⌆ Musing with Yiming: 001 — It's Time

To ponder on calendars, sundial, and Borges

Dear friends,

Our first new moon of 2021 just arrived on Wednesday 12a EST. How is your new year so far? I hope in this seemingly more dissonant, improvised, noisy world, you are in tune with your inner metronome and play in rhythm.

I’ve been thinking about calendars a lot recently. At the beginning of this year, I participated in yoga teacher Nevine Michaan’s zoom calendar workshop. Nevine puts out a calendar and a planner every year. I was given one back in 2019 while doing yoga teacher training. I didn’t understand the meaning behind the gift. Contaminated by contemporary culture, I used to see planners as a tool to get things done. I experimented with many planners, journals, calendars, digital GTD products. I was constantly anxious about missing out on things to do, friends to hang out with, and new information to assimilate. Ideas, anecdotes, excerpts, ambitions piled up in my books, along with accumulated emotions: guilt, bewilderment, tension, and exhaustion.

I start to use my planner and journals differently this year after truly listening to Nevine’s teaching. Instead of using them for dreaming the future or reminiscing the past, they became a tool for mediating my presence. This is a radical perspective shift, although, from the outside, things look similar: tasks are written down and daily reflections are recorded. My inner vision has changed: tasks and journals are meant for making present beats for myself. If beats are right, I’ve got a rhythm of life.

Invent your own calendar, Nevine says, put yourself in the center.

Two years later I finally understood Nevine’s teaching: personal calendar is symbolic for empowerment because it measures time, the ultimate equitable life material; using one’s calendar well means claiming personal power and responsibility.

If you have ever visited Beijing and been to the Palace Museum, You must have passed by the Hall of Supreme Harmony, where the emperors used to hold court and discuss governance. In front of the Hall, there are two objects: a sundial, which measures time, the other called Jialiang, which measures volume.

Emperors didn’t need to time their meetings. Why did they put up a sundial? It was a monument to the divine power: carved out of white marble, it is durable, heavy, unshakable, carrying the wishes that their heavenly bestowed power will last forever.

Sundials are long gone with the old empire. However, new timekeeping monuments have been manufactured to display power over oneself: festivals celebrated by consumerism, our social media personas, engagement-optimized apps, endless streaming watchlist… All of them have their own agendas and all of them want time from you. Be careful with them.

Time is what you make a living out of. Have some DIY spirit and figure out how to use it wisely and joyfully.

Here is a quote from Jorge Luis Borges:

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges.”

If you want to leave more time for yourself to think about time, I would recommend you read Borges. Borges, like most great artists, sculpts and polishes time into mirrors for us to gaze upon and to recognize where we are standing in our world. There are many ways for our poor little mind to understand time: trying to decipher quantum physics, or losing in philosophical maze, or getting hocussed by occultists… But for me, only beauty, discovered through art and nature, releases butterflies in my chest. Remember in Goethe’s Faust, what’s the forbidden words to end Faust’s life(time)?

Verweile doch! du bist so schön! — Stay a while! You are so beautiful!

Time, is a very human thing, personal yet universal, poetic yet political. To ponder on time is to contemplate our earthy existence. What freezes time? What bends time? What amplifies time? What goes beyond time?

That’s all I could say for this time. It has to end with beauty.