Summer 2013 slips by: a conundrum of physics

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It seems that I looked into my dining room just the other day and saw the familiar faces gathered at the holiday table: our son and daughter dressed up for dinner, and our parents, still youthful, accompanied by a small mob of extended family. I looked again and saw our children, now grown up, and beside them, our grandkids. But yesterday I looked and no one was there. Mid-week holidays don’t work for families separated by thousands of miles and challenging schedules.

This, I know, is why I’m feeling the beating of wings as time flies by.

Everything changes. Still, in the bigger picture, it’s also true that the passing of time brings heartening cultural evolution and progress. Last week we witnessed an African-American president speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. Again, I wonder at the theory of relativity: How slow did the civil rights revolution seem to those who suffered prejudice and restrictive laws? These 50 years have passed swiftly for me, but I’m guessing the decades have moved more slowly for those bearing the weight of racial injustice.

Back on the home front, while nothing stays the same, I wish it could. The gathering of family for traditional celebrations reminds us who we are and where we belong. As we drift along, common values and rituals, communal meals and familiar foods tether us to home ground; they give us context in an ever more fractured society.

The phenomenon of time fleeting isn’t illusory. Partly it is fueled by the culture, and especially the media, which propel us forward at ever-increasing speeds. What will be the next iPhone? Who’s running in 2016? How long before we carry microchips in our foreheads? It’s natural to look to the future, but when it comes rushing at us too quickly, we lose the present.

The new year in the Jewish calendar is 5774. It seems a good time to offer a resolution. Having meditated on the problem — that the summer disappeared way too fast, that school bells ring prematurely, that some change confers loss and not everything new is better — what remains is to look to 5774. And all the days to come.
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