Hickory, dickory, dock,
The mouse ran up the clock;
The clock struck one,
And down he run,
Hickory, dickory, dock.
~Mother Goose, Hickory Dickory Dock
From the age that I first heard and understood the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock, I have been fascinated by the concept of time. An insomniac even as an elementary school child, I would lie awake in bed with my imagination racing, taking the occasional guilty peek at the luminescent numbers on my *state-of-the-art* clock radio. My parents would come to check on me when they turned in, and I quickly learned that what they did NOT want to see was bright and eager eyes peering back at them at 11:30 PM; I would feign slumber, and sometimes this would lead me into the real thing.
But usually not.
One thing that fascinated me (and still does) was how ELASTIC the passage of time can be; it would speed by as my mind drifted and dreamed of fantastical places, and crawl like a slug as I lay with my eyes clamped shut, breathing slowly and deeply and waiting for my parents to leave the room. A minute, such a thoughtless little increment, can feel eternal when in anticipation. Not surprisingly, while in the 5th grade, I became utterly obsessed with the novel A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels.
“Even travelling at the speed of light it would take us years and years to get here.”
“Oh, we don´t travel at the speed of anything,” Mrs. Whatsit explained earnestly. “We tesser. Or you might say, we wrinkle.”
Time that wrinkles, other dimensions that exist simultaneously with our own; these were concepts that resonated with me deeply. My imaginary world was as vibrant and experiential as the physical world—it didn’t seem any less “real” to me. And my dreams were vivid and memorable; I wondered more than once if I ever actually slept at night or if I “tessered”.
Entering middle school and moving away from the safe and nurturing community I had grown up in was a shock to my system for sure. The struggles of adolescence loomed large as I faced the challenges of assimilating to an entirely different kind of social scene while grappling with body image and raging hormones. My imaginary world was dimmed, but not gone; I remember waking up on cold winter mornings to my radio alarm and hearing Al Stewart’s Time Passages, which filled me with a melancholy for the childhood that had seemed to slip away overnight.
Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
~Al Stewart, 1978
But it was during those difficult middle school years that I became entirely enamored with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, still and always my very favorite story. In addition to its plain-spoken wisdom about the true meaning of life (never mind Christmas!), I loved the idea that the past, present and future exist simultaneously, and that with a bit of help we can experience them all; later, when I started exploring the concepts of quantum physics, I realized just how prescient Dickens’ notions of time actually were. I was also captivated by the idea that “ghosts” may actually be “time slips“–not necessarily seeing dead people, more a rip in the fabric of time.
Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!
“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me…” (5.1-2)
~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
As a teenager, having somehow negotiated (what turned out to be a temporary) peace with my changing body and having grown in self-confidence and social ease, I still found myself drawn into stories about time travel and the otherwise amorphous nature of time itself. My senior year of high school the big hit movie was Back to the Future, which introduced the concept of the dangers of manipulating the past to alter the present. Of course, when you’re 17, anything seems possible, right?
Marty: Yeah, well history is gonna change.
Now that I am older and wiser, I don’t bother about time so much. LOL, HUGE LIE! I still obsess over it, but I think my ideas have become more flexible, like time itself.
Yes, life whizzes by at a dizzying rate, but I always manage to find the time for what is important to me, which I think is the key to happiness. I don’t rush through things the way I used to; I am better able to enjoy the moment or at the very least be present for it. Ironically, as my time on earth grows shorter, I view it less like the red sand running through the witch’s hourglass in The Wizard of Oz, and more like the gift and guidepost it is meant to be.
This month, as OTV is going through a transition and what we hope will be a rebirth, we asked you to share your thoughts about time. As always, your varied, smart and interesting responses were a pleasure to read and now to share. Shareen and I thank our contributors and readers for spending some of your precious time with us. We are grateful to be able to provide a platform for your talented voices to be heard.
Happy New Year, may 2018 be the time of your life! ~Kara