The fullness of time

I recently heard a scientist say the Covid-19 pandemic has placed us in “biological time,” i.e., the time of trees, planets, and yes, viruses. He was speaking not only of being forced to surrender to the Covid-19 schedule, but also of how vaccine production requires waiting, observing how nature works.

More often than not, this isn’t how technologically enhanced humans work. Our desperation for a safe vaccine – the first-ever for a coronavirus – has no bearing on the speed of science beholden to biological time. Because of course it doesn’t.

Lab-coat-wearing scientists immerse themselves in a granular world that, although unseen by us, is more “real” than our consensual reality. They often slip into an altered perception of time, a slower, deeper consciousness – a state necessary for both safety and efficiency. This consciousness is akin to the functioning of “less civilized” minds. Which is ironic, considering these scientists, bless them, are working the cutting edge of biotech.


I’ve heard this concept described also as “deep time.” Our latter-day culture of immediate gratification is generally not enthusiastic about it. We do not like waiting. Ask someone to “think like a tree” and see what happens. I’d wager one of the many reasons our culture recoils from the aged is because we look at them and say, “That person has spent a lot of time waiting. Look what it did to them.” It does leave a mark.

I recall explaining cassette mixtapes to my son. Jack was making a mix CD for goody bags at his seventh birthday party, dragging files across a computer screen to be “burned” onto multiple discs. The process would take a couple of hours, tops.

I mentioned how in my day I could spend many hours, sometimes several days, crafting a mixtape. Recording over songs, erasing, re-recording if segues didn’t work, listening to an entire 45-minute side to make sure it flowed properly, sometimes needing to start over with a fresh cassette. As Jack grasped the concept of waiting as every song played out “in real time,” I saw the eyes of a digital native widen in wonder, in the same way my eyes bugged when elders annoyingly discussed the necessity of waiting for something to which I had instant access: the news, warmth, food.

This is not to say I’m innocent of ridiculous impatience. I still catch myself getting vexed waiting for a call to go from my iPhone to someone a thousand miles away. Then I think,: really? I’m irritated because the digitized code of my voice is taking too long to reach a satellite, which will then beam it to a phone in another time zone? And by the way, if I so desire, I can send a movie of myself, too? And also by the way, this same handheld device holds thousands of photos, music, maps, a guitar tuner, and all manner of mind-blowing, time-destroying tech? I’m grumpy? Really?

Really. But maybe not so much going forward. Like everyone, I have been chagrined, schooled by Mother Nature, of which the coronavirus is a part. You got plans? Think again. Be humble or you’ll stumble. (Actually, you will stumble anyway.)

I’m okay at this writing, and feel fortunate to be so, but because the pain and loss wrought by Covid-19 is significant I will not talk so-called silver linings. That’s a judgment call above my pay grade, and insulting to folks who have suffered and lost much more than I have. It may seem Mother Nature is indeed bringing her own kind of judgment, but I don’t know.

Whatever the calculus of her actions, we humans, granted threescore and ten on average, can only know in the fullness of deep time. Mother Nature’s emissaries from that place – scientists and elders – will keep us in the loop as their schedules allow.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Robert Burke Warren.

There are 2 comments

  1. Kathryn Miller

    What day is it? Time is like the Dali’ picture: taffy under a mid-summer sun. The mind melt that is our current “new normal” is a reset we may have never anticipated, but alas, here we are. I use the word “we” in place of the word “I” because I hope I am not alone in this. Many days (is it months…hours…minutes?), I forget that someone(s) somewhere(s) is working vigilantly to win the race of creating a vaccine for the Corona Virus hence rocketing their pharmaceutical company to DOW JONES notoriety. We hope for a Salk in days of profiteering We balk at someone we don’t know standing too near. We miss people known or unknown standing near. We recoil at the idea of large gatherings and yet we go to large gatherings to support our ideals no matter where those ideals are on the spectrum. My notion of aberrant is someone else’s norm, someone else’s notion of aberrant is my norm. And yet here we are shuffling along through this aberrant point in time. And there it is again. Time. I miss the world we had before 3/2020 mostly because of it’s predictability and am anxious about the world we will begin now. I have never felt so alone and have never desired more to be connected. I hope you all do too. Thank You RBW for your article.

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