Friday, September 12, 2008

Ten kinds of people...

There are ten kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't -- computer programmer's saying.

I have an elegant watch with a black dial, white numbers, silver hour and minute hands and a red second hand. It keeps good time. My parents gave it to me, on the last Christmas our whole family celebrated together. More than anything else, I treasure gifts that say: I know you, because they celebrate connection. We could see each other, each shaped by a lifetime of struggle, always with the world and often with each other. We saw each other, as parts and as a whole. I knew my parents and they knew me. And I carry the proof on my wrist. The dial contains a visual pun: an analog watch dial with binary numerals. It says, clearly, that this watch belongs to a computer geek with a sense of irony, a relish for contradiction, for the complexities of life. As I said, my parents knew me.

Like many people, I have deeply ambivalent relationship with time. I do not understand it well, and what I do not understand I make my enemy, struggling hard, sometimes, to resist a flow I will never control or even really understand. And yet, sometimes, my life reveals a hint of what the wonderful phrase "in the fullness of time" tries to convey. Three years ago, I misplaced the watch. I searched and fretted for weeks. Then I settled into a belief that the watch would turn up again at the right time, that I needed to separate myself from the need to keep time for a while. While I never quite freed myself from the fear that I had simply lost the watch, I never gave it up for lost, either. A few weeks ago, I moved my office. When I dismantled my old desk, found my watch underneath it. A new battery, a clean crystal, and a new watchband later, it sits on my wrist. It reminds me of the way time passes, and it also gives me a powerful reminder of what time can never take away.

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