Time. A swirling vortex of mass, substance, and neon luminescent gas. Ever-changing, evolving, turning itself inside and out. A chameleon and a con man. The good guy and the villain. The hero and the arch-nemesis. All-consuming and apathetic. It is everything and it is nothing at all.
An illusion. A game. A lie, but one that holds so much truth. Look into its eyes and you’ll see it. Like a gospel etched into stone, its veracity can’t be denied but, in its infallibility, lays the fantasy. A story that sounds too good to be true, but one that can mend the very heart it has broken.
If there’s one thing I don’t handle very well, it’s the passing of time. It feels like I’m on a roller coaster that’s malfunctioning. Sometimes it goes so fast my vision blurs and I become disorientated. The past, present, and glimpses of the future coalesce, and they become this abstract painting of colour, light, sound. I’m grasping at it, trying to hold on to each fracturing shard, but it moves too fast and my hands are too small. It slips through bloody fingers and it’s lost forever.
Other times, it stops so suddenly that the breaks lock and the tires smoke. I’ve been whipped around so violently my head snaps back and I’m sure something must’ve cracked. The tracks underneath the car groan. Weightlessness takes over, and I’m pulled out of the moment. Helpless, I’m set adrift and pulled away as if I’m at the mercy of an unseeable beast.
A low, rumbling, howl comes from deep inside an ever-changing nucleus. A rush of breath gusts past me, through me, and I shiver. The air is warm, but it leaves me feeling chilled to the bone. I try to breathe, scream, free myself but the more I struggle the deeper I go. I beg for mercy, for a moment’s reprieve, but it’s denied. It’s always refused with glee, a growl, and a grimace.
As violently as I was pulled out of time and into space; I’m thrown back into the seat of the broken coaster. It rocks side to side. For a moment, it threatens to tip over the edge, and I know, I know, I shouldn’t look down but who can resist the temptation? I look, of course I do, and I see — Nothing but the swirling vortex of light and neon luminescent gas that can’t hold its form for a second longer than it takes to blink just once.
I close my eyes, squeeze them tight, and grip the lap bar with white knuckles. The rocking stops. Everything stops. Suspended in space and time. Hanging in that moment before the drop. Floating aimlessly amongst nothing and everything. Waiting. Hoping. Wondering, what’s next?
At that moment, as brief as it may be, there ceases to be sound and colour. A vacuum in space. A black hole that sucks everything up and leaves behind an emptiness that can’t be filled. Pulling. Tugging. Dragging. Hold on! To what?
A silent rush of air takes my breath away, and I have to look. I don’t want to. I’m too scared to see what’s left and what’s been taken. I try to keep my eyes shut. I fight the urge, the pull, but it’s too strong and I’m too weak. I beg, I plead, with my own eyes to stay behind the blinds but the blinds are pulled opened. It’s too late. As far as the eye can see, in this fractured moment, there’s nothing but haze and confusion. Lost? Without purpose? A mere toy for the time lords amusement?
Is that all we are? Is that all I am? Is time something that happens to us or with us? Are we at its mercy or can we bend it to our will? Am I in a bit of a morose mood? Do I ask too many questions? Oh, but I have so many more and I’m not sure if there’s an easy answer to any of them.
Looking back is too painful. Looking at this moment seems too translucent. Looking forward? I’m afraid I’m a bit short-sighted. I just can’t see that far ahead. Maybe if I look at something more abstract or ethereal? I can’t seem to find my answers in reality so, perhaps, I can find them in fantasy. At the very least, if I can’t find answers there, then I’ll find a reprieve from a moment that feels too real to process.
Am I the only one that finds reality unpalatable?
Centuries of myths, legends, and lore created by people whose reality was harsher than my own, would suggest that I’m not alone. For thousands of years, we’ve tried to understand the things that seem to defy understanding or reason. Time. Life. Death. Love. Hate. Coming to terms with these ideas in a reality-based setting has left generations unsatiated. Which is why, I theorize, so many of us have had to look elsewhere.
We’ve created gods and demigods. Divine beings with superhuman powers and mere mortals who’ve done the unthinkable. Somehow, despite all odds, these hero’s rise up to vanquish the unvanquishable. We’ve written their stories and those stories become legends. We’ve taken the almighty and shrunk it down so it doesn’t loom over our heads like a dark cloud on an otherwise sunny day. Or, we’re simply trying to understand things that seem far beyond our meager comprehension.
That old saying is true, isn’t it? We fear what we don’t understand; we strive to understand so that we’re not afraid. If fear can’t paralyze us or send us drifting off into madness then we stand a chance. A chance at surviving the fugacious reality of our existence. It’s a simple equation that should add up, but does it? We keep creating, keep writing these stories, so I think, at the very least, the hope is still alive.
After all these centuries, the creatives are keeping hope alive? That speaks volumes to our need, our desire, to truly understand the things that are beyond our, or my, level of comprehension. It speaks to our, my, deeply felt need for hope in times of despondency.
For me, I understand death. I’ve died a few times already. My heart has stopped. My life, soul if you prefer, left my body and went to the hereafter. Obviously, I was sent back, and my heart started to beat. I’ve been there and back again so it doesn’t scare me. Death doesn’t scare me. I understand it. I welcome it when my moment comes. Though, it needs to be said that I’m not actively seeking that moment. With a small amount of luck, I’ll have years ahead of me but when those years run out, I’m ready to face death with a smile.
Life, the meaning of it, still eludes me to a point of frustration and aggravation. I’m torn between looking for meaning and creating it. Stuck in a limbo of the unknowable, but I’m not scared of life or this state of unease. Maybe I’m used to it? I’ve always felt a little lost in life, like a puzzle piece in the wrong box, so it’s a familiar state of being. Comfortable. A warm blank, a hot cup of tea, and a trashy novel on a day that’s too hot. Uncomfortably comfortable? Does that make any sense at all?
Making peace with time, on the other hand, is something that escapes me and creates this deep unease. I’d even say that it creates this desperate anxiousness. It makes me feel like I’m crawling out of my skin. I want to scream, cry, and curl up into a ball until it stops moving. It’s too fast. It’s too much. I can’t make peace with it because I can’t understand it. I fear what I don’t know?
Making peace with that seems impossible. What about a friendship with time? The swirling mass of neon luminescent gas. That malfunctioning roller coaster that has a mind of its own. That beast from ancient myth that’s a man, a god, or a planet. Befriend that?
I don’t know if I can make friends, or peace, with Father Time. That genial old man, with a long white beard, carrying a scythe and an hourglass. He seems to be a friendlier, more palatable, version of the grim reaper. He’s a reminder that we’re all moving forward, towards our end, and in its inevitability time does not wait for us to catch up or keep pace. It moves on with or without us by its side. Ready or not, time marches on and on.
Father Time, in this legand, is married to Mother Earth. Life and death united as one. New beginnings, full of wonderful possibilities, walks hand in hand with the bleakness of an inevitable end. Is it possible to see one without the other? How do these strange bedfellows exist so harmoniously?
Is there harmony in the chaos of that luminescent gas? Is there harmony in death? In birth? In god’s, heroes, and our eternal quest for hope?
There is a perverse beauty in the chaos of life and death. A dance that’s been carefully choreographed over the millennia. Moving in perfect step and flowing gracefully between joy and tragedy. Happiness and sadness cavort on the dance floor with all eyes on them. Mesmerizing. Hypnotic. Elegant.
Time moves on, there’s no stopping it, and I don’t know if I’ll ever truly enjoy the dance without moments of hesitation or resistance. I pull away, wanting it to stop or slow down, but it grabs on tight so I’m at its chary mercy. All I can do is hold on to the lap bar of this broken roller coast as it follows its own whims. It laughs, sings, and dances through the swirling vortex with me on its back.
A reluctant passenger with tightly closed eyes. Well, they stay closed until the temptation becomes too much and I look down. I’ll always look down. Even when I know it’s to my detriment. It’s compulsive, instinctual, a whim I can’t help but follow.
I wonder, if I kept my eyes open, would I be less afraid of the beast in the vortex? Closing the blinds hasn’t helped. It hasn’t lessened my unease. Diving into the fantasy of the creative giants, while a nice reprieve, hasn’t brought any answers. On the contrary, they’ve brought out more questions and uncertainties.
So, instead of fearing this great unknown, what would happen if I embraced it like I embrace the idea of death or the uncertainty of life? If I got comfortable being uncomfortable. If I stopped fighting against the tide and started swimming with it. If I joined the dance as a willing partner instead of a reluctant courtier.
Would my state of mind become more harmonious? Or, would I just become another creative straddling the line between sanity a madness?