How is it the year 2021?
With each moment that passes–each infinitesimal fraction of a second–time, human time, recorded time, slides effortlessly along on greased rails.
There is nothing that can stop human time. There is no pause button. There is no rewind. There is only the surety, baked into the bread that time keeps going; days keep coming, days keep falling.
One might grow afraid that the sun might not rise tomorrow, or all the water instantly evaporates, or somebody will start a fire that consumes the entire earth.
But we do not question time for it is so much bigger than us. We are the lumpy road and time is the steamroller that flattens us all into history. And that history becomes pages, like in a book. Inexact descriptions about the way things were; the way things will never be again.
Were time to stop would we be frozen in place, like mannequins? Would it be a localised time-stopping event? Would the earth continue to spin or would it halt, suddenly on its axis? Pause the Earth’s rotation and tidal waves would destroy entire nations. Or would the water simply freeze as well? Would the oceans turn to ice?
This is what I mean by human time. It is an idea so essential to us that we do not think about it. Or at least we try. It can be depressing–this idea of time as a steamroller that first flattens and then distances all things that occur to us on this scale. Memories linger, but become wobbly in the haze of the horizon.
Looking back we see all human knowledge, all memories and events, all things global and personal and big and small get flattened into that same stuff. That endless road that we know as history. It is gone now, it is past now. It is fading.
And if we continue to look back–I mean, if that’s all we do–we can become transfixed by this: for the past is a long, flat road that lead us here. And perhaps, if we could follow it back we might be able to answer some important questions: how did I get like this? How did we get like this?
For where does that long, straight road begin? With your own mewling birth? With the birth of your parents? With the birth of a Neanderthal? With the birth of a fish?
Is this the only road of time or are there many? Is there, perhaps, some great manufacturing facility at the beginning of all time that set forth dozens of steamrollers in dozens of different directions and the timeline we occupy is but one?
Such is the way one can be drawn into the past. It is not without its fascinations. Beyond that hazy horizon of memory lie truths we will probably never understand; both personal and profound.
But perhaps looking backwards is not always the answer. What if we turn that longing, nostalgic gaze in the opposite direction… towards the road yet to be travelled: towards the future?
There it is we find the greatest uncertainty–and yes, perhaps fear. But there is also a different type of excitement to be found in the horizon that approaches, the horizon that does not grow ever more distant with the passing of time but, in fact, draws closer.
We know the past–not perfectly and not all of it–but we remember. We have records. We have books and lists and striations in rock that tell us things about where we have been. But we do not yet have a road-map for where we are going.
There a great many mystical, magical things on the approaching horizon; a great many wonderful things.
This post was originally published as “25102021“.