Time moves quickly.
My son Solomon started kindergarten last week. Orientation. Bus rides. School, school, and more school.
I remember him grabbing my finger thirteen minutes after he was born. It was the winter of 2013. His tiny fingers clutched me tightly. I wept, then. I really don’t have words for what I felt when Solomon was born. His younger brother Samson, too. The mix of emotions I experienced seemed singular. Complex, too. Some of those same emotions stirred as I walked to the bus stop with Solomon. It was fall of 2019. Once more, Solomon was clutching my hand tightly.
It’s nothing new to write that time moves quickly. But the idea feels new to me as Solomon starts school.
I wrote the phrase “time moves quickly” countless times in the first drafts of Shot Across the River Styx. My manuscript editor, Mary Logue, told me to lay off. So I did. Still, the phrase showed up quite a bit in the final version of the book. The sequels too. I like the phrase. I suppose, at the time, I was astonished by how much time had passed since my good friend Nick died. And I wanted to capture some of that surprise with repetitive writing. Was my writing poetic or annoying? You be the judge.
And now I’m surprised by how much time has passed since my son Solomon was born. I want to capture that, too. Seems like it was yesterday.
Life is short.
Or, depending on your perspective, life is long.
What happens to us after we die? Do we keep going? Do we wink out? Your answer to that question probably influences your understanding of time. Your existence too. Are we infinite or finite? There’s a big difference, I guess.
I have no interest in proselytizing anybody. Or anything. Still, Paul’s claim in his letter to the Romans is pretty hefty.
“I consider that our present sufferings,” he writes, “are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
There’s plenty of ways to make sense of this statement. But it’s hard to miss the idea that our present sufferings brought on by the human condition – and those sufferings seem heavy to me – are nothing compared with the glory to come.
Paul offers one way to understand time. Moving towards an infinite glory? Seems like that would solve most of the worries and anxieties that plague me after thirty-nine years of wandering the earth. No need to mourn the things that passed away because they don’t really pass away.
Oi vey. I’ve kept an account of some of my anxieties, I guess. The sufferings of my present age. Four books already? Time moves quickly.
It’s wild to think that the suffering I’ve experience might not compare with what is next. What is next? How the hell should I know? I’m as human as you. Limited. And these blogs aren’t evangelical tracts. But Paul’s words offer a distinct picture of time as a limiting construct not worth paying much attention to.
My favorite author Kurt Vonnegut ended the final chapter in his final work with some interesting final words.
“What you respond to in any work of art,” Vonnegut wrote, “is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.”
Time is a limitation. All of us face it. I’ll die. You will too. Babies grow up. Go to school. Go into adulthood. You can’t stop time from moving quickly.
Bad things happen as we go. Some have it worse than others. Far worse. But even the people with enough power and privilege to keep the bad stuff at bay for a little while eventually have to face the penultimate truth of their mortality. This doesn’t last forever. What? Everything. Or maybe it does. But it changes, certainly. Transform!
Seems like so much of good art is an expression of the struggle against limitations of time. Earlier in his book Man Without a Country, Vonnegut describes the frustration of a dog scratching at a closed door to get out of a room. Vonnegut wrote that humor is the meaningless gestures and sounds we make when there’s nothing else we can. I love the image. You should see me do improv. Meaningless gestures and sounds? Damn right. That’s one way to express the frustration of our limitations.
Paul and Vonnegut have different views of time, to be sure. I suppose your sense of time really alters how you experience the present. The now.
And I’m experiencing the now of time moving quickly with a hefty blend of some complicated emotions. So why not write about it? Make an account.
Solomon is going to school. Time moves quickly. That’s all.