Monday, June 25, 2012

Time

"I see time as a constant, whereas humans perceive time as flexible. Hence the expression "Time flies" when you're having fun. Which until now has always confused me."
Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation




But Data was wrong, time is indeed relative. The faster you go, the slower time moves into the future, physicists tell us, or is it into the past. Recent subatomic experiments have confirmed another tenet of the theory of relativity; gravity alters the flow of time by slowing it down as well. On crossing the event horizon of a black hole, it's postulated, time stands still for the unfortunate, long-dead observer. Only when out in open space, and once freed from the constraints of celestial black holes and terrestrial ass holes does time pick up the tempo and move to a faster beat. As for us, ground-bound earthlings, you may ask any lover if thirty minutes of waiting for a sweetheart at a terminal feels shorter than being with her for a whole week and he'll tell you that it's not so. Time does fly when we're happy and trudges along laboriously when we're not. Certainly, how we focus on time affects our perception of it. If we bring it to the front we'd be agonized by every tick of a clock on the wall. That's what we tend to do when we're bored, distressed or miserable. On the other hand if we relegate it to the background, where it belongs, it all but fades away.

We've been in a state of bedlam for 468 days over here. For millions, this is by far the most excruciatingly painful ordeal they've been through. The passage of a single day for those who lost a limb, or loved ones; those who became jobless, or homeless; those who were jailed, or tortured must have felt infinitely longer than the ennui of Facebookers who are complaining about being deprived of their sheepish good ol' days and the disruption of their nocturnal feeding and frolicking. Only an adept student of civilizations realizes that a tiring and perhaps treacherous road lies ahead; one that is probably longer than the duration of our lifetime, yet shorter than the blink of an eye in the course of history.

A summer storm came from nowhere and drenched the streets, making them desolate of pedestrians and other forms of life. We are holding each other's hand and running for cover under a store awning. For a minute or two we're standing there waiting for the rain to pass. Her mascara is running slightly as I'm holding her in my arms. I'm combing her hair back with my fingers, staring at my reflection in her eyes. She's looking at her own beautiful face in mine. We kiss. Years later, I taste the sweet honey on my lips every time it rains. A minute or two no more, an eternity.

Time, as plenteous as grains of sand on all the beaches out there, is more precious than a gulp of water in the palm of a thirsty man. Our brains have adapted to its scarcity by weaving a cocoon made intricately of the flares of happiness we treasure most. We neatly hide them in the back of our minds, then in a moment of utter need, a moment of craving for a place, a past or a person, we bring them out and feed on seconds as if they were hours and days. “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons”, T. S. Eliot wrote in The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock. Most critics claim that Prufrock was expressing his disillusionment with society in that statement but I disagree. While he may have been disillusioned indeed, this poem is mostly about the passage of time in a man's life. How a moment of greatness “flicker” while the butt-ends of days and ways linger on with a foul taste and need to be spit out.

I long for a day, yet to come, when I throw away my watch and any reminder of the past, present or future. I want to live one singular moment when nothing else matters anymore. Life is neither short nor long as many believe it to be one way or the other. We just need to unlock its little secret like William Faulkner did. "Only when the clock stops does time come to life."