Hour glass analogy to handling life. Focusing on today, not past or tomorrow. Sir William Osler and Dr. James Gordon (October 2020)

Susan's Thursday morning note October 1, 2020
Moments of time - imagining an hour glass.
Leaving yesterday behind, not worrying about tomorrow.  
Sir William Osler, Yale 1913     Dr. James Gordon, 1944

A quiet morning.  Only company are little squirrels whose mothers have pushed them out of their nests already this morning to get their exercise.  Only sight steam from my coffee and sun wanting to make her appearance.  My angel of dawn peering through my curtains encouraging me to again enter her priceless gift of the moments handed to me today.  I was able to read some excerpts this week on a chapter entitled “Peace of Heart and Mind” collected in Light from Many Lamps which I referred to last week.  Below are two short writings that stayed in my mind.  On keeping our focus on what is before us each day, each moment.  On disciplining our minds to not be affected by what has happened in the past or what may happen in the future. 

Gaining Emotional Poise by Dr. James Gordon Gilkey, 1944
Most of us think ourselves as standing wearily and helplessly at the center of a circle bristling with tasks, burdens, problems, annoyance, and responsibilities which are rushing in upon us. At every moment we have a dozen different things to do, a dozen problems to solve, a dozen strains to endure. We see ourselves as overdriven, overburdened, overtired. This is a common mental picture and it is totally false. No one of us, however crowded his life, has such an existence. What is the true picture of your life? Imagine that there is an hour glass on your desk. Connecting the bowl at the top with the bowl at the bottom is a tube so thin that only one grain of sand can pass through it at a time. That is the true picture of your life, even on a super busy day, The crowded hours come to you always one moment at a time. That is the only way they can come. The day may bring many tasks, many problems, strains, but invariably they come in single file. You want to gain emotional poise? Remember the hourglass, the grains of sand dropping one by one.
"Way of Life" Sir William Osler, Yale address, 1913

Excerpt from lecture on "fencing in the moment of today" - leaving yesterday & not adding tomorrow's worries

I stood on the bridge of one of the great liners, ploughing the ocean at 25 knots.  "She is alive," said my companion, "in every plate; a huge monster with brain and nerves, an immense stomach, a wonderful heart and lungs, and a splendid system of locomotion."  Just at that moment a signal sounded, and all over the ship the water-tight compartment were closed...Now each one of you is a much more marvelous organization than the great liner, and bound on a longer voyage.  What I urge is that you can learn to control the machinery as to live with "day-tight compartments" as the most certain way to ensure safety on the voyage.  Get on the bridge and see that at least the great bulkheads are in working order.  Touch a button and hear, at every level of your life, the iron doors shutting out the past – the dead yesterdays.  Touch another and shut off, with a metal curtain, the Future – the unborn tomorrows.  Then you are safe – safe for today.  Shut off the past.  "Let the dead past bury its dead."  So easy to say, so hard to realize. The truth is the past haunts us like a shadow.  To disregard it is not easy.  Shut out the yesterdays.  The petty annoyances, the real and fancied slights, the trivial mistakes, the disappointments, the sins, the sorrows, even the joys – bury them deep in the oblivion of each night.  Ah! but it is just then that to so many of us the ghosts of the past, come in troops, and pry open the eyelids, each presenting a sin, a sorrow, a regret.  Bad enough in the old and seasoned, in the young these demons of the past sins may be a terrible affliction, and in bitterness of heart many a one cries with Eugene Aram, "Oh God!  Could I so close my mind, and clasp it with a clasp."  As a vaccine against all morbid poisons left in the system by the infections of yesterday, I offer "a way of life."  "Undress," as George Herbert says, "your soul at night," not by self-examination, but by shedding, as you do your garments, the daily sins whether of omission or of commission, and you will wake a free man, with a new life.  To look back, except on rare occasions for stock-taking, is to risk the fate of Lot's wife.  Many a man is handicapped in his course by a cursed combination of retro- and intro-spection, the mistakes of yesterday paralyzing the efforts of today, the worries of the past hugged to his destruction, and the worm Regret allowed to canker the very heart of his life.  To die daily, after the manner of St. Paul, who makes each day the epitome of life.
The load of tomorrow added to that of yesterday, carried today, makes the strongest falter.  Shut off the future as tightly as the past...Waste not energy, mental distress, nervous worries dog the steps of a man who is anxious about the future.  Shut those, then, the great fore and aft bulkheads, and prepare to cultivate the habit of a life of Day-Tight Compartments.  Do not be discouraged – like every other habit, the acquisition takes time, and the way is one you must find for yourselves.  I can only give general directions and encouragement, in the hope that while the green years are on your heads, you may have the courage to persist.


Misc. Quotes on time.  On living each day as a gift.

Trouble not thyself by pondering life in its entirety.  Strive not to comprehend in one view the nature and number of burdens that, belike, will fall to thy share.  Rather, as each occasion arises in the present put this question to thyself:  “Where lies the unbearable, unendurable part of this task?”  Confession will put thee to the blush.  Next recall to mind that neither past nor future can weigh thee down, only the present.  And the present will shrink to littleness if thou but set it apart, assign it its boundaries, and then ask thy mind if it avail not to bear even this.  Marcus Aurelius

Some there are that torment themselves afresh with the memory of what is past; others, again, afflict themselves with the apprehension of evils to come; and very ridiculously both, for the one does not now concern us, and the other not yet…One should count each day a separate life.  Seneca

As I got older I became aware of the folly of this perpetual reaching after the future, and of drawing from tomorrow, and from tomorrow only, a reason for the joyfulness of today.  I learned, when alas! it was almost too late, to live each moment as it passed over my head.  William Hale White

Let us be of good cheer, remembering that the misfortunes hardest to bear are those which never happen.  James Russell Lowell

It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day.  It is is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.  Never load yourselves so, my friends.  If you find yourselves so loaded, at least remember this; it is your own doing, not God’s.  He begs you to leave the future to Him, and mind the present.  George MacDonald

Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Regret nothing.  Not even the sins and failures.  When a man views Earth’s wonders from some mountain height he does not spend his time dwelling on the stones and stumbles, the faints and failures, that marked his upward path.  So with you.  Breathe in the rich blessings of each new day – forget all that lies behind you.  Man is so made that he can carry the weight of twenty-four hours, no more.  Directly he weighs down with the years behind, and the days ahead, his back breaks I have promised to help you with the burden of today only, the past I have taken from you and if you, foolish hearts, choose to gather again that burden and bear it, then, indeed, you mock Me to expect Me to share it.  For weal or woe each day is ended.  What remains to be lived, the coming twenty-four hours, you must face as you awake. A man on a march on Earth carries only what he needs for that march.  Would you pity him if you saw him bearing too the overwhelming weight of the worn-out shoes and uniforms of past marches and years?  And yet, in the mental and spiritual life, man does these things.  Small wonder My poor world is heartsick and warty.  Not so must you act.  AJ Russell, God Calling

Again, we have been given a gift from the angel at our door this morning.  The angel of dawn.  The gift of today.  I already hear the birds welcoming me into their world with their songs.  They seem to always remember the gift of this promise from Ps. 121.  I look up to the hills where my help comes from.  Beautiful life.  Always remember to find the little gifts of the day.  The beatitude states, Blessed are the children, for they see God.  They see God because they see the beauty in the smallest gifts from God.  The light dancing on my floor where the sun is shining through my curtain.  A gift for today.  The birds that never stop singing.  Regardless of their personal stories they still sing.  A gift for today.  My perfect second cup of coffee.  A gift for today.  The thought of a true friend’s smile yesterday.  A gift for today.  Little one just now greeting the day with his small hand on his purring friend.  Tonight we have the chance to write in stone our epitaph for the moments that go through our hourglass today.  Not to write anything about yesterday or tomorrow.  But, about the next few hours.  Can we live the day worthy to have something worth inscribing tonight?  Thank you for letting me enter your Thursday.  Have a beautiful end of winter week!  Susan

Latin for this week:
Tabula rasa - clean slate (referring to someone not affected by past experiences)
Sollicitudo - concern, anxiety, solicitude, worry
carpe diem - seize the day (Horace, 1st century)
appreciator - to show appreciation
caelitus mihi vires - My strength is from heaven 

Works Cited:
Watson, Lillian Eichler, Editor.  Light from Many Lamps: A Treasury of Inspiration.  New York.  Simon & Schuster.  1951.