DeValera, Deadlines and the New Normal!

The third of a series of Articles for the Clare Champion

Brendan Quinlivan

I feel a bit like DeValera. 

On the 15th of August 1923, he was addressing a great gathering at the O’Connell Monument in Ennis when he was arrested by the Free State Troops for defying a ban that the government had placed on him speaking at public meetings. A year later he was back in the same spot and began his speech this time with the words; “‘Well as I was saying to you when we were interrupted’. While it may be presumptuous of me to draw any comparison between myself and a statesman of some renown, it’s been just over six years since I last penned a reflection for the Clare Champion. In the years that I was writing the reflections before that I only ever missed one deadline and that was the week I had, what I euphemistically call my “first” heart attack.

It’s good to be back even though I’m not always fond of deadlines. When I first came across the website, I thought it was about me. Certainly deadlines are very much a feature of modern life. Once the preserve of journalists, deadlines can now be found in every walk of life – students submitting papers, construction companies completing projects and even for people delivering pizzas. In military prisons the deadline was a boundary line, beyond which prisoners could not venture without running the risk of being shot. As I write this, I can see many editors and project managers considering such an option worth restoring.

I know that many people have been trying to focus on the positive things that have emerged during the current crisis and these weeks of restriction and lockdown. It’s a little trick we use to keep hope alive and spirits uplifted. It’s part of our nature to seek out the positive, even in the midst of the greatest troubles. Sometimes we can take it a little too far; “Apart from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” The balance is probably to be found, as in all things, between the extremes. There is a need to acknowledge the awful consequences of this pandemic in physical, emotional and economic terms. It’s important to name the enemy so that we are better equipped to fight it and address the negative consequences. But it’s also important that we see the benefits and learnings that have come in this time and not forget the lessons too quickly. How we view times and deadlines is one of those things that has changed radically for many people, with the notable exception of editors and bishops, I would suggest.

In recent years I have noticed that we talk about time in the same way that we used to talk about money. We talk of making time, saving time, spending time – does that remind you of anything? The pace at which we had been living live in the pre-covid days had turned time into just another commodity. If these days have prompted deeper reflection on anything it certainly has given us pause to think more about how we use time. It has given us a chance to discern more clearly between what is urgent and what is important and those terms do not always mean the same thing. In spite of the circumstances we have seen parents greatly value the extra time spent with their children. We see people value greatly the time they have spent at home testified to by the clutter-free garages, immaculate gardens and freshly painted walls. I have heard people rejoice at the fact that they have hade more time to read and even one or two brave souls who have admitted, (to me at least), that they are glad that they have more time to pray. 

As a poet once said, “Time is a fleeting bird.” And time so often flies rapidly out of sight. It is here and it is gone, leaving behind its memories to dissolve into eternity. These days have given us the chance to think about the meaning and importance of our time and how we spend it. 

The philosophers refer to chronological time. In ancient Greek it’s called Chronos. That is time as measured by the ticking of a clock. Philosophers also talk about subjective time. To a child waiting for Christmas, time moves so slowly. To his parents, Christmas may come all too quickly. To his grandparents, Christmas of many years ago, may seem like just yesterday. Subjective time is relative. But there is also another kind of time which in ancient Greek is called Kairos – that’s God’s time and maybe that’s just the kind of time we’re experiencing right now. In the Bible it’s expressed in phrases like; “when fulness of time had come.” If these days have taught us anything; it’s that the truly important things in life are timeless. Let’s hope it’s a lesson we take to heart in the new normal.