I’ve been feeling rather reflective lately. Lost in the contemplation of the metaphysics of time, both reminiscent of the past and hopeful for the future.
I remember being younger and someone explaining to me that time was like a river – that all time is currently flowing, yet all we can experience and know is the section we’re floating down at any given moment. But even as a youth, I found this reasoning confusing and inconsistent.
The past (where we were when we were upstream) affects the present (where we are now), but only the present present (the point of the river we’re currently in). But if the present past (a place currently upstream right now) is altered in some way, it would then only affect a future present (the water’s that passed this point after we’ve traveled farther downstream and are no longer here)...so what’s the point of a future present if we can never experience it?
All we can live is this present present, reflecting on the past present (what happened when we were upstream). This present present and the present future that come after are the only present or future that can matter to me on a practical level.
Ha, have I lost you all yet? 🙂
Heads up, this is going to be a post in my “Deep Thoughts” category. (don’t like these Deep Thoughts posts? Go here and tell me! Or DO like them? Go here and tell me too!)
I’ve always pictured time more like Abed’s understanding of it on the “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode of the tv show Community. From any given moment, there are an infinite number of possible “timelines” that could play out. Though many/most of the timelines follow similar paths, it illustrates how a small happenstance (i.e. who goes to get the pizza) can affect so much more than we can ever realize.
I like the thought of all potential timelines, past, present and future, co-existing as possibilities…infinite possibilities that only a higher power with a higher dimensional perspective has the ability to see and understand a greater connection to it all.
This is probably also why I’m fascinated by the movie Interstellar, specifically when Matthew McConaghy’s character is trapped in that higher dimensional world, able to see and experience and affect all time and place at once. (and by the way, I have a very special place in my heart for filmmaker Christopher Nolan; he’s probably the only Hollywood writer/director I’ve ever wanted to meet/emulate. 🙂 )
I recognize the potential reality of many different “timelines” of my own life, but I do not know – nor will I ever be able to know – which of those possibilities will become actual reality.
Nor do I know (though I sense that there is some truth to it) if all past, present and future time exist concurrently, perhaps not exactly as the linear river example I stated above, but with some sort of non-Euclidean planar (sorry, math teacher brain kicking in and I don’t know how to describe this otherwise) existence.
(Whoa – just found this MIT article! Apparently my random postulations on the metaphysics of time aren’t too far off from the currently accepted theories. #proudofmyself here 🙂 Though I think I most align with the “moving spotlight” theory presented, and I’ll have to think more on the “block universe” theory.)
So here I find myself, reflecting heavily on a particular time period of my life, wondering if the past (the “past present”, i.e. what happened when I was “upstream” in the “river of time”) still exists, somehow, in some other dimension that due to human non-omniscience I cannot access, yet I can somehow still “sense” through vivid memories.
And I wonder if there is a greater connection between the past, present, future – and a guiding force behind it all – than our human minds are able to fully understand.
Someday, I’m going to write a book about the grand adventure I took in the summer of 2004 that I’m still, 12 years later, processing through.
In the summer of 2004, fresh out of college, I got a job working on a reality show called The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest for the Best. The show was basically an “Apprentice” type show but with Richard Branson, the guy behind Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, and the entire Virgin brand.
In the span of 7 weeks, at a mere 23 yrs old, I traveled to 8 countries on 4 different continents. I firsthand experienced, crash-course style, half a dozen extremely different cultures and probably a dozen different languages, none of which I spoke. My job on this show was to collect releases from everyone who appeared on camera, accidentally or on purpose. Calling myself a fish out of water does not even begin to describe the reality of the world I found myself in.
On top of all this, I was in a rather deep thinking period of my life, having recently been absorbed into a new philosophical questioning of the world I’d not previously exposed myself to. I began the trip with a borrowed copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and as such my entire trip was framed under a perspective of extremely rational and objective thinking.
I remember sitting in the restaurant of our Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England hotel alone, eating my English breakfast of baked beans and grilled tomatoes, wrapped into the world of Dagny Taggart, Francisco d’Anconia, and John Galt. I remember seeing other crew members – all of which were older than me – come down to breakfast, listen to them talk lightheartedly and wonder if I was the only weird one on crew thinking all these thoughts. If I was the only one who’d dared to see and question and experience life deeply as I was. Or if this deep thinking was just a passing stage of young adulthood.
I remember being in Zimbabwe and being told that I needed to go get mising releases from the other hotel where the cast members were staying, getting into a production-rented pickup truck with a locally hired driver and driving half an hour out into the jungle. Alone. With a male local driver I’d never met before. I did not have a cell phone. I did not know where I was going. The driver only spoke broken English. Dusk was beginning to fall.
Why did they send me to do that job then, you might ask? I now ask myself that too. But on production, especially in those earlier days of reality tv, everything is rush rush. Sometimes the practicalities of a task accomplishment got lost in the desire to have it completed ASAP. I did not think. Scratch that. I did question the situation internally before leaving, but not externally. I just did what I was told to do by the production manager. Maybe I thought others were going with me to the other location? Maybe I didn’t realize how late in the day it was? I don’t remember what I thought or how it happened.
But I’m pretty sure that was the most dangerous thing I have ever done in my entire life. I could have easily disappeared into the wilds of Zimbabwe in that very moment and my body would have never been found.
I don’t know who my driver was that night, but I thank God that he was a good person. In fact, I remember him talking to me about God as we drove home, in the dark, on the jungle road. With his broken English and my fading memory, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember the feeling of the conversation. There’s a moment – an image – burned forever into my memory, of looking out the front window of the truck onto the dark Zimbabwean road, seeing the stars in the sky, finding the Southern Cross and remembering the one other time I’d seen it before, as a teenager on a mission trip to Brazil to be a clown (which is a whole ‘nother story, for a whole ‘nother day).
Seeing the constellation reminded me of the awareness of humanity, of different cultures’ shared belief in a similar, if not the same, supernatural being, and of humanity’s shared understanding of our existence as breathing and living creatures, all trying to make sense of our place in the world. I remember the feeling of fear and peace intertwined together in that moment, not knowing which emotion I should I let myself give into, and of not knowing how the trip into the interior of Zimbabwe alone would end, good or bad.
I made it back safely to my hotel room that night, signed releases in hand.
To throw even more into the mix, I’d left for this trip with mixed feelings about a guy. The first guy I’d ever really had strong feelings for – what you might even call “love”. He’d been the one that dropped me off at the airport and I’d even cried as I’d said goodbye to him.
But then I experienced this worldwide grand adventure and contemplated life in brand new ways and I wasn’t sure if he could keep up with my newfound enlightenment…and I didn’t know if he was the one for me. So I called him the night before I came home and told him I didn’t want to date him…but he still picked me up from the airport the next day.
That guy turned out to be KP, my now husband of ten years and father to my two kids.
Ahh….y’all, I’ve been bitten by the writing bug with this script KP and I are writing right now. I’d always wanted to write a book about that grand summer adventure of my life, but now I REALLY REALLY want to write a book.
But kids. And finances that aren’t there. And this desire to maybe-maybe-not have a 3rd kid before I’m too old. And…the list goes on. I don’t know how to make it all happen.
I also don’t know if it’s worth trying to make it happen.
Our lives are so short and there’s only so much we can do with it. I want to make sure that I’m doing something good with mine and not just wasting away on fruitless dreams. I’ve already spent much of my life chasing dreams with my husband’s career. I’m happy to be by his side in all this, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not an easy life either.
So again. Hope.
I survive on hope. And I hope this is all worth it someday.
I have some serious crossed fingers and toes right now y’all. For real. For real.
And, by the way, side note: if you have not read this book, When Breath Becomes Air, please check it out.