Sunday, January 4, 2015

Interstellar and Time

Happy New Year!!

I am starting the new year off "right" by taking some time off from work.  Of course, not everyone has the luxury of a stockpile of vacation time, or a job where taking one's vacation time does not interfere with the smooth operation of the business, but that unfortunate fact is topic for another day.  In my case, I plan to take a few days every other week for the first quarter of the year.  Hopefully, it will provide me the time and the opportunity, to catch up on my reading, and e-publish something I have worked on for far too long without completing.

In the meantime, I finished the Laphams Quarterly called Time.  It was interesting in parts, but a bit redundant in others.  I say redundant in that essays, poems, reflections about Time seem to fall into a smaller group of categories as can be inspired by other topics.  I guess after the umpteenth example of someone expressing regret over wasting their time as their life comes to a close, after another example of a metaphysical approach to defining Time in relation to eternity, God, space, etc, after yet again someone's reflection of how Time makes a mockery of earthly possessions, fighting over specks of land, angst over almost any of life's events when compared to forever, I was beginning to tire of the effort to read.

Then I went to see the movie Interstellar.  For those of you who have not seen it, I will try not to spoil the story.  In essence, it is a love story, set with a background of time, space, and the future of mankind.  For me, it brought to life many of the concepts encased in Lapham's Time edition.  I would imagine that for most people, Einstein's theory of relativity is just that, a theory, but something hard to apply to everyday life and experiences.  Reading a magazine like Laphams, I surmise that there may be an attempt to make such a theory come alive by compiling the musings about Time over the course of thousands of years.  With just such a perspective, it is a sobering read.  But, perhaps regrettably, seeing the effect of relativity as played out on the big screen with believable actors in a not unbelievable story, seems to bring home the point all that clearer.  For me, one of the most striking scenes is the one in which the father is reunited with his daughter after his time in space.  It is a reunion in a hospital where the daughter is dying of old age while the father has aged only slightly.  On the face of it, something out of science fiction, but as theorized by Einstein and as depicted in the movie, as realistic as any scene could be.  

To return to Lapham's Time, there was one essay that caused me pause.  It was written by a father who, with found memories of his childhood days at a summer vacation spot, decided to bring his own son to that same place.  At first, unsure that Time and Progress may have changed his summer retreat, he moved cautiously.  But, upon arrival, and after the first full day, he was happy to discover that very little had changed at the lake.  Except him.  While Time had seemingly stopped as far as the summer vacation spot was concerned, he had aged.  When he looked at his son, he remembered his own father and he started to combine those images.  He saw himself as both the son and the father, interchangeable.  This, of course, made me think about my father, already gone for two years, and my son, just graduated from college.  I am the link between them, yet also the end result of a link that extends multiple generations in the past, and hopefully, the beginning of a chain that will extend multiple generations into the future.  A bit of immortality, both backwards into history and forward into Time.

There is no time like the present.  A nice little saying.  Ridiculed by some who perceive those who live in the present to be irresponsible or immature.  Yet, is it not the present that links what has happened with what is to come.?

Which begs the question; what is preferable, or what is worse; living in the past, living in the present or living for the future.  The past is a nice place to visit when one feels nostalgic but its experiences tend to exist through rose colored glasses, always better in reflection than they were in reality.  It may be pleasant to start one's sentences with "I remember when.." but turning back the hands of Time is not a foundation to build upon for the future.  While the future is an imagined place, a wonderful or dreaded place depending on one's age, outlook, economic situation, country of birth, gender, race, health condition, etc.  For those of us approaching retirement, there are too many stories of friends or relatives who plan for their years after work, only to pass to the next realm within a few months,  never actually reaching the future they planned for so long. 

Perhaps then, there is no time like the present is the better choice of philosophies, perhaps the only choice that adequately links the past with the future.  The only choice that values what has come before, honors what is now, and appreciates what is to come.          

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