Monday, 28 December 2015

Time--Qualitatively, Introspectively, Retroactively

I met a kindred spirit this year, and I regret to say that I discovered it too late.  He's leaving.  Rather, I should say, he has left.

I don't meet many anymore.  Perhaps I never did.  I haven't thought about it.  I haven't had the time.

One of the last discussions we had was about time.  He warned me that it would pass ever more quickly with age, and I retorted that I had found the solution.  I related a story about how I had received that very same warning when I was twenty-five, a warning I very diligently heeded.  In fear of passively watching the years slip past me, indiscriminately melding into an indiscernible collection of past events, I decided to take action!  I would make each moment memorable.  What better way to slow down time than to ensure that each moment was filled with memorable things, places and people.  It was logical.  I spent the following years refining the process, taking on exciting new opportunities, trying a variety of new activities, and getting to know a lot of interesting people.

It's eight years later, and I believed I had worked out the kinks.  The years have been discernible.  Each had a character; or, at least, I retrospectively assigned it one.  It's hard to say which is the case.  This should have felt like success.  But the other day when this kindred spirit kindly warned me that time would pass ever more quickly with age, and I proudly regurgitated my usual logical solution-as I've so done since first formulating it when I was twenty-five, something felt amiss.  I remember everything, regardless of any interesting characteristics; with or without any prejudice.  I remember it all.

It was a gross miscalculation.  I understood the concern to be that I would lose track of all the details.  Accordingly, I formulated a solution centred on slowing down the perception of the passage of time, namely making it memorable.  But my thinking was fallacious!  Effort to make each moment memorable is required assuming that without it, I would forget.  It's so striking.  It's so obvious an implicit premise.  It's so pessimistic.  It's so ... disappointing.

I didn't need to go out of my way to make each moment so special that I'd remember it.  I was going to remember it, anyway.  Problem solved.  So why was it still so unsatisfying?

Though it wasn't good-bye, if age has taught me anything, it's that it probably was.  We parted ways on book recommendations that would "trouble" the other.  By "trouble", I mean "afflict intellectually".  It has been a long while since I've been "troubled" by a book.  It's been even longer since I've been excited to read one recommended to me. I wished I'd told him that.  Instead, I blamed the work environment for how rare it was.  The truth was that even in environments where it was expected to have been commonplace, it wasn't.  It meant a lot to me that I could inspire someone to be excited about a book.  It meant a lot to me that I could be excited.  Most importantly, why have these final exchanges been troubling me?

And it was in feeling so troubled that I realized the answer. It's how I knew when muttering it that my formulation was wrong. I have been so busy making everything exceptionally memorable, retroactively ascribing meaning to moments in time, when the actual problem was that I haven't been moved.

What's tragic about losing the years is neither that we age nor that we forget. It is when we are not engaged emotionally. Even worse, it remains tragic when we are. It's terrifying that a moment could be so riddled with emotion, making an experience simultaneously beautiful and sad--beautiful because of how precious those feelings are; sad because it's fleeting. 
It is ok if I can't recall it all. It wasn't the content of the hours. It's what I felt as I filled them. This has been my failure - in logic, but also in life - as of late.

To 2016!  I hope this year is filled with lots of peace, love and happiness.

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