have you ever been somewhere that you were before, a few months ago, over a year ago perhaps, and you suddenly, keenly remembered the circumstances under which you were last there?
the person you were with, what you had been thinking and feeling, the turns of conversation, the individual actions you made.
it is like living very suddenly in two different times at the same time – you can remember clearly how it felt to live in that moment, and at the same time you see that moment in its context, see it in the perhaps not inevitable progression, but the sequence of events that did happen. at once stuck in the amber of the moment, as vonnegut says, and holding that chuck of amber in your hand, holding it up to the light.
you know what happens afterwards, and yet you remember being in that moment, saying those things, thinking those thoughts, and not knowing what came after. and you know that there is another part of you that has not come into existence yet, that will look back at this moment too, and see so much more than you can right now.
that is time travel. it is like you can do a 180 turn on that moment and see it from the absolute opposite angle – the angle only available when you are no longer present in that moment. but of course the you of then and the you of now, the you of the observer and the you of the observed, are separated by an unbridgeable chasm.
“somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence”
“the undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveller returns”
i think that that is very curious. the ability to live so powerfully in two moments of time. memory is time travel, and like all time travel comes with its bias, with limited information, with desires that we may or may not know or be able to acknowledge. i will look back at this moment, as i have looked back at so many other moments, and see what i do not know right now. i will see the context, the bigger picture.
in the past that has usually been painful, but valuable.
i have started sending messages to the future me, like this is. saying that i know that there is more right now than i will ever be able to see until i cross that chasm, from then to now, from now to what isn’t yet. i have started looking at myself in the mirror, at the face that will never be what it is now again, and trying to see it as such. trying to look across the chasm at the same moment that i am now living in. i can’t, of course. that is not how time works. that is not how people work.
life is so good at hitting you unexpectedly, in all sorts of angles that you did not anticipate – even if you make it your business to try to anticipate, to shield yourself from the trouble you know is coming, but not when or in what form. there is still the song i sing to myself, the lie i tell myself, that if i am smart enough, or strong enough, that i will keep myself from being hurt again. when the truth is, there will always be a new way to get hurt – or when my eyes are focused on the new ways, i will end up walking into a way that i have gotten hurt before.
it is depressing sometimes, how little we learn. how much we can see in retrospect, and how little that really does for us – except let us know that the information we have is always incomplete. that the narrative we are living is always unfinished. that no matter how much we learn, there will still be the unknown, and it will still hurt us. and even what we do know has depths to it we did not anticipate, sudden plunges that take us to where we never thought possible, even if they were there all along.
and even after knowing all that, there is the perfectionist in me singing the song of ‘i’ll get it right this time, if i am smart enough and strong enough; i will solve the unsolvable problem once and for all; all feelings will be final and all choices made once and permanently,’ even though i know that this is impossible.
there are no answers and there are no endings. even this universe, they think now, did not have a clean beginning – the big bang simply a new iteration of something that existed beforehand, the universe still clutching trace amounts of electromagnetic baggage. like the smell of cigarette smoke, or wine spilled a long time ago, or karma, or a song stuck in your head. memory. history.
in other news, or perhaps the same news, “white teeth” by zadie smith is really good.