THE SUN, THE PENDULUM AND THE ATOM

What exactly is the fun part of getting old? When does it start? The fun. I keep hearing or reading about people who extol the depletion process. Celebrities often. Actors usually. They speak about finding themselves with age, about how they have reached a greater understanding of life, how they have learned to appreciate every single day. In the past I always thought this was just a plea for work, a ‘We’re Still Open’ sign, like the ones you see in the windows of ever-so-slightly-desperate shops but now I’m not so sure, maybe they’re on to something, maybe we should all heed the wisdom of actors. I am not old, not yet, but I am older. Suddenly. Always. Reaching fifty was sobering, the new forty, which is the new thirty etc. Up until then I had always managed to kid myself that I potentially had more years in front of me than behind me but once you reach fifty, well, I’m not a member of the royal family so the chances of reaching a ton are pretty slender.

I am not really concerned with how I look, which is pretty damn good all things considered, no it’s more how I fit into the world. My place, my reason for still being, other than three children and my bondage to the bank. My memories are condensing, dripping off the ceiling. I think about less things but think about those things more. I have given over my whole mind to the present, I no longer store excess information, that’s what Wikipedia is for. Space is limited and my whole design might be compromised if I fill my head with stuff I rarely need. I am not a sofa bed. My mind has become a diligent machine for thinking, not as fast as it once was but far more likely to reach the correct conclusion. Despite all of this the part of me that is me feels no different and I have no clue how to act my age. Life is a playing card pegged to the forks of a bike with glittering spokes, tick tick tick.

Age is a curious notion. We measure ourselves, our hoped for lifespan against the most arbitrary of all things. Time. Something which is clearly ludicrous and based entirely on faith. You can’t see time, smell it, taste it, or anything it. You can’t buy it, borrow it, cheat it or have any free. It is neither kind nor unkind, yet most people feel that it is directly responsible for them getting older. So much so that we compare ourselves to each other using it, as if time is currency, how much have you spent how much do you have left? We value those with a lot of it and barely tolerate those with a little. Yet no one really knows what time is, or where it came from, it’s existence can’t even be proven. It is indelibly attached to some pretty hefty equations, some that even allow space to be folded and have a pencil pushed through it but then mathematics is, despite its apparent recurrence in nature, entirely a construct of human imagination and invention. So it seems perfectly reasonable that time is as well.

Imagine a world without time. It isn’t hard because it would be exactly the same as this one. Clocks don’t measure time, GPS doesn’t rely on time, cakes don’t burn because of time, we don’t get old because of time. Whether it is a shadow cast by the sun, the rocking of an escapement or the transitions of caesium the time in our lives is simply a measurement of distance or of movement, movement bound by laws and whether time actually exists or not is irrelevant because the very idea of it is enough. That idea is the drug that we all consume. We are dependent on it, live in terror of it running out. We made it and are now owned by it. Time’s hand tooled arrow passes through all of us, it tells us where we were, where we are, where we will be. It masquerades as our past, present and future, which depending on who you talk to is either unobtainable or just a wormhole away. Time is nothing but trouble.

Perhaps instead of thinking of time in terms of an arrow we should think of it as a fixed point, like the playing card pegged to the forks or better still, the stylus of some giant record player, the tip of the needle placed lightly on the turning face of infinity. Nothing before the point but anticipation nothing after it but memory and where the needle touches, life, the sweetest music, constant, of the moment, sustained only by consciousness. Perhaps that is what time is for, us, and we have simply misunderstood its purpose. Rather than showing us how short life is, how fragile and fleeting we are, it is there to remind us to slow down, to stand still, to look up in wonder, to realise that we are part of something bigger and that we will all live forever.

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