Better three hours too soon than a minute too late. — William Shakespeare
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. — Abraham Lincoln
The trouble is, you think you have time. — Buddha
There is a point in big speeds when feelings and impressions (experience?) break through the acquired limitations of skiing. At one speed you are involved in a fast, bloody tough schuss, and a few kilometers faster you are hurtling through space as if time didn’t exist. A quiet, insistent roar accompanies you. If you have maintained position you have surpassed your own limitations. I have known happiness there. — From The Straight Course, the author’s book about speed skiing.
[A]t the crescendo of speed, there is no thought at all. — Steve McKinney, five-time World Speed Skiing record holder.
THE BASIC measured time in modern culture is the second, defined in the International System of Units as “The duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom.”
From such a simple beginning the idea and measurement of time quickly becomes complex and vastly more complicated. Most people assume they are capable of grasping the concepts of a minute, hour, day, week, month, year, decade and even a century, and how their lives are lived and measured in those terms. But a millennium is more difficult and a galactic year (about 230 million terrestrial years) is beyond imagining, as are the hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium atom. No matter our individual level of consciousness or thoughtlessness about our brief time here on Earth, we are time-bound creatures and, as alternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra puts it, “The way we metabolize our experience of time influences our biological clock.”
A climate change denier's moment will be metabolized much like the human body on a steady diet of French fries washed down with two six-packs of Keystone beer.
For those who don’t like being fooled or being a minute too late, the World Clock provides a vast menu of nutritious intellectual, emotional and moral data to help them more wholeheartedly metabolize their short time on this hastily changing Earth.
For example, the World Clock reveals that in April 2018 there were 7,583,752,800 humans on the planet with more than 384,701 new ones arriving every day. Every day! This means that net human population growth is more than 83 million annually, according to the United Nations. More than 150 species of flora and fauna become extinct each day. More than 80,000 acres of rainforest are cut every day. More than 83,000 acres of the Earth’s surface turn to desert every day. Nearly 96 million barrels of oil are pumped every day and nearly 40 billion tons of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere each year. More than 1.7 trillion dollars are spent each year on the world’s military. (A trillion is a 1 with 12 zeros after it. A trillion seconds ago was more than 30,000 years.)
The way we metabolize time — as individuals and as a species — will depend in part on the quality and kind of experience and knowledge we are able to take in as fuel to understand and adapt to the next second, minute, day and month. A refugee in a boat will metabolize the moment differently than a Wall Street broker deciding whether to buy or sell, a Pakistani mother with her infant watching a drone in the sky above, a California farmer irrigating his drought-ravaged fields with polluted wastewater from the oil fields next door, a Montana newspaper editor deciding on the editorial topic of the day, a malnourished African 10-year-old who has not eaten in three days and who will not live to the end of the month, an Olympic athlete who has unexpectedly won a gold medal, or a climate change denier whose mental/ethical/emotional/environmental experience of the moment will be metabolized much like the human body on a steady diet of French fries washed down with two six-packs of Keystone beer. Author and environmental activist Terry Tempest Williams writes that “Climate-change deniers will soon disappear like the zealots who proclaimed the Earth was flat and the center of the universe.” It seems to me that “soon” is a relative term in time, and one period of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom is not soon enough.
Metabolism is all the chemical reactions that are involved in and allow, for instance, the energy of each human’s life. And the kind of chemistry taken in and how it is metabolized by each person will determine the kind and quality of energy given out. A junk food and beer diet will produce a physical body unable to perform at its highest capabilities or experience the pleasures of good health. Since the physical, mental and spiritual are inextricably connected, the fare of the body affects the workings of the mind and the state of the soul. Human minds that keep their heads (sic) above the waters of reality on the rafts of ideology, obedience to authority, and subsist on the collusion of others in leading an unexamined life, metabolize the experience of that time as if they were material objects in the marketplace instead of an organic/chemical process in nature.
Such rafts always sink.
Earth is neither flat nor located at the center of the universe, and neither are the humans fortunate enough to metabolize their time upon and from the environment of this beautiful, fragile, round planet. Time can be complex and complicated. Though it is impossible to track and metabolize the world’s every phenomenon, the refugee, the farmer, the editor and the climate change denier each inhabit the same planet: the only one we have. Metabolism affects us all, and includes our level of consciousness and daily actions. And we, as a species, are coming undone along with the world’s environment, human societies, national governments and the ecology of anywhere one chooses to investigate. The United States as an entity and its citizens, who as individuals are responsible more than most for this undoing and have benefited greatly from it, seem to possess an undue obliviousness to the environmental/social disasters just beginning to creep up on the coasts of America with its steadily diminishing forests, cities of befouled air, and polluted rivers. As the late environmentalist David Brower pointed out, “What we haven’t discovered, even now, is how to leave hubris at the door.”
It is not an easy process, learning to leave hubris at the door, but there are innumerable ancient, revered, satisfying traditions of doing so.
I HAVE TWO SUGGESTIONS for anyone interested in becoming a conscious part of those traditions. The first is to open the door to where and how you live your life—a 5 million-dollar house on the golf course at the country club, a trailer in a row of identical others on the other side of town, a cabin at the end of a dirt road next to a clear running stream, a farmhouse surrounded by plowed fields, an apartment in Brooklyn, a penthouse in a metropolitan tower or a studio loft in a ski resort—step through the door alone with only the necessities of food and shelter as company, leaving as much of that life as possible behind—including phones, GPS, radio, music and mechanical measurements of time— and make your way to the wildest, least inhabited forest, mountain, lake, river, meadow, ocean or desert you can find. Spend an hour, a day, a night, a week or a month, in solitary solidarity with nature.
It’s tempting to suggest starting with a month, but that is unreasonable though not unbearable, even for someone who has never spent a night alone outside under the stars. Spend that day and night or week or month walking, contemplating, watching, listening, communing with appreciation, breathing with attention and learning with humility that wild nature is the foundation of all life on Earth, including human. Any possibility of reversing the current destruction of Earth’s environment and wild nature is dependent on how each human metabolizes the experience of right now, which leads to the second suggestion: Return to the door of where and how you live your life, step through that door taking everything you have experienced and learned in wild nature with you and begin the organic process of repairing the foundation within where and how you live. Every human is complicit in the destruction of the environment, and each human is capable of making a difference in turning that around.
It starts with the individual. I will speak for myself. I had the good fortune to have grown up in the Lake Tahoe basin in the 1940s and 50s when the human population and impact on environment was much less than now, and the mountains, streams, meadows and the Lake itself composed my childhood playground and home. As an only child I wandered in the forests of summer and fall and skied in the mountains of winter and spring, often alone. The sound of wind in the pines was the cathedral music and Tahoe was holy water in the Church of Ancient Traditions, though the words of description arrived in my consciousness long after their reality was rooted there. I have metabolized a considerable amount of my life in the wild, natural environment of Earth since those childhood rambles, and have come to understand, blessedly, that all things are connected: all things are one. I am 79 now. I’ve suffered while bearing witness to how humanity is destroying the web of life and the environment of Earth. That sorrow is personal, as I am a member of humanity. So are you.
Buddhism teaches that human suffering is caused by the three poisons of greed, anger and ignorance. Greed is the underlying cause of the environmental collapse of the earth’s natural systems. Anger is the underlying cause of hatred and war. And what of ignorance? I think of the George Orwell line: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Ignorance causes us to ignore the reality that all things are connected. We’re all equal, human and non-human animals alike. Time, after all, doesn’t discriminate.
And what of the metabolization of that metabolization of atomic flux we call time? No matter our individual or cultural awareness (recognition?) of the significance of those numbers to the quality and sustainability of life on Earth, that is the way we (you, me, us) metabolize the experience of sharing our time along with more than 7 billion other humans and 39 fewer species of flora and fauna and 47,000 acres of forest but 21,700 more acres of desert every day. The average temperature of Earth does not fluctuate; it continues to rise in small but steady increments. On World Clock one can watch in real time the steady rise in temperature and human population of earth and the equally steady diminishment of the environment which supports that population.
Metabolize that, my friends and fellow inhabitants of earth. Metabolize that.
Dick Dorworth has skied and climbed in Europe, Asia, Alaska and South America, but he’s spent most of his life in the mountains of the West. He ski raced from 1950 through 1965 and set the world record for speed on skis in Portillo, Chile in 1963. Dorworth taught and coached skiing for years, served as coach of the U.S. Ski Men’s Team, and later was the Director of the Aspen Mountain Ski School. Dorworth was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2012. His writing has appeared in Ski, Skiing, Powder, Snow Country, Mountain Gazette, Men’s Journal, Climbing, New West, Mariah, Wild Duck Review, Summit, and Backpacker.
Night Driving, Dorworth’s first book, was published in 2007 by First Ascent Press. The Perfect Turn, a collection of Dick’s ski writing — ranging from expedition accounts, to biographies of remarkable and particularly engaging skiers, to ski fiction — won the Ski History Association prize for the best new ski book of the year. Dorworth’s next book, The Straight Course, a memoir of speed skiing adventures around the world in the ’60s, was published the following year.Climbing to Freedom is “a collection of intensely personal stories of climbing, rock climbing and alpinism, around the world,” including profiles, meditative essays, and two selections of mountaineering fiction. The Only Path, Dorworth’s most recent book, is a memoir of his first 23 years. (To purchase a limited edition of the hardback version of Night Driving, which includes additional essays, contact Dorworth through his blog, here.)
Today Dorworth lives in Ketchum, Idaho in winter where he skis on his favorite mountain, Baldy, or in the backcountry. In summer he lives in Bozeman, Montana and climbs.on the many local crags. He writes all year.