Words escape me these days. I find myself writing them haphazardly on the nearest scrap of paper, only to return to my desk moments later and witness its empty, paperless surface. Secret clues remind me of the words I once wrote: a splotch of oil here where my nervous hands crossed the page, a blackened stain there from the ink that tore through my notebook and left its mark. Even the walls seem to echo with those fading memories.
Time, the wallpaper whispers, is everywhere around us, constant, omnipotent and godly.
“Time,” I retort, “is nothing at all.”
Shaking my head, I turn abruptly from the room, as if my own querulous thoughts had burnt me. On these wandering days of wayward contradictions, when waves of street lamps and traffic cones and screaming radios threaten to sweep me away, reaching out to a previous self is similar to confronting an ignited fireplace. The warmth of the flickering inferno welcomes you, draws you in, and even smiles in recognition. But old habits die hard, and any attempts to reach out only remind you of the stranger you’ve become: a stranger to yourself, and to others. How can change be the result of time, when time belongs only to the deepest reaches of how we perceive reality? How does my “past” self-exist, or continue to influence the present, when everything that has ever happened, or will happen, is taking place right here and right now?
“Time,” I question with malediction, partially expecting the buildings around me to collapse as I bring my apprehensions to the forefront: “the question that ceaselessly plagues us.”
Time, the scorching sun announces to the paved sidewalks below: our most reliable answer.
We ask ourselves if time is real.
We ask ourselves how time couldn’t be real.
We ponder the possible repercussions of “fixed” points in time – the passing of a loved one, a careless act that changed thousands of lives, historical events with tangible significance – being molded, melted, and reshaped like clay.
Do we debate the shape of time: a diamond arrow with unseen destinations, a vibrant oak tree growing vertically to unknown heights, or an interconnected, rippling pool of organized chaos? Is time the ghost of all our missed opportunities? Or the anticipation of something to come?
“Everything must begin, and everything must end,” my logic tells me.
Nothing ever truly begins, and nothing ever truly ends, the wind corrects as it runs through my hair, chuckling at my naiveté.
Sometimes, I swear I can see it in front of me, hear it breathing, feel its movement passing by. It manifests itself in the form of old photographs, places once-existing and now lost to those objective years. The blooming rose bush the neighbors planted last year is unrecognizable now, having returned to the soil from whence it first grew. The hands we’ve held over the years eventually fade to shadows, each loved one a string of memories we cling to like it’s everything we have. Digital numbers tick through our fleeting days in tears, smiles, laughter, and beautiful, defiant rage.
“Time,” I decide: “Humanity’s cruelest enemy… also our closest and most reliable companion.”
Time: Our greatest fear, obstacle, and source of conflict. Humanity’s greatest hope.
I could stop here – let the pounding of the nearest clock, those minutes lost and those undeterminable futures, whisk me away until the core of my identity fades to dust. My fear encourages me to do so; my somber heart prompts me to lie down and forget it all.
But I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to lose myself to what lies beyond my control. I remind myself that time is limited, and yet, from the right perspective, so very limitless. I decide to step forward. Step forward into that golden light, where the prospects are bright and the only moments confronting me exist right here, and right now.
“Cheers,” the world seems to say, “to Time: That Paradoxical Gift.”