I’m in the throes of a difficult relationship. I’ve tried everything: making lists, letting go, ignoring, scheduling, bargaining, cajoling (ok, begging), but nothing works. No matter what I do, my relationship with Time just keeps getting more difficult. Just the other day, I wrote a check and put the date as 1994. As I stared at it, I knew there was a problem, but for just a split second (speaking of time), I had no idea what year it was.Which would be just fine, really, if I were a cat, living in the eternal present. But Time and I go way back. In fact, I can’t think of a time when Time was not present (even when I wasn’t.) Time never stands still, but seems to always be leaping ahead of me, forcing me to race alongside, never catching up. Jeremy Rifkin, author of ‘Time Wars’ (what kind of relationship is that, being at war with Time, yikes!) suggests that we’ve had a tough relationship with Time since the first clock was invented, or maybe even when they first started ringing bells in churches to mark the hours.
My issues with Time started a long time ago – if you live in linear time. When I was young I was not allowed to be late. That meant Time was never on my side. Just when things were starting to jell, when I was starting to have fun, I had to go home, because if I didn’t arrive home on Time, all hell broke loose. Time stressed me out, always hanging around, reminding me that I couldn’t totally be here, because soon I was going to have to be there. And, truth be told, I never really wanted to be home. So I grew up compulsively punctual. Which possibly means that I became a slave of time. Now that’s a dysfunctional relationship.
To make matters worse, I married someone who has a completely different relationship with Time. In fact, sometimes I think my husband Ron spends most of his time in a completely different dimension. Now I’m told that Time is a dimension – the fourth dimension. We can’t understand Time any more than say, a line could understand a plane, or a plane understand a three dimensional cube. In the book, ‘Flatland,’ author Edward Abbott Abbott (clearly in love with redundancy), posits that we stand before Time like a plane stands before a cube, unable to see the whole, simply because of our human limitations.
But, back to Ron. I couldn’t have picked someone better to work on my issues. The other day, we had to go to a funeral. The funeral was at noon. I must have said at least 20 times (there’s that time thing again) that we had to leave at 11:30 the latest. I should have lied and said 11:15. Except after 40 years, I’ve learned there must be some hidden vibration in my voice that he seems to pick up on, so that he knows that it’s really NOT 11:15, it’s 11:30. But then, something happens in his brain. Next thing, he’s saying to me, “We’re leaving at 12, right?”
“No, the funeral is at 12. We have to leave by 11:30.”
At 11:20, I’m ready, and he is in his pajama pants. “Are you ready to go?” I ask, trying not to comment on the outfit.
“I still have to shave,” he says.
“What?” I try not to screech. “We have to leave!”
“What do you mean, I thought we were leaving at 12.”
“NOOOOOOO! The funeral is at 12!”
By the time we get out the door and into the car… well, I can’t resist. I say, “I swear, you would be late for your own funeral.”
His response? “Well, I won’t care, will I? Plus you won’t be nagging me.”
And yes, we were late, because apparently funerals start on time.
But of course, the concept of linear time is just that, a concept. My hairdresser informed me the other day that all time is happening at the same time. (Only in Asheville would you get a hairdresser who wants to talk about non-linear time.) As I watched chunks of hair falling down to the floor, I tried to imagine a reality where I have hair, where my hair is being cut, where I no longer have any hair, all happening at the same time. But being merely human, I was only able to try to figure out when the heck I was going to have the time to re-touch my roots.
Rifkin posits that as technology changes us, our relationship with time will also change. We can’t possibly begin to imagine what working in non-linear time might be. Or what a quantum approach to time could look like – anymore than ancient people would understand the concept of being somewhere at 11:47AM.
My friend Barbara was once at a party, where she found herself in conversation with a physicist. Somehow their conversation turned to quantum ideas and non-linear time. “I don’t know why,” Barbara said, “but I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of non-linear time.” The physicist smiled and said, “Maybe that’s because we had this conversation at this party.”
So, it’s 1994, and 1957, and 2025 and I’m simply taking my time to experience it all. The challenge, as always, is to be in the NOW even as Time marches on.
Lavinia’s classes almost always start on time. (www.laviniaplonka.com)