Time is Life

It happened in church. Something the speaker said triggered a distant memory, and although I had a sketchy image or two in my mind of the event and the principal players, I couldn’t for the life of me recall the day of the week—or even the year. It was probably not a Saturday or Sunday. Of that I was certain. Could it have been a Friday? Memory is a hot topic in psychology, and yet there I sat, someone who’d been teaching about behavior and mental processes for a couple of decades, feeling lost.

I had probably lived (at that time) 16, 425 Fridays but could recall fewer than one hundred of them—or maybe fifty. Truthfully, I had a hard time coming up with twenty. Where had all the Friday nights gone? How had they been spent? And what about the Tuesday mornings? The only one I remembered with any detail was the Tuesday at 3:10 a.m. when my daughter Elizabeth was born.

Church ended, and I forgot about the time thing. Sort of forgot, that is. It was always in the back of my mind, and I made more of a conscious effort to commit some moments to memory by jotting them down in gratitude journals. Years passed, and a couple of years ago I began taking and posting a Pic of the Day on Facebook. My iPhone made this an easy task. In fact, it was a pleasure and forced me to take notice of things going on around me.

Later I became aware of a website entitled 100 Happy Days and decided to participate in that. Several people I knew were doing it so I jumped on the bandwagon with them. Sharing the 100 days with like-minded people added to the fun and challenge.

What was especially enjoyable about the two above activities was the visual record of sights I had either seen that day or that someone had shared. I made a Shutterfly book of the Pic of the Day photographs, and the 100 Happy Days site printed 100 photos for me—for a price, of course. Since many of the photographs include scenes and people of interest, family members enjoy looking at them almost as much as I do. It helps them recall places and things too.

One day this past week I listened to an NPR podcast (TED Talk) about the shifting nature of time. It was right up my alley, and I found it educational and interesting. Psychologist Dan Gilbert’s comments were particularly thought-provoking…maybe more so than those of the physicist who talked about when time began. Since I don’t know as much about physics as psychology, I had to work harder to understand him.

But the speaker I’m latching on to this morning is Cesar Kuriyama who has developed an app entitled the One Second Video. Easily downloadable, the app helps a person “stitch together moments of your life into mini movies that you can share with anyone, or keep for yourself.” At the end of a year, you’ll have 365 one-second videos spliced into seven and a half minutes (or thereabouts).

In Mr. Kuriyama’s words, “I have seconds that look incredibly boring, but represent ridiculously meaningful events in my life, and I have seconds that look gorgeous, but many have been relatively insignificant days of my life. Each second is a secret code to myself that only I know the hidden meaning of.”

The app costs $4.99. I downloaded it Monday and am going to start using it today. And no, I’m not working for NPR or Mr. Kuriyama. I’m just a person who realizes that time is life and that once it’s gone, it’s gone. I also know that a photograph or video can serve as a fabulous retrieval cue. So can some scribblings in a journal, but that’s not what I’m pushing today.

Was that morning in church in winter or summer? Was it raining? Were the children behaving? What was I wearing? All I know is that it was Sunday. I also know that today I’ll be recording my first one second video.


Defining Moment?

Is anyone out there old enough to remember Joe Ryan, the Congressman who was shot and killed as he tried to leave Jonestown, Guyana 32 years ago? I heard his daughter Erin’s voice on NPR the other morning, and her voice and message brought the whole, sad story back to mind.

Leo Ryan Memorial Park

Is anyone out there old enough to remember Leo Ryan, the Congressman who was shot and killed as he tried to leave Jonestown, Guyana 32 years ago? I heard his daughter Erin’s voice on NPR the other morning, and her voice and message brought the whole, sad story back to mind. Her father and others had flown to Guyana to investigate Jim Jones’ and the People’s Temple, and the congressman never returned.

Erin told of her love and admiration for her father…and of her “gut wrenching” heartache when she heard the news. Evidently, he had been involved in somewhat dangerous situations before, and neither of them perceived this trip as ominous. In fact, they had shared dinner in her Georgetown apartment on the eve of his departure and had talked about topics such as her classes and her cooking skills.

A few days later, Erin heard a flash news report on television reporting that a United States congressman had been shot while attempting to leave the airfield in Guyana. Was it her father? Had he been killed, or was he merely injured? Since this was back in the day prior to instantaneous news, she had to endure some painful hours waiting, waiting, waiting.

As the days went by, reports from Guyana became even more horrific.  Jim Jones, the leader of the cult, had persuaded over 900 people, about 1/3 of whom were children, to commit suicide by drinking a kool-aid type of drink. He was found with a gunshot wound in his head, reportedly self-inflicted.

Erin Ryan says she can still think about the death of her father and be moved to tears. Still, she says to the families of the victims of the recent Arizona shootings, “You can’t make that a defining moment of your life, or of the person who died.” She’s always reminded herself of how lucky she was to have Congressman Ryan as her dad to have had him as long as she did.  “That’s what you have to hold onto.”

When I heard Erin Ryan’s words, I was traveling to see one of daughters and her family, and a couple of thoughts struck me. Love and appreciate those you love.  Look at them, listen to them, read books to them (grandchildren), hug them, and savor each moment of your time together. When and if separation comes, count yourself fortunate to have known the person. Remember those special times, but don’t get stuck in the past like Lot’s wife.  Move forward.

Pepsi or Cranberry Juice?

After listening to “On Point” on NPR this morning, all I can tell family and friends is that if you want a soda at my house, bring your own bottle. I can’t deliberately contribute to diabetes or obesity, two of the major causes of premature death in America today.

Announcement to my husband and children:  I won’t be buying any more soft drinks to serve in my home.  Nor will I buy them for any of you in a restaurant…not even the diet variety. And not even Sprite. I’ve always suspected how unhealthy they are for us, but from listening to NPR this morning, I learned that they are “uniquely bad” for humans.

Anyone who’s even halfway aware of what’s going on in our society knows that we have what’s been referred to as an obesity epidemic. Beginning in infancy, obesity (defined as weighing 20 percent above recommended weight  for height, etc.) has become a growing (pun intended) problem. We also have more problems with diabetes than ever  before, and according to the interview on NPR’s On Point, soft drinks are one of the chief culprits. High in sugar and low in nutrition, Americans gulp them down, sometimes several a day, and a doctor (didn’t catch her name) on the program believes that this habit is primarily responsible for the rise in diabetes and in obesity.

How has this happened? Some of my friends and children would say it’s because they taste good. True, but what else? A commentator on the show mentioned that soft drinks are far less expensive than 100 percent fruit juice. When people on limited incomes are trying to economize, it’s cheaper to buy Pepsi than cranberry juice. And children love the sweet syrupy taste, just like their parents do.

In addition to talking about the zero nutrition of soft drinks, the animated discussion covered the controversial topic of using government money to buy cola drinks. Naturally, people who use food stamps are upset about the possibility of having this privilege curtailed because they feel that it isn’t fair and that it robs them of their choices. One caller asked (paraphrase), “So as a taxpayer, I not only have to work to support the people on assistance but now I have to support, even encourage their poor health too? I have to buy their groceries and promote obesity too?” It should be interesting to watch how this situation plays out in New York, especially if Mayor Bloomberg has his way.

It’s easy for me to spout off about this topic because I don’t have a craving for Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, or any other cola beverage. For a long time, however, it’s bothered me to see people consume such huge quantities of it when it has zilch in the way of nutrition. I was just thinking about Thanksgiving and how yummy the sweet potato soufflé is going to be.  I’d also like to try Connie’s recipe for hummingbird cake.  Those items are loaded with sugar, but somehow I can justify it because of the vegetable/fruit ingredient. But what, my friends, is the healthy ingredient in cola beverages?

Maybe I’m just like everyone else, able to rationalize about the merits of what I like while failing to see it in the preferences of others. That’s too much for me to ponder this evening. All I can tell family and friends is that if you want a soda at my house, bring your own bottle. I can’t purposely contribute to diabetes or obesity, two of the major causes of premature death in America today.

P.S.  Just have to add this afterthought. When I walked into the building for my afternoon class, I heard an interesting conversation coming from the break room. A young man was stocking the drink machine, and one of the people watching him asked when he was going to put the real Mountain Dew in the machine, not the diet stuff.