Friday, 26 October 2018

Time and dreams. And a mountain or two.

Time doesn’t stand still. Not for any man or woman. Time is physics. It proceeds and there is nothing that we can do about it. Not yet anyway. Probably not ever.

While perhaps it's not great writing to start with a cliche (or even a few), the standing still of time, as sometimes observed in a moment of awe, is something we can perceive. Sometimes. Okay, time doesn't actually stop. But it feels like it does. Insert here any moment when for you time 'stood still'; that moment, perhaps, when you had raced to summit a mountain and - with your feet standing on the highest point, your body in that state of elated exhaustion - you watched as the rising sun crept long pillars of light above the distant horizon. And you realised - literally standing still - that you were holding your breath. 

The sun of course went on rising and time did not actually stop. At moments like these, we tell ourselves that it did; just for a moment. But that is an illusion. A mere mistaken perception. Even the language around its hypothetical stopping is, if you think about it, so entangled in the definition of time - a moment, passing, still, sometimes - that it needs the momentum of time to make any sense at all. You can't interrupt something if that something is not an entity that can be interrupted. It must be interrupt-able. Time is a continuum. It proceeds. Relentlessly, perhaps. Reliably, yes. It must have started somewhere - at The Beginning Of Time. And we can hypothesise all we like about how it will end. But the End Of Time, when it happens, won't involve us. We will be long gone before Time ends. 
This, hypothetical space-time conundrum or Physics as it is sometimes called, is, however, not what I set out to write about; I have allowed myself a temporary distraction and have strayed from my story - if that is what this blog is. So, I will move hastily back to it. Ahem ... while it is impossible to stop time (... see above!) it is possible to step back and observe time passing. This we do in retrospect: we see ourselves age - wrinkles appear, our skin thins to fine crepe and our bodies become lumpen and slowing, stiffen; we remember; we watch our children grow, our gardens mature, our lives adapt and change. This retrospect is a reflection on past times. It is an awareness of history, of time that cannot be changed. Which in turn makes us contemplate the time that we can change. We can change the future. It's not happened yet. Just jump onto the bandwagon of time and steer it in a direction we want it to take. Simple, eh? Well, yes - we can do this. If we want to. If we believe we can. We can even dream of a fast-forwarding of time. After all, we do this when we ask ourselves ‘What if?’ 

What if?

What if I had no time left? Yup, we’re straight in with the biggest what if. What if next year, next month, next week, tomorrow, were my last? What if I knew that my time were about to end? What would I do? What would I change? Would I change at all or am I content with who I am right now?

Aside from the incredible heart-ache and sadness of telling those nearest to you that your time with them has a use-by-date closer than any of you had expected, how would you react? 

Through work and among family and friends, I have observed many in this position. It is always sad. Always a shock. Always hard. But ...

There are those that rail against it, like caged lions, furiously throwing themselves against the bars of shortened time. They are angry - so very angry - and bitterly aflame in their own grief. They are frightened too - their fear acting as fuel to their anger. And they are terribly, terribly difficult to help. 

Some give up immediately and slide into a slow declining gloom, deaf to any words of encouragement, deaf to offers of help and deaf in the end to the things they really needed to hear. 

Some write frenzied bucket lists and embark on frenzied trips with frenzied family and frenzied itineraries and frenzied cancelled appointments until life inevitably collapses into a frenzied crash-landing of an end, with no time left for goodbyes. 

But ... it is better to love. To love and to be loved. To support and to plan. You can't stop time. But you can optimise every minute that's left. Yes, tick some bucket list items off but do it with love; surrounded by love and sharing love with loved ones. 

The last response to the curtailing of time in that biggest what if of all, is awesome to observe; awesome and very humbling. If … when … I were in that dreadful position, would I have it in me to neither a lion, nor a frenzied bucket-lister be? I wouldn’t waste time being the gloomy one, so my neither, nor stands. I hope I’d be the strong last one. Which would you be? The last? So easy to aspire to. So hard to do in our ambitious, forward thinking, westernised culture where death is still a taboo.

Dragging this back to the big what if? What would you do differently? Why ask this now? Perhaps, what I’m getting at is a need to re-appraise our lives. I think this is called the mid-life crisis. Maybe, I should have had mine a few years ago - maybe, I’ve been having it for the past decade or so - maybe, that’s what makes me perennially indecisive and an entrenched procrastinator. Maybe, it’s what makes me say maybe so often. What if?

What if?

What if I could change three things; what would they be?

Slap the Trumpster off his pedestal and reinstate the agreements on global climate change.

Nominate Paddington for the next James Bond - he’d be great; think about it - imagine the weapons he’d fit under his hat next to the marmalade sandwiches. Okay, they’d get a bit sticky and he’d press the wrong switch or smear ear wax in places where ear wax should never be seen (should it be seen anywhere? …) but he’d brilliantly bumble his way into enemy territory and defeat them with his charm. 

Ban palm oil. And in doing so save the last remaining orangutans.

Ye-e-es … but, I think you’d anticipated three things I’d change about me and aside from protesting and dreaming, I can’t make the three above happen. And anyway, I think Paddington is probably not in the running for Bond, in anyone's head other than mine. So me - what would I change about me?

Well … that would be telling. Better to ask yourself what three things you would change about you? Go on. Ask yourself, What if?

And then do them. What’s stopping you? No; really - what is stopping you? If your answer is time, remember that time is the one thing you absolutely cannot take for granted. And even more absolutely than absolutely, you cannot stop or pause or even slow it down. It just is and you need to hold on to your ride and make it good for as long as you can.




P.S. Me? My what if? My three things? 


I would do more of this




and this 




and this



and this





and ... well, this. This writing thing. This procrastinating and dreaming words onto a page.

Which is five things but who's counting?








p.s. A bit more about orangutans


orangutan conservation borneo


sumatranorangutan