Three Ways To Be A Better Time Traveler

People spend fifty minutes a day on Facebook. And, Facebook wants more. 

Our society now spends more time on Facebook and watching television programs (2.8 hours a day) than any other leisure activity.


The typical person reads 19 minutes a day. 

We exercise 17 minutes a day. Attend social activities four minutes a day. 

We now attend to Facebook nearly as long as we spend time eating and drinking: 1.07 hours per day.  

And what about YouTube? We average 17 minutes on that platform a day. Add the 50 Facebook minutes, and the nearly 3 hours of television and Ray Bradbury's prophetic vision doesn't seem too far off. 

We even have a new "unofficial" syndrome: "Internet Addiction Disorder." 

"Time has become the holy grail of digital media."

C.S. Lewis once lamented our modern tendency to annihilate space with machines. We speed over hills and dales with our motorcars. We hop a train from Philly to New York (or Oxford to London). We blur the world. 

And now, we've done the same with time. We annihilate it daily, blurring from APP to APP, scrolling up, playing, skimming. Why do you think bloggers use bold formatting? So you, the reader, can quickly skim to the important sentences. Ah! Caught you! 

Time measures our existence. Time never stops moving, clipping off pieces of eternity by the second, minute, hour, day, week. We travel through time; on ahead, into the future. But we cannot go back in time. We cannot bend the continuum backwards. 

I've been thinking about this post for some time (pun partially intended). In my contemplation, I've come up with three ways we can become better time travelers. 

1. Don't step on the sunshine

Many of you are already shaking your heads, in total agreement. You've been thinking about it for some time, but didn't want to say anything. 

You see, each morning when we wake up sunshine lays in the back yard, on the fence posts, and even in our bedrooms. And without thinking about it, you and I dash off, trampling the sunshine without even thinking. It's unbelievable, really. 

There it is, the day, spread all over our floor. From heaven to our carpet. And, over there, our smartphone sits, dormant on the counter. If we could just get there before we brush our teeth. 

But what if ... what if we hopscotched the sunshine, bouncing from shadow to shadow, following the rays until we reached the back yard?

And, once there, what if walked the shadows; around the lawn, into the bushes, beneath the trees? All the while roaming the darker pieces of light, chasing the sunshine? 

George Sayer, a friend of C.S. Lewis, said that Lewis used to love to wake up and roam "the garden" in the early morning; praying, thanking, noticing God's beauty--looking out for the sunshine.

What if we noticed light coming through and into the trees and grass, spreading among the patio furniture?

There, the light moves, even while resting on the boughs of my gum tree.

"That must be what they call wind, moving the limbs from shadow to shine."

Time, it seems to be moving less quickly.

"I still have time for another French press, maybe read that passage the pastor talked about yesterday--what was it again?" 

We must be close to a black hole or something. The years are passing all around me, but here I am nearly standing still in the shadows.

"But wait, wouldn't this moment last longer if I INSTAGRAM'D it. Yes of course!" 

But no! There we go, dashing off cutting through shadows across the sunshine, warping our time travel continuum!  

You see how it works. It's quite obvious, really. Don't step on the sunshine. 

2. Don't Feed the space Trolls!

I feel silly even suggesting this one because we all know what these little devils are: the blunt ogres of massness. You know, those demons that strip out the intricacies and uniqueness of everything beautiful, which is quite nearly everything. 

It's common knowledge that Space Trolls love to dupe us into thinking more is better, big is better, better is better, mass-produced is better. 

They are the monsters of craft. They spew lies. 

"Don't waste your time on that. It's too expensive and you can get the same thing at Target for half the price."

They embed annihilation in their tongue whips. They are the time pragmatists. Don't waste it. Use it. Utilize, utilize, utilize. If it takes more time than an Amazon I-Click Buy gesture, it takes too long. 

See how they combine their doctrine of massness with time management? 

Gerard Manly Hopkins said these brutes employ "strokes of havoc." Hopkins proposed we tune our lives to the creative energy that binds things together. He called this "intress," the opposite of distress or coinherence--where everything falls apart. 

This creative energy? From God. Hopkins suggested that when we see the world as held together by this kind of magic energy from God then we will see the unique pattern in everything. 

Of course this kind of unique takes time. We can't just wake up and bump from Starbucks to work to the gym, seeing our day as check-off-list of general things. 

Rather, we must see the specificity of things. This is where beauty begins. And Space Trolls want nothing more than to make everything into large stinking clumps of blandness. 

You feed them when you bump along with them. You defeat them when you turn their strokes of havoc into present furies of focused fascination with all God gives us. 

Some call this ... "WONDER." 

3. Chase The Windhovers

This is the secret sauce of Time Travel. So, listen up. 

A few months ago I was on my way to Oxford to prepare for my doctoral defense. I sat in the iconic red English bus, heading from Cumnor Village to Oxford City Center, reading a poem by Hopkins. Not the one all the hipsters love. This one is called "The Windhover."

I read the poem at least three times, whispering it aloud so to hear the Hopkins-brilliant undulating rhythm. 

But, what is a "windhover"? Of course, from the avian context, I knew it to be a bird. But what bird? 

"Excuse me," I said to the quiet English madame sitting beside me. She too was reading, I think it was Jane Eyre. "I'm reading this poem by Hopkins ..." I mentioned the poet so as to score a point or two with my English cousin. 

"Ah yes. Brilliant."

Point scored.

"Yes, it's wonderful. Tell me, do you know what kind of bird the Windhover is?"

"Right, yes, the windhover ..."

She paused before she answered. She took her, time. (See No.1!)

"Yes, I believe it's a common kestral."

Of course, while she was thinking I asked Google. (refer to No.2!)

She was correct. 

The Windhover is an English common kestral (Falco tinnunculus). 

And so, read here as I divulge the secret sauce. If you don't like poetry, please, would you mind? Indulge me, be you ever so kind. (If you cannot, just skip the poem, I'll summarize below. (See No.1!)

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon in
his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he hung upon the rein of a wimpling wind
In his ecstasy! Then off, off forth on swing, 
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-end: the hurl and
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, --the achieve of, the mastery of a thing!

And there it is. Hopkins, somewhere perhaps on the Wales countryside, caught a moment outside of time. 

Outside of in the sense that it was outside the daily routine. You know, when you notice something almost by accident. Like hummingbirds taking turns on some succulent as you wait for your friends at a rest area somewhere along Route 1 up the California coast. 

Those crazy little figure-eight-wing-flappers; bobbing and weaving together in some kind of spiritual flight for the sweet honey water just inside that pink flower's petals. 

"How beautiful," we whisper.

Or, there, in the back yard. You've just arrived home from a long day of work. And you see them playing Narnia beneath the trees. And one falls, the other stops in mid-romp, turns, and attends the other. 

You gasp. So simple. So tender. So timeless

Dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon.

In Time Travel, the Windhovers are quite nearly angels. Except they're not. They are timeless moments, swept up in rapture--bits and bobs of eternity too easily missed. 

But when seen. When attended too. They connect us to God. They are the intresses of this nose-to-the-grind world. 

A Final Word

Time Travel is dangerous. You and I, we need our wits about us. If we don't, then we run the risk of feeding Trolls and trampling sunshine as we thumb through the Internet, annihilating all that makes us dapple-dawn-drawn. 

How can we concede the gift of time? How can we scroll longer than we eat? How can we view and "Like" more than we meet up with one another? 

Hopkins said "I am the soft sift, in an hourglass." You and I move forward, tumbling over, in, and through to the other side. How will we arrive? 

Like Trolls and Tramplers?

They exist only in a world where selfishness moves us at the speed of annihilation.

The alternative? Windhover watchers. They see and exist in a different world entirely. 

C.S. Lewis drew the distinction between a person who plows through the world un-attentive and un-giving of his activities to God and one who lives as one offering their life to God. One is a selfish annihilator, the other, well, just humble. 

Humility gives us heavenly sight. It is the special armor of Time Travel. With it, we move at the speed of beauty. God's speed. 


Sign-up below for my Weekly(ish) Newsletter SIXTY SIX NORTH.  You won't be sorry! 

powered by TinyLetter

Timothy Willard is the author of three books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. He lived in Oxford, England for two years studying beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis. He earned his PhD in Theology under the supervision of world-renowned theologian Alister McGrath. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.