Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring ~ Time

Early Spring in Hanover, Germany, on the river Leine

The Doppler Effect
One face of the clock is saying
there's not much time. Finish
what you think you were born to do.

The other rounds and spheres
like sleep, it questions
over and over, what is time.

Did we pass through winter
or did winter pass through us?
You creak your windows open

to this familiar green clutter
called the spring. But nothing happens.
You only change places with yourself.


Surreal and Real
Although you were barely prompt enough,
you did glimpse time blending into space
in Einstein's brain. But luckily you
didn't throw your watch away;
because it's Newton who has remained your closest friend
and neighbor.

Ernest Sandeen, 1908 - 1997
Notre Dame Professor and Poet

A fascinating little book about time, that goes hand in hand with Sandeen's poems, is Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman. I mentioned it briefly on my book blog a few years ago in connection with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is now an award - winning movie in addition to being an endlessly intriguing book.

[I wrote earlier that Brian Selznick's Hugo was an absolutely amazing novel / picture book for kids and grown-ups, about time, space, secrets, automata, and movies. Some history, some fiction, some magic. You will be living inside this book for a little while!
. . . and that Einstein's Dreams was another book of another dimension. Also some history, some fiction, some science, some poetry. Prepare for time travel. Days of future passed, back to the future, forward to the past, and so forth.]

Lightman writes, "For while the movements of people are unpredictable, the movement of time is predictable. While people can be doubted, time cannot be doubted. While people brood, time skips ahead without looking back" (37).

Who could forget the chapter describing the world of no memory? And even more memorable are the people who stand in line to worship the Great Clock in the Temple of Time: "They stand quietly, but secretly they seethe with their anger. For they must watch measured that which should not be measured. They must watch the precise passage of minutes and decades. They have been trapped by their own inventiveness and audacity. And they must pay with their lives" (p 152).

Equally contradictory is the world where the people live up on the hill because they think the high altitudes will make their lives longer, when in fact the thin air makes their lives shorter. It's sort of like my own personal theory about staying up 'til all hours when I can't (or don't want to) sleep. Sleeping as little as possible is my strategy for cheating Death. The more hours I'm awake, the longer my life is, right? Though secretly I realize that this plan could backfire!

A couple of timely songs that I love to put on "replay"
and listen to time and time again:

Enya: "Only Time"
Who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose
Only time
And who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows
only time


Alan Parsons: "Time"
Who knows when we shall meet again
If ever
But time
Keeps flowing like a river
To the sea
Thousand Hills State Park, Kirksville, Missouri
~ Photo by Jay Beets ~


  1. Re Staying up late & cheating Death: I've always felt sorry for Everyman that Knowledge can't go to the grave with him. All the others -- Fellowship, Kindred, Cousin -- I can accept. But it seems such a shame to say farewell to Knowledge after staying awake all those hours in pursuit of it. That will be my next conundrum to overcome -- as soon as I find away to overcome (instead of being overcome by) Sleep -- how to take Knowledge with me. Any ideas?

    Thanks to my kind friend Len who wrote: "You don't need to worry about taking knowledge with you. You have already distributed knowledge, and continue to do so, in all your daily sharing of your reading. I feel the same way, however, about sleeping as little as necessary. Sometime I will have to tell you about the view of the afterlife as a great, well-stocked study hall and library (the Kabbalistic notion of the Heavenly Halls).

  2. Gerry McCartney has an opposite theory maybe whatever mysterious mission we have been put on this Earth to accomplish actually happens while we're asleep; and all of our daytime activities are strategies to tire us out so that we can fall asleep and get around to our real work. Whereas, with our limited understanding, we think it's the opposite -- that we are begrudgingly required to sleep merely to refuel so that we can jump up and get busy with our tasks of perceived importance.

    See also:

  3. from _Only Begotten Daughter_ by James Morrow:

    "When Murray Jacob Katz was ten years old, he'd begun wondering whether he was permitted to believe in heaven . . . Jews believed so many impressive and dramatic things . . . 'Pop, do we have heaven?' . . .

    " 'You want to know a Jew's idea of heaven?' his father had replied, looking up from his Maimonides. 'It's an endless succession of long winter nights on which we get paid a fair wage to sit in a warm room and read all the books ever written. . . . Not just the famous ones, no _every_ book, the stuff _nobody_ gets around to reading, forgotten plays, novels by people you never heard of. However, I profoundly doubt such a place exists.'

    "Decades later, after Pop was dead" [and even after Murray himself was dead, Murray's daughter Julie thinks back to him telling her about this] . . .

    "She hoped he was in heaven. She hoped it had a library." (pp 13, 142)

  4. A friend wrote to describe how staying up 'til 4am or so became the new norm:

    "I CANNOT sleep to save my life. And, frankly, it sounds like T.S. Eliot might have been dealing with sleeplessness when he wrote "Burnt Norton." Aha! (Seriously, thanks for sending -- I had forgotten its haunting loveliness:

    "Anyway, last night was a disaster of tossing & turning & finally getting up in the middle of the night to eat cereal & strawberries and fold laundry and read. So tonight, I'm just going to skip the going to bed part and stay up as late as I possibly can (getting caught up on piles of little stuff), in the hopes of wearing myself out to the point of finally getting some sleep.

    "The next night, I slept straight thru from midnight until 7 the next morning -- a MIRACLE! I thought maybe I was turning over a new leaf, but no. The next few nights were as usual -- to bed at 1 or so, up at 2, up at 3, up at 4. So from now on, leaving out the middle - man and staying up 'til 4am!"

  5. Take pity on time . . .

    "Heureux Qui, Comme Ulysse . . . "
    Happy he (or she)
    Who travels the day
    Hopefully, and the
    World without hope, calm,
    A smiling stoic
    Who savours what his
    Life may bring. Happy
    The day of birth, and
    Happy our dying:
    Without it, life will
    Not be known. Let all
    Be seen for itself,
    For what it is! Do
    Not fear the voyage
    Towards the world's edge
    And the final hour.
    Take pity on time.
    Welcome each event
    Because it greets you
    As the destined one.

    by Edward Lucie - Smith
    in Light Unlocked, 47