Ti-i-i-i-me is on my side

Another wonderful week is upon us, which mean more International Day!

Today is International Munchausen Day (And don't even THINK of lying about visiting)

Tuesday is International Tell Them Today Day (You can't tell them unless you go find out WHAT to tell them....)

Wednesday is International Covet Thy Neighbor's Wife Day (I'm going to pretend I live next to James Brolin)

Thursday is International Reflection Day (Note to vain people: this DOES NOT mean spend all day looking in the mirror!)

Friday is International Pirate Day (This day has been rated ARRRRRRR by the Bloggers' Association)

Saturday is International Kiss a Red Head Day (I would kiss Lindsay Lohan...if K-Fed didn't get there first...)

And we top the week off Sunday with International Slap Your Computer Day ("Who's a bad dirty computer?")

Dig in (and I BETTER see comments!)

(Time has been on my mind lately and I thought about writing a big column on it, but I thought I'd get you started with the thoughts I had a few years ago....)

the Hyperion Chronicles
“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”

#298 Time3

“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”
-Douglas Adams

“We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”

I was watching Angel the other night, and this woman Illyria was thrown forwards and backwards in time. After the program, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Finally I picked up my pad and started writing, and came up with 3 ideas (rather appropriate for this month’s theme). Here they are:

In the show, when Illyria became aware of her predicament, she accused Angel: “You ripped me out of linear progression, tore my timeline to shreds, and stitched it back together out of sequence. You keep me in this fractured time frame, in moments that repeat themselves over and over without deviation.”

That last line really struck me; to repeat the same moments again and again with nothing changing. This sounds like a version of Hell to me. Again, Illyria, a little while later: “Change is constant, yet things remain the same.”

Now, bear in mind that right after she said that she blew up, but look at both of these statements on the metaphorical level. Have you ever felt that your life was a series of vignettes, each one slightly different, but these differences only highlighting how exactly the same they were? Have you ever had an argument with your husband, and noticed that while the words were different or in different places, it’s the same argument you’ve had 500 times?

Sometimes I wonder if life is like The Truman Show. In that film, Truman Burbank’s entire world is constructed, and he eventually figures it out by sitting still and noticing that every few minutes the same cars go by. This happens to me sometimes. I’ll be in line at the supermarket, in a car idling at a red light, or opening up my Inbox to see the new Mail. I’ll get the feeling of total “sameness” to everything. I don’t mean déjà vu. These are real events, which could be analyzed and tracked by their differences. But sometimes…I don’t know, it just seems that those differences are a veneer that hides the track that these events, these people, these experiences; these memories go around and around and around in our lives. Maybe that’s what time is.

Astrophysicists, as a class of people, are about as smart as humans get. So don’t guffaw when I relay the information that astrophysicists tell us that time simply does not exist.

What we perceive of as time is our brains’ way of classifying and storing information. Or, to put it another way, we are unable to see the full path, the big picture, so we latch on to this linear model of time as some straight line from here to there.

When I first learned this I was skeptical, as it was difficult for me to believe that every single person would have come upon the same artificial construct to explain the world.

Then again, as children, we have at most a tenuous grasp on time (as adults understand it). I remember being confused by hours and days and weeks. Perhaps I was just not socialized to this human set-up. Or, maybe time is part of our genetic memory, but takes a certain mental faculty to master.

If you want to go down this path you could argue that that there are entire groups of people, like women, or Latin America, who never have mastered time. Then there is the idea that not everyone has agreed to stay on the same page. There are certainly people who see time differently. We call them “crazy,” but maybe they just see the world more accurately, and are “crazy” because they can’t understand why others don’t as well.

When I heard old people say that time moves faster as you age—and then I experienced this for myself—I began to think maybe time was a construct. Again, physicists explain that in our perception, time really does move faster. Because of a greater whole to compare it to, each “unit” of time seems less. If that’s hard to understand, look at it this way: if you were buying a house, would an extra five dollars in cost stop you from going through with it? What if you were buying a hamburger?

The saddest part of this new knowledge, though, was the discovery that the past doesn’t exist. On our linear time scale, it does, which is the basis for all sorts of science fiction and wishful thinking (and the reason I went to college; to study Time-Travel). The new model tells us there is no past. As an event happens, it is not archived like sent email. It is gone, no longer there, except in memory, which soon fades to legend and myth, and is then forgotten. I embrace science, but this makes me sad.

So, time may not exist in any appreciable mathematical sense, but boy do I wish it did. Please tell me I’m not the only one this has happened to: You’re talking to someone. Maybe you’re uneasy or upset; maybe you’re relaxed or unconcerned. Suddenly—out of your fears, out of your carelessness, out of nowhere—comes words you instantly know will change everything (and not in a good way). A question—better left unasked; a snide thought—better left half-formed; suddenly the words are out there, and you can’t take them back.

Don’t you wish you could? Wouldn’t it be great to hit the “Rewind” button and erase the last ten seconds, so that this time you could do the smartest thing possible: bite your lip ‘till it bleeds and keep your fool mouth shut.

It is to me a cruel irony that once occurred, an event no longer exists in time. There is no fixing it. And yet, often that same now-nonexistent event looms larger than anything the present or future will bring. Like Winston Churchill said, “A bell that has been rung cannot be unrung.”

(As a side note, this explains why to forgive is the hardest act, why trust is the most difficult gift, why selfishness is the most common instinct, and, well, you get the idea. Virtually all of the world’s problems can be summarized thusly: the event happens, and is gone, but the memory lingers.)

But let’s get back to just depressing me: when those words are spoken, that dreaded question asked; what do you do? Short of whacks upon the head with plastic bats (hopefully causing short-term memory loss), what do you do? The event is gone, but the memory lingers.

Now you can see why I wanted to study Time-Travel.

April 30, 2004

Thanks to Joss Whedon for creating Angel
Thanks to the peeps I quoted
Thanks to Green Day, The Rolling Stones, and The Steve Miller Band, for letting me use lyrics from their songs as my segment titles.
Thanks to Tufloi for editing

Motto Explanation
It’s a quote from Lisa Grossman. Think it through for a moment…See? I knew you’d laugh.

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