it's about time

it's about time
image by dall.e 2

Time melts by like a stick of butter left in the Abu Dhabi sun. Yet time is never truly lost, is it? Yes, you were younger then and certainly older now. Perhaps slim then, a healthy husky now. Extraverted then, introverted now. Naive then, sober-minded now. An easy-sleeper then, an insomniac now and so on and so forth, the stories of each of our lives go. In this rigmarole of expanding and deflating potentialities of who we are and can be, we experience individuals, objects, and events from a myriad of backgrounds and foregrounds… simply, things, people, and places that captivate us so much that we lose track of time. 

It is rare… yet even if it were the norm, I suppose we never really lose track of time, do we? We simply gain track of some other element… we dedicate our faculties to temporary forms of existence. We become so involved, nay, consumed by the simplicities of another that the most precious of our possessions loses its centrality for a brief scene in the Christopher Nolan film that is our human story. A story whose beauty can only be savoured in its being told… such as I have set out to do today. 

I write today… not of any novel subject. While the words flowing from my ink are simple, the totality of what they encompass is far from basic. Because in their meaning is an element of our chronology, the reality of the passage of time… leaving marks behind on each and every object. For even the dust on the shores is placed slightly differently at dusk compared to dawn. And isn’t it funny? That even our descriptions of being are boxed within frames like “dusk and dawn”, “today and tomorrow”, “now and then”? That we, like all forms of matter, cannot be defined in the absence of days, months, and years.

It’s almost as if the stories of who we are depend solely upon the content of our minutes and hours. I would write “seconds”, but rarely am I ever in tune with the passage of seconds. Yet they too, like the millis and micros, flow within me… and you… and this piece of paper that my words fall on. For if the last few seconds did not pass by… I would not have written these words and you would not have read them in your own timeframe. 

And that is perhaps the story I am attempting to tell. That the protagonist exists within a timeframe. And what she does while in that box, no matter its dimensions, counts. All of it. From the breaths she breathes to the farts she expends. From the do(s) and don’t(s) that she carefully (hopefully) plans… to the can(s) and can’t(s). For isn’t that the plot of every story you and I know? A collection of actions expertly crafted by the dance between the resources in our hands and the time in … someone else’s hands. 

Certainly… if I must dare to write about time, then I must also mention the plain fact that it is not ours to own. Because the fallacy of our present age is to obsess over “time management”. I have heard some say it is a skill. And I don’t think it is. Time is simply there. Like the trees in the Serengeti are. Not planted, watered, nor groomed by anyone… yet they simply are. 

So, secondly, the protagonist must be aware of this truth for the story to be exciting. You and I must not only know this truth but accept it, nay, dance in front of it. For the knowledge of our absolute poverty with regards to time informs the relevance and urgency with which we act. And oftentimes, we act not because we know not the state of our time balance. And you’ve heard it been told that we live on “borrowed” time but “borrowed” still implies some possession. And I need not write this again but… we have no claim over any one of the nanoseconds that hold the memories of who we are and what we have been in their being. 

For there is no “empty” picosecond… by their existence, elements of time contain something. So thirdly, the protagonist must know that it is her duty to impregnate these moments: to decide which seeds to plant in every passing time unit. Because it is our duty to rear the offspring of our seconds. Indeed, our seconds impregnate our minutes. Our minutes, hours. Hours, days… and you know how the rest of the time story goes. 

Therefore, remind yourself of this… because while you have little control of what happens moment to moment, you have even less control over what happens hour to hour. Day to day. And so your months and years gather up… and you find yourself either satisfied or dissatisfied with the responsibilities that your relationship with time has produced. But they are yours to bear… and whether you like them or not, they simply are. 

This is the matter of time and the fourth proposition I place before you. Whether you are happy or sad, mindful or mindless, hopeful or apathetic, time will simply pass by. Unfortunately, we know not when this flow will stop. Not for the world, no… but for each individual one of us. It doesn’t help to obsess over when this flow will stop. Neither does it benefit us to ignore the tangibility of our nearing end. Keeping this sentiment of the impending finality of our time flow can be the necessary reminder for us to work with the current. So, whether we find ourselves in a tumultuous tide or slow sweep, we know that any given experience is just as convenient as the next. Therefore, we do not hold the laughter-shaped debris in greater regard than the tears-shaped ones, for they all bump into us on our journey. And for that, we are grateful. 

Indeed... let gratitude, not complacency, hold your hand as you journey through time. And if life presents itself before you like a box of chocolates, then let thankfulness be your taste buds. For the temptation in our age is to nitpick and be offended by clear principles of nature. And our nature, particularly with regards to time, is that we die. Yet I know of many people, young and old, who long for a neverworld where immortality is the way of humans. But how boring would our stories be if the protagonists never rest? I suggest to you that it is the very looming of death over us that makes the static words and deeds in our lives exciting. I speak for myself when I say that if I were granted immortality, I would not know what to do with it and the hydrozoan Turritopsis dohrnii would agree with me… because what exactly have these jellyfish done with their long lives? 

Even if these fish were to build castles in the sea or to explore the underworld like we have poked about space, what would be the point of it all? Even if they were to evolve into the highest forms of intelligence known to... all creation, what would be the harvest in that pursuit?  

Certainly then, this is the last parameter for the protagonist to keep in mind: that all that she does as her time candle melts by will soon be shadows. So let the light illuminate what it can in the protagonist’s day and let her be beholden for the time constraint that has been placed on her life. For now she knows that the story must come to an end someday and time is all that exists between now and then. Yet that is enough, isn’t it?