccentric, freedom to explore, now freedom to contemplate. I have been adventurous and willing to take risks and had a measure of freedom in my working life. I think it helps me be adaptable, and an independent thinker. Which in turn, makes me aware of all the possibilities available to me. When I get really bored, I like to drive to the local supermarket, find a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m going to leave soon. Freedom.