I admit it– I’ve been talking to trees again, specifically to the apricot tree in our back yard which is in full bud and ready to flower. “But this is March,” I plead with it. “Don’t you know that the weather is uncertain? If there is a freeze, you’ve had it!” But I plead in vain. As usual, the tree doesn’t listen to anything but its internal clock. Each year it blooms early and is blighted.
“There is a time and a tide in the affairs of man,” Shakespeare said, “when taken at the flood leads on to fortune.” Copernicus might have benefited from the Bard’s advice—after all, he was nearly burned at the stake for intimating, that the earth revolved around the sun. On the other side of the scale, Columbus, who believed that the earth was round, timed it so that Isabella would listen to him—Spain was greedy for the riches of the East.
Timing really is everything, isn’t it? The natural world relies on it so that Monarch butterflies, migrant birds, and the small sandpipers who brave ocean waves can live and prosper. We humans cope as best we can: the timing for the soufflé must be just right—or it falls flat; our drive home is hopefully timed exactly right, or gridlock results. In a business meeting an idea must be presented at the right moment and in the right context—or it will be ignored; the athlete knows full well that good or bad timing can win or lose the game; and who is better at timing than politicians who realize the importance of producing the right speech, projecting the right image, releasing the right soundbite?
In the writing or artistic world, timing is key, too. I once wrote a story that was thought to be too controversial and therefore taboo. I sold it a year later when the worldview had changed. And what about the artist whose ideas and vision need rely not only on talent and luck but on timing? Rejected one day, art can be lionized the next depending on the mood or need of the moment.
Most important, though, is that sense of timing in our lives. How often have we heard of troubled young people who meet the right teacher or the right role model, or the kindest of adults at a critical moment? How many lives could succeed or fail because of that pivotal moment! Our son, a high school teacher, has had dozens of students return year after year to tell him what his teaching meant to them at an important juncture in their lives.
Perhaps most importantly, there are the simple things. A letter written to a grieving friend, quiet support given at a difficult time, a sincere and unlooked for compliment… offered at the right time these can make all the difference. “I really needed that, it means so much,” I have often said when a thoughtful gesture helped to brighten a gloomy day, and haven’t we all been the recipient of some unlooked for kindness that changed the tilt of our world?
Such small things… but today in this high-speed, technological world they may be more important than ever. Even though it is often construed to mean that we must seize the right moment for success, there are other, even more important victories. Isn’t our sensitivity and our thoughtful reaching out at just the right moment the very essence of Timing?
In that small gesture
Is confirmed the true meaning
Of being human.