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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time

When I was a young man, I had the delightful pleasure of reading a book called a Wrinkle in Time. I had not lived long enough to know that the course of time is somewhat malleable. As a child, all time seemed to creep slowly and painfully forward. Much of the craziness that went on around me served as "proof" that I would probably never make it past thirty so any conception of time that was different than the brutal indifference that time seemed to hold, for me, was a welcome relief. Luckily, I have continued to learn about this facet of our existence and welcomed the changing nature of my own conceptions about this oddly misunderstood part of our lives. Reflecting on just a few aspects of this concept has the power to change, not only the time we have spent, but the time we have left and the very nature of our existence. I am just coming to realize that "tree time" is very similar to "insect time", although the scope of tree time may expand to many hundreds of years and insects may be lucky to get a month out of life, the time signature is both remarkably different, but yet exactly the same.

As one of the most famous song of my youth said it, we've all got time enough to cry. In the natural world, time is both understood to be malleable and because of this, the telling of time loses much of it's value. Codified segments and linear progression are nearly useless and circular time, the progression of the seasons and of the equinoxes gain relative importance and simultaneously today, yesterday and tomorrow fade in importance. I am always amazed at datebooks that sub-divide days into hourly segments. On the one hand, the appointment book is crucial to our modern life, guiding the progression of our days as much as practicable. However, doing whatever we do, as part of a micro-managed dance of hours or half-hours has always seemed to be a bit ridiculous. Often, what we find when significant events happen in our lives, time can both stand still and fly by at will, making our plans and schedules moot.

A pair of friends and I were discussing the nature of time, how it has affected us, and the serious changes that have occurred for each of us regarding this poorly understood aspect of our lives. What made the most sense to me is the idea of the scope of time unfolding, not like a line, but more like that of a double helix that we most often recognize as DNA. Like with DNA, we build, discreet element upon discreet element. Moment by moment. Often when we choose to relay messages or tell stories we are uncoiling the strands, share half, allow others to fill in their own portion (half) and when we have shared fully, we may have changed forever the development of the organism. As we become more experienced and deft, we find that it is possible to reach out, across the helix, expand it like a Slinky or crush it down end to end to compress time experience the past and step out of the time signature of our normal waking life.

Something like this happened to me this past week. One of our neighbors has three children. As soon as the weather turned nice, the windows opened and the youngsters started playing in the yard. I typically live and let live, but there was a distinct unpleasant relationship that developed quickly between us. The two youngest ones, a boy and a girl seemed to always relate to one another with callous indifference and the only attraction they seemed to have for one another is to attack, steal toys from one another and basically be as selfish as possible, leading their sibling to feel offended. This would nearly always be punctuated with screams. Not just "Hey Mom, he, or she, is doing it again!" type screams, No, blood curdling, I've lost a limb-type screams. My moments of abject terror slowly waned and my ire started to build, but then I got an idea...I wondered if anyone had shared with them the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. I took it upon myself to spend some time, telling a story over their back fence.

The uncoiling of the endless cycles of time took place within the space of about fifteen minutes. I cannot truly say exactly how long it took because polychronic time is resistant to scientific study, but as long as it takes to get children interested, utilize the power of four repetitions and bring the story to a logical conclusion. This shared time has had an amazing effect. I have not heard a single scream from the little rug rats. My yard work, rather than being punctuated with surges of adrenaline, has become much more placid and refreshing. I would go as far as to say, healing. The unfolding of the summer season has taken on a much more happy air and I look forward to opening my windows to let the breezes and sounds in. It did take an investment of a little time, but the value of spending that time is truly incalculable. The results speak for themselves. Perhaps that integral part of my own understanding made the jump into the next generation, perhaps they just changed their ways because they don't want me coming back and telling them more stories again. Either way, as the wisdom of the ages passed over my lips, I felt my being active in both the ages past and future. Thorough a simple story I had the power to wrinkle time, step across her vast flowing and powerful tides, and produce a pearl, pertinent and useful to that moment, but which also has the power to change the unfolding of time beyond infinity.

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