The Truth About Time

Image: “Warped Clock Face” by Gary Cycles

Time is infinite and finite.

It also doesn’t exist.

When I was five or six, my uncle, in his trademark wife beater and green factory pants, tried to teach me to tell time.

“What time is it?” He’d point to the white round clock on the wall over the stove in my grandmother’s yellow kitchen.

I stumbled. I stuttered.

“It’s a quarter to three,” he said, explaining the rules of the big hand and the little hand.

Nearly twenty years later, at a holiday gathering, I chatted about how quickly the year passed, a traditional New Year’s Eve conversation starter.

“You know,” my boyfriend’s brother said,  “Time doesn’t exist anyway.”

“What?” I said. “Time exists.”

“No, it doesn’t,” he said. “Think about it. It’s made up. Someone had to create it.”

Before I could finish another counterpoint, he continued.

“I know, it blew my mind a few years ago when this professor told me. It’s crazy right?”

And so there I stood, a moment in time that would forever change my perspective of how I measured anything and everything.

For years after, I scurried down my own philosophical rabbit hole.

This must be why sometimes a minute feels like ten or an hour can feel like a minute?

Neither exist.

Neither exist!

The only things that are real are feelings and thoughts.

Did certain feelings and thoughts and experiences make the “time” go by faster?’’

And what about eternity? Made up too for sure. A hunch? Educated guess?

So then, what of age?

If time does not exist, then surely age is immeasurable.

I mean, who says? Is a year, a year simply because we agree?

Therefore, I conclude, I am ageless.

But the physical body, it declines. Surely evidence of the passage of something?

I propose my own theories:  What if we believed we could live past 100? What if by defining or expecting the number of days and weeks we have, we’ve created a ticking time bomb?

These days, I’m not as obsessed as I had been.

But I still do find myself taking a minute (oh the irony) to remember that time is neither here nor there. A few seconds to reject the constructed and agreed upon reality that runs our lives.

In those moments, I think of one thing that is true.

Sunrises. Sunsets.

An infinite and finite number of sunrises and sunsets.

 

 

Keysha Whitaker is the creator and host of Behind the Prose, a podcast that deconstructs the work of contemporary authors, essayists, and journalists.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Thanks! Support our writers by subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE

Advertisements

Detours and Triple Deuces

Photo by Doug Kerr.

I once took Route 1 from Virginia to New Jersey by using a AAA atlas. This was around 2000 – way before Google Maps or the guiding voice of Siri. In my black Dodge Neon, I pulled over periodically to check the way, using my finger to follow the road off the page and onto the next when I crossed state lines. When I finally left the main road for the highway, I felt like I was Lewis or Clark or Jacques Motherfucking Cousteau.

Almost twenty years later, when I first moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, I stared at a new map, not printed, but pixelated. Tethered by a job to a location in the middle of everything and connected to nothing, I zoomed in and zoomed out on Google Maps. I plotted radii from livable cities. Philadelphia? Allentown? I calculated commuting miles and planned alternate routes, trying to find a way out, a road back to where I thought I belonged.

 

***

In April 2013, on my way back from my niece’s wedding in North Carolina, I pulled my car over on I-95 before I hit the standstill-likely construction-induced traffic, somewhere around Maryland. I’d taken the exit on a hunch and hoped my GPS would recalculate the rest. My dad, in the front-seat, and uncle, in the back, ad-libbed the detour.

“Man look at all the land they got out here,” my dad said as we drove past fields and barns and cows, now making our way through Pennsylvania. “They got as much land out here as North Carolina.”

Uncle James (never as much of a fan of North Carolina) wasn’t as impressed, but something did catch his attention.

“Triple deuces,” he called, like a casino card dealer, as we passed a sign for Route 222: the road we’d follow to I-78. “Two. Two. Two. I’m gonna play that number when I get home. Sure am.”

***

 

When I wasn’t staring at the map, I was going about my life, equal parts work and grocery shopping. One day, I decided to join Sam’s Club and set the destination in my car GPS unit.

Somewhere in the middle of the twenty-minute drive, I heard Uncle James.

Triple deuces.

The route, which I’d driven before, suddenly became more than the sum of its parts: Two. Two. Two. As much time as I’d spent staring at Google Maps, I hadn’t realized that my dad, Uncle James, and I had been here before. I had been so focused on getting away that I hadn’t taken time to appreciate where I was.

I wanted to believe Route 222 was a sign as concrete as the white and black one on the side of the highway: an assurance that detours are part of the journey, a reminder that the memories made along the way were more important than the destination, and a lesson that what I was genuinely seeking wouldn’t be found on any map.

When I finally left the highway for Sam’s Club, I felt like I was Lewis or Clark or Jacques Motherfucking Cousteau.

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE.

The Danger of Being Overwait

When I was in high school, I often thought: I can’t wait to graduate and go to college so I can start my life.

By my third year in college, I thought: I can’t wait to graduate and get a job so I can start my life.

In my first 9 – 5, I’d sit at my desk at lunch and think:

I can’t wait until I get married so I can start my life.

 

I can’t wait until I get the job that I want.

 

I can’t wait until I get the car that I want.

I can’t wait until I get the apartment that I want.

 

I can’t wait until I get the . . .

 

I can’t wait until . . .

I can’t wait . . .

I thought and thought about how much I couldn’t wait until one day I realized that the truth was: I can’t wait.

I can’t wait for some outside circumstance to fall into place. I can’t wait for the lunar eclipse. I can’t wait for my lucky numbers from the astrology website. I can’t wait for the perfect job. I can’t wait  for the perfect person. I can’t wait for the imperfect person to act right.

I can’t wait and neither can you.

The longer we dwell on how much we can’t wait for something, all we do in the meantime is exactly that: wait.

We wait for anything to happen to begin something that has already begun: our lives.

And while we wait, our wait turns into a fat, nasty wait that clogs our arteries, slows us down, and shortens our life span.

So before you die, do yourself a favor:

Lose the wait.

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE

Absurd on Wheels

something-to-be-said-1 something-to-be-said-2

No sir.

Nooooooo sir.

I know you did not just park your bike in a parking space.

Not your motorcycle. Not your scooter. Not your Vespa.

Your bicycle. Two wheels. No motor.

Of course, your parking job suggests you’re operating without a motor too . . .

Maybe I’m overreacting. Who am I to judge if a man wants to put his kickstand down in front of Walgreens? If he wants to proudly pedal and park his ten-speed right into the center of two faded white lines?

Maybe I’m overreacting and being sexist. After all, I don’t know that it was a man.

I didn’t see him. But in my soul, I know a woman would not, could not do something so . . . so . . .

You know, I think I have underestimated you. This technique is an anti-theft device. Instead of locking your bike up against a pole outside the store (normal), you park it upright and unsecured in a parking space (not normal, so not normal). But here’s where you’re smarter than the average pedal pusher. The thieves will think that it’s a booby trap. Because who in the hell would leave a bike upright in the middle of a parking space?

It’s reverse psychology and psychotic.
I don’t mean to get down on you. Hey, none of us are “right.” Some of us just do a better job of making our loco blend in with the rest of the world’s.

But you sir, you’re not trying to hide your crazy-like social etiquette demands, and that’s, well, a little alarming.

Maybe you’re all New Age and are acting AS IF. Park that baby like it’s the Lexus coupe that’s on your vision board.
I’ve been trying to wait around to see who you are. I imagine you live in your momma’s basement and work the overnight shift at the 24-hour McDonald’s. I suspect you could be straight out of central casting – a real life pocket-protector Steve Urkel nerd type.

I’m sorry. I shouldn’t say the N-Word.

It’s probably better that I drive away now . . . past your bike . . . upright in that parking space . . .

I guess parking your bicycle in a parking space is just one of the things that makes you . . . you.

So park on, sir.

I’m confident in your soul of souls, you know that shit’s a little bit absurd.

 

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE

When chance is a cable bill

26297558820_c445fea26a_o
Photo by Tyler Merbler

In all the decades I’ve been getting a cable bill, I never read it. If I bothered to open it, I just glanced at the Total Amount Due and shredded it  – after 18 weeks in the junk paper pile. When I started getting electronic bills and went on auto-debit, I didn’t even bother to open the emails.

Today, the start of my second month in a new apartment, I receive a bill in the mail since I hadn’t yet signed up for e-bills. I open the letter and thumb through the pages.

Package lineups.

Old charges.

New charges.

Terms and conditions.

A letter from the company explaining an upcoming increase.

The letter interests me. I decide that I could use it in my upcoming technical writing course – any reason to justify why I don’t have anything better to do than read a form letter from a cable company.

At the end, the sender’s name snatches my breath:

Christine Whitaker
Regional Senior Vice President

I stare at the last name, my last name. It’s not a common one like Jones or Smith. In a supermarket on any given Saturday morning, there are two Joneses in produce and one in the bread aisle. And if your last name is Smith, you have no right to a unique existence.

But Whitaker?

I could count on no hands the number of times I’d been in a class, a room, a group, with someone who shared my last name.

Here I was, on this generic ass day, opening a cable letter addressed to me by someone with my last name in a state that I never should have been in, in the first place.

It’s a coincidence, I say, trying to unspook myself.

A coincidence?

What is the probability of that?

.0000000000001?

I try to see past it, but all I do see are dots that I can’t connect. Signs that offer no clear signal.

I fold the letter and put it on top of the pile.

It’s not like this was supposed to happen, I say. I know it’s a random chance.

I just didn’t know when chance became improbable.

 

 

Did you enjoy this article? Consider subscribing to TERSE. for as little as $1 a month: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE

Birds fly low.

unnamed

Why do birds fly so low to the ground?

Not all the time, just when they’re crossing the street – which is something they do strangely enough pretty regularly, even though they don’t have any feathery business doing so.

Fly above the street. Around the street. But don’t cross it, bird. You’re not Big Bird trying to teach six-year-olds social niceties. Roads and lights and crosswalks shouldn’t matter to you.

Yet, here you come.

Swooping down low from the edge of a fence, diving towards the center of the road, a low-flying dip calculated to beat my car to his flight path and make his ascent on the other side.

I’ve seen birds do this more than once. Yesterday, a tiny bland brown one, so colorless it’s almost a grey brown, started his mission across North Wyomissing Boulevard.

Do they understand moving objects? Large objects? Maybe it’s poor peripheral vision?

Blind as a bird.

Sometimes I guess they’re lucky, like the almost brown one yesterday. Sometimes they’re not.

A robin, one day a couple years ago, crossed the street a few avian seconds too late.

Instead, he ended up crossing over at the hands of my right front tire.

In the rearview mirror, I watched, horrified, as the  black and red spot grew smaller and smaller.

Murder.

Suicide.

Murder.

Suicide.

I can’t decide.

 

 

 

Did you enjoy reading? Thanks! Consider becoming a subscriber for as little as $1 a year: https://www.patreon.com/TERSE

Every bit helps pay writers.