Philosophy

The Waist of the Hourglass

Life is usually spent buried in the sands. We rarely know which end is up, only the inevitable flow of time inexorably downward through the waist of the hourglass and into the fallen pile of the past. Memories, ideas, plans, dreams, and goals all wind up down there, in the accumulation of a life.

But once in a while the moment spent in the waist of the hourglass with eyes wide open as the falling moments cascade past almost faster than the mind can process, that moment you know both what has been, and what is coming. A crux in a lifetime, known and foreseen. Usually it isn’t until we can apply hindsight that we can see these pivotal moments in life. We fall slowly, making decisions like swimming in sand, blind to all but the closest grains, and it isn’t until later we realize how much the smallest grain of an action has affected our path through the hourglass.

Foresight only happens at the waist, when you are for a brief period suspended in the clear, with only a few actions available to you, and you could look up, into the what-will-be, and down, into the what-has-been. Clarity only lasts for an instant, but in that moment you must choose the path that will dictate the rest of your life. There is no turning back.

We fall, and as we reach the bottom, we are back in the top, swimming for dear life again. Life goes on like this until all the grains are spent. It’s not a perfect metaphor – they rarely are, metaphors, slippery agents of language we twist to suit our meanings and lose some subtleties while we are at it – but it is how I have been feeling this week.

I’m in the waist of the hourglass. What has come before lies below me, and it’s not entirely clear how I got to this point, although I can map out some of it in the patterns of the sand below me. I can look up, and see the shifting of the grains above me, illusory and fleeting, as though they shift in and out of my dimension, only solidifying as they stream by me in the waist, and I can catch them there, understand, and change them in that instant, deciding which will fall and which I will not choose to complete in actions.

This is a pivotal moment in life. I can only shape it so much, as the weight of what has come before alters the outcome beyond my control. And in the imperfect metaphor of the hourglasses, each one separate, contained, a unique individual – the imperfection lies in the effect that each glass has on other glasses that come into proximity with it. Falling sand is not affected by other grains in a sealed glass. People are affected by other people, with a strange gravity that changes the stream of their actions through the passage of time.

I press my face against the waist of the hourglass, feeling the weight of my life pressing down on me, urgent and demanding that I keep going. There is no stopping. Actions must be taken, and the neverending flow of them cannot be brought to a halt. I can see the other glasses, but I cannot affect them. I can only choose my own grains – the actions and decisions I will take based on the hopes and dreams I have spun during my voyage through the potential sand.

1 thought on “The Waist of the Hourglass

  1. When you are in the very top of the hourglass, it seems your options are unlimited. You can go here, or there, or over there, swimming easily, supported by the other grains of sand surrounding you.
    It only SEEMS that way.
    What is hard to detect at the very top is the constant tug of gravity, which is inevitably going to pull you through the waist and into the bottom. Sooner or later, though, you find yourself in the descending stream, and there really isn’t much you can do at that point. You HAVE to go with the flow, because it is overwhelming.
    And then you fall to the bottom, landing exactly where your prior actions and those of the surrounding grains have determined. Your movement is limited, but you can use the energy of the grains falling on you and around you to make SOME changes, but you are never again going to be in the waist.
    At least, until the hourglass gets turned over, and you are on top again.
    Is that a second chance? Well, ONCE it’s a second chance, coming between the first chance and the third chance.. Then it’s a third, fourth, fifth…,.,How many times does the hourglass get turned over? That’s somebody else’s choice.

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