The Art of Time Framing Our Lives

“The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad.” - Salvador Dali

I still remember the first time I embraced this thought. It was June 1950, the day after North Korea’s invasion of South Korea. I was only 12 years old, but I was also a product of my generation. We didn’t need a political conference in Washington to discuss what this action meant. Even we kids knew what it meant. – It meant war, even if the official description of our United States military “police action” presence on the Korean peninsula was never updated to “war” status over the next three years of hostile fire action and the loss of American lives.

I remember thinking: “It’s 1950. Five years ago, in 1945, we were all celebrating the end of of World War II – and I was just a little kid. Hey! Five years from now, in 1955, I’ll be 17, almost 18, and going over to fight in Korea too.” It didn’t happen because the “war” didn’t last long enough to wait for me, but today we have a war blazing in Afghanistan that is using up the lives of young Americans who also were little more than small children when the thing started for us nearly ten years ago.

Where does it all end? It doesn’t. Like Old Man River, it just keeps rolling along.

I’ve never written on this subject prior to this morning, but my real subject here is not war and peace, but something I’ve always called out to myself as “time framing.” Time framing is simply a way of seeking another timeline perspective on the events of our lives. Why do it? Beyond its prurient pleasure payoff, it’s a way of time-altering our perspective on the events and scope of our lifetime experience for the sake of improving our more limited experience of things in the actual moments these occur.

It’s a way of drawing from, and learning from, the generally similar and our pretty-much-the-same past personal experiences as each applies to what is going on in our lives now. In other words, it’s something that may help us learn the lessons of history as they apply even to each of us in a moment of pain, threat, or risk, especially.

1939: "Gammy and me." My maternal great-grandmother and me at her place in the country near Beeville, TX. She was born in 1857, four years prior to the start of the Civil War- and she was once a big everyday part of my early life.

I will turn 73 years old this coming Friday, December 31st, and I make no apologies for my years. As far as I’m concerned, we are all here on borrowed time. When you time frame my first 72 years back to the last day of 1937, my actual natal day, we find that there has been something approaching a 98% turnover rate in the actual faces of Earth’s living, breathing residents since that moment.

Time frame it further. Do this one with your own age too. This past summer, on July 4, 2010, and we Americans were all celebrating the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, that date alaso meant that I personally had been around for 30.77% of this nation’s formal history since that starting date.

Here’s a more personal time frame: I graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston in 1956. That was 54 years ago this past May 2010. If I now slide the older me at 72 back to 1956 for an encounter with the 18-year old me that owned that year, what does the younger me think of the older me? Based upon my memories of him, younger me is thinking: “Man! If this old cat is 72 in 1956, that means he graduated from high school back in something like 1902! – What the the heck did people like him know about anything back in 1902?”

And what does the 72 year old me say to the 18 year old me? I don’t know. Maybe something like: “Age humbles. It teaches us what we were unwilling to learn earlier. It is a voice that only gets heard once we outgrow the ideas that (a) we are exempt from the laws and truths that apply to others; (b) we don’t need any teachers outside our own experience; and (c) our education begins once we open up to the wisdom of our elders. The elders can’t teach us everything, but they may help us skip over some bad spots on the road.”

Ask yourselves as you time frame – in whatever way you do it – who were the important teachers in your own life? If you cannot find any, you probably are not looking hard enough. Everyone we meet is our potential teacher at any age – whether we like like the lesson they bring to us or not.

At any rate, have fun getting ready for New Year’s Eve. It’s one of the great places for both celebration and reflection on this river of no return we all travel.


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3 Responses to “The Art of Time Framing Our Lives”

  1. Randy Says:

    Here’s to breaking free from the shackles of their “zeitgeist” for clarity in intellectual criticism, interpretation and creativity, but, getting down to the nitty-gritty for “everyman”, Port Arthur’s own Janis Joplin said, “It’s all just one big ******’ day.”

  2. Wayne Williams Says:

    Bill: Happy Birthday. I remember June, 1950 well. I think it was June 26 but I may have the date wrong. I had just finished may sophomore year in high school. By July 1953 I had signed up for the Navy. The truce ended before I had to do anything serious in the Forgotten War. Thanks for the memories.

  3. Off-The-Wall Family Analytics | The Pecan Park Eagle Says:

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