It Just Sifts

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Oil on Canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York CitySalvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Oil on Canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York City

Time is a complex concept. Some phrases that come to mind in reference to time are “running out of time”, “not the right time”, “biding time” and “asking for time”. We are a society who seems to always be running out of time, or asking for more time, but what does it actually mean to ask for more time?

The simplest and perhaps most concrete way we ask for time is with a deadline or an assignment. In this case, time is a structure. The answer to a request for more time on a project for work is a one-way street, a yes or no answer, Box A or Box B. Yes, there is one more day before the presentation to complete this project, or no, the presentation starts in five minutes so there is no more time. But what are we asking when we ask a person for more of their own time?

Regina Spektor’s Buildings is a song about a woman who drinks too much at a party, perhaps habitually. Her partner drives her home and patiently cares for her. In the regret of her hangover he tells her it’s okay, but she feels guilty for her words or actions, and she asks him for more time, begging for time, calling it a gift. While Regina says he would give her time, she follows up with, “Time is not given and time is not taken It just sifts through its sift”.

So, what does it mean to beg someone for the gift of time? We don’t have the power to create any more time than the twenty-four hours in each day no matter how much we beg, so what are we really asking for? Regina Spektor tells the story of a person who is asking more time of her partner to pull herself together after a night of drinking too much. She is asking her partner to give her time to revert to a more appealing version of herself. She is asking him to be patient with her, and to not hold this piece of time against her. Although we cannot give the gift of more time, we can give the gift of patience, and that’s almost the same thing.

Practicing patience occupies a great deal of time. Patience is staying up late hashing out the details of your partner’s bad day when you would rather be asleep, or purposely leaving late for work so you were able to jump a friend’s car battery. Patience is letting your older relative retell the same stories over and over again, or allowing your young child to complete a task on their own even when you would rather do it faster, and neater. Patience isn’t convenient, but it patience shows that we care more for the person than the amount of time it takes to show them that we care.

“Time is not given and time is not taken It just sifts through its sift.” In the grand scheme of things, we don’t have the power to give anyone any more time, nor can we choose to take it away at will. Time passes of its own accord, sifting through its own sift. Whether we enjoy how we spend time or not, it goes on. Our power lies in our abilities to make the most of the time we are given, and to slow down and share as much time as we can with those we love.

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