Saturday, December 8, 2012

Arriving or Happening at the Arranged Time


Here I reproduce, my Edit Page Speaking Tree article published in The Times of India in October 2010 and available on my page on the Speaking Tree portal.

In A Passage to India, E M Forster makes an interesting comment about an elderly character Mrs Moore and her understanding of life stating that she had learnt that life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate Adventures do occur, but not punctually. To be punctual is variously described as arriving or happening at the arranged time or as the state of being in time In another context, punctuality could imply the arrival of the moment of truth at an hour arranged, as it were, between the individual and the moment of truth.

Since that kind of power to either precipitate or postpone one's moment of truth is not granted to human beings, we find that most human virtues and wisdom are based upon the premise that human beings must learn to negotiate with the schism between what they think to be opportune time and what the pace of time considers opportune for them The virtues of patience, detachment, hope, endurance and acceptance are all meant to communicate how human nature, wisdom, and philosophy have all been geared to the belief that the moment of truth has an uncharted course and one has no control over it.
Hence we have the idea of waiting, hoping, enduring and so on King Solomon's Sermon in The Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ''A Time for Everything'' has as its underlying theme the impossibility of forcing things in life, the inconceivability of precipitating as well as postponing adventures in life Ultimately, how does the dynamics of being on time relate with the vagaries and unpredictable nature of life? We learn the hard way that keeping a date with Time is based on our perception of the moment.of appointment with it, whereas the fog of Time does not believe in some mechanical or pre-arranged rendezvous and has more liking for the idea of spontaneity that largely guides the stratagem that life creates for us.

Shakespeare's Hamlet learns the same lesson after going through the learning process in life: ''We defy augury; there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come; readiness is all'' However, beyond the half-pessimism of Mrs Moore, half because it believes that adventures do occur, and half-optimism of Hamlet, the inclination of a common experience is more towards the belief that life.does not keep pace with our expectations and more often than not remains stingy in distributing its bounties despite our endeavours to be there in time.

The matter-of-fact but dignified statement of Vladimir in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot underlines for us a very business-like approach to life's appointments conveying that it is life itself that is refusing to respond to us: 'We have kept our appointment and that's an end to that We are not saints, but we have kept our appointment How many people can boast as much?' And the rather prompt reply of Estragon stating 'Billion' even enlarges the scope to express simmering discontent of the commoners.


The writer is an Editor, National Book Trust, India