Friday, January 8, 2010

time's winged chariot

"But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near,
And yonder all before us lie
Vast deserts of eternity."--Andrew Marvel

This excerpt from "To his Coy Mistress" has stayed with me ever since I first read it as an assigned poem in Mrs. Brodkin's 11th grade English class. It was a relatively risque selection for a high school reader and we fellows were abuzz with what we thought the poem might be about. One fledgling lothario made a big production of writing the poem out, folding up the paper, and putting it in his shirt pocket. To me, what was seductive about the poem seemed to be more about the vast deserts of eternity part than anything else. This probably was a function of the fact that in 11th grade I was rarely in a position to consider utilizing Marvel's verse for desired ends. But still, what resonated was the message about time's winged chariot and that we did not have unlimited "world enough and time"

I received a note yesterday from a friend who was the point guard for the JV team on which I toiled as an adolescent, hoping for fame and attention from the teenage womenfolk who would come cheering for us at games. Annually my friend, John, and another high school mate, Gary, go to the US OPEN in New York and renew our friendship. John, however, has taken a post in Australia for the last few years and our exchanges now have become mostly electronic. I sent him a happy new year note a few days ago and I received the following in return. "Hey Zeke, Yes, all is well downunder. Where did this decade go? Time flies when you are old and running out of time!"

As is often the case, John was on target with his concise message. When we played on the JV we were a decent tandem he and I. I was not a bad scorer and he was a good distributor. However, the third member of our three guard offense was clearly the star. If I scored ten, Phil had twenty. Of all we aspiring basketball heroes, Phil was the only one of us to start for a college varsity team down the road. Huge hands, great shot. John was a better ball handler, and I was decent driving to the basket, but when in doubt give the ball to Phil and he would, as banners on our high school gym would attest, "Phil de basket". Neither John nor I would make our varsity teams, both being cut on the last day by a very well intentioned and considerate coach. But Phil did and started on an extremely talented high school team. It was disheartening to hear at a recent high school rendezvous that Phil had passed suddenly from a heart attack.

I haven't told John this yet, but his note about the passing of time, reminded me that I need to let him know. And also reminded me of how "marvel" ous and valuable is time's winged chariot.

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