Offbeat – 26 April 2013
Our lives are ticked and tocked away by the monotonous metronome rhythm of clocks. Every beat of our heart and every breath we take is a second lived and a second subtracted from the span of our days and years.
Peter Hoeg is best known for his book, ‘Ms. Smilla’s Feeling for Snow’. Almost every page has a wonderful new idea that begs you to stop reading, pick up the idea, put it in your head and spend time examining it, exploring it, seeing what doorway it opens and where that doorway leads.
But he wrote another book, and in that book there is one page that eclipses every single other question that his incredible mind asks and every single idea that his words present. In ‘Borderliners’, he describes how children from an institution swing from a branch over an embankment in front of an oncoming train. In that moment, the children discover an amazing fact. As they head towards the apogee of the arc, there in the face of terror and danger and the great unknown, time slows down.
Did you ever dream of casting a spell? Of waving your hands in mysterious ways and uttering resonating syllables? And as a result of that spell, did the world become, at least in your hopes and dreams, a better place? As they swing out in front of the train, the children in ‘Borderliners’ show us how magic can work.
Our lives are ticked and tocked away by the monotonous metronome rhythm of clocks. Every beat of our heart and every breath we take is a second lived and a second subtracted from the span of our days and years. We are consumed by requirements, deadlines and productivity. Everyone wants our time, whether we want to give or not, and once we have given it, they need more of it. Time is money, and like an overdraft or the fortunes glittering in the treasuries of fairytale castles, there is never enough.
But time is a funny place. Steven Hawkins describes it in ways that I can’t be bothered to make the effort to understand. Perhaps, in his cerebral world time can be put back or shuttled forward. I don’t know. I haven’t taken the time to understand his concept, and I have my own thesis and experience. Here it is…
In moments of boredom and loneliness time stretches out into the desperate infinity of cold, unwanted dusk on a Sunday. In the moment before you stub your toe or as you see the blood ooze from a paper cut on your thumb, time slows to a crawl as well. And while we are enjoying ourselves, we may look up for a brief moment, perhaps in the knowledge that there is something less pleasant that wants doing, sometime, just not now, maybe tomorrow, and we notice that the few minutes of pleasure and passion actually became an hour or two while our backs were turned on treacherous clocks.
Like the fools that we are, we cease to notice the true value of time. We fritter away long years in pursuit of wealth that we hope will by us brief periods of euphoria. And when we assess what we have gained and what lies ahead, we discover that we have lost months, days and lifetimes.
Our one secret hope is a wish that we could live forever, and don’t we do everything in our power to have more time and live longer?
Now think of that moment when you first experienced contentment in the arms of a loved one, or the elation of the birth of your child. How long did any of those moments last: minutes, hours, as much as a whole day. And how long did those moments really last? No doubt far longer than the clock told you. Perhaps they are still fresh and alive in your memory even now.
Close your eyes and you can find those moments. Use your recollection and your imagination, and you can make those moments last forever.
The secret of time, the spell and the magic that the ‘Borderliners’ discovered was that unless you watch the clock and count the time as it passes, time can be as variable as you want it to be.
Perhaps our lack of time is a gift. Maybe if we had to many moments, they would cease to be precious and memorable. Maybe we should not look for more time, but take time to appreciate and look for the good things that surround us.
The most fleeting moment can provide endless happiness and a lifetime of joyous recollections. But it all depends on you to find that moment.