Sunday, October 3, 2010

One Thing After Another

I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about - well...time.

"Time is an illusion," writes Douglas Adams, "Lunchtime doubly so."

Says Albert Einstein, "Time is only there so everything doesn't  happen at once."

Eubie Blake and Mickey Mantle are both credited with the quote, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself."

The Time Tunnel
Which brings us (well, me, and I am driving this bus) to the question of whether or not it is possible to travel in time.

Time travel is proposed in Hindu mythology (the story of King Revaita in the Mahabharatha) and Japanese legend (Urashima Taro).

Twelfth century essayist (blogger?) Walter Map tells the story of Herla, king of the Britons, being transported two centuries into the future with his hunting party following his visit to Otherworld.

In Washington Irving's tale, Rip van Winkle awakes to a world entirely changed in the course of his twenty-year nap.

Hank Morgan awakens in Camelot in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and attempts to replace the superstitions and prejudices of that time with the noble and enlightened precepts of the nineteenth century.

The Time Machine
In The Time Machine, H.G. Wells' unnamed time traveller arrives in a bleak and dismal future, and attempts to replace the superstitions and prejudices of that time with the noble and enlightened precepts of the nineteenth century.

We've argued the Grandfather Paradox, (if a man travels back in time and shoots the boy who was to become his grandfather, he can never be born, can he?), we've gotten really drunk and debated the morality of going back to the nineteen twenties to murder Adolph Hitler - funny, isn't it that no one ever thinks of buying up all of his paintings?

Back to the Future
Sometimes, each of us looks back with the milky eye of memory and recalls that one perfect Christmas or birthday or summer vacation. And sometimes, it's a someone.

I recall one girl that I met in high school. She was the smartest, funniest, prettiest girl in the whole school (and there were some good 'uns). She also had a quick wit, an even faster tongue, and not a lot of patience with fools. What she saw in me, I've never understood. I fell for her like a marble maple leaf. In less than a year, though, I'd lost her; her father transferred to another city, not so very far, but not near enough. I visited, we both wrote - but less...and less...and less...

There were other girls, and the girls became women. Some reminded me of the girl in high school, others appealed because they were nothing like her. I suspect that all of them were compared to her, and in time, none of them ever passed that particular scrutiny.

Grass grew and rivers flowed, pages turned and the persuasive winds of time carried every one of us from that now to this one.

Yes, time travel is possible - we're doing it now. We might just not like the direction it's taking us. Whether or not it's worth the trip is largely up to us. Can we change the past? We can grow up, we can grow wiser, we can say I'm sorry or thank you or I love you more often.

Ambrose Bierce offers the definition: Day, n. a period of twenty-four hours mostly misspent. Mine have been, and I don't regret a single hour or wish a single moment back.

I eventually did meet my high school sweetie again. Sometimes, I call her the Tall Lady.


  1. Good piece of writing, dear Les. You talk about time, as though it is composed of events flowing by, like a river. And yet, it seems, when you were a high school lad, you glimpsed at love (sexual? romantic? special companionship?), and in finding again your special friend, you and she found genuine Love...and you have tasted something of Eternity? You write with intelligence, humour, and you convey hope.
    Dave Kellett.