Monday, October 13, 2014

Hope for Time Travel

This is going to be a post about Time Travel.  No, not Doctor Who.  Alas, but rather about real time travel.  Which is infinitely better.



Timehop reminded me this morning that I wrote this poem for a friend exactly a year ago today. My response to T. S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
Come, slip a Summer's scene away with me
For life, I find, is O, so very long
And we can fill it up with gin and song
And silver Sirens singing by the sea.
Odysseus was once as young as we -
(Through, truth to tell, we're not so very old)
Ten years it took HIS story to be told!
While we can count each minute: one, two, three.
And there, the sun is rising where it set;
And here, the Sirens sink into the sea;
And O, our sand is slipping - but not yet -
For I have turned the glass for you and me
And filled it up with jokes we'll soon forget
And silver Sirens singing by the sea.
Since I've been reading a lot about Time over at BadCatholic (start here), which is echoed in the opening strains of my dearest Oscar Wilde's letter De Profundis, which he wrote while imprisoned, I found last year's little sonnet a touch sweeter than before.

This is what I love about reading great people's private journals - or even stumbling across encouraging letters that my household brothers and sisters wrote to me my senior year of college and which I had apparently stuffed into a drawer...only to find them again this past Saturday, as I grabbed some odd trinkets from my old room:

We can, and do, and are perpetually time traveling.  It's called Living, and Memory, and Anticipation.  There is, in fact, no such thing as Time-Standing-Still.  Time-Standing-Still is to Sleep.  Or rather - whether you're an atheist or whether you have hope in things eternal - Time-Standing-Still only comes through Death.

The Lament for Icarus by H. J. Draper
This is not a morbid thought in the least.  Time, I think, is one of God's greatest Mercies.
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For a million decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
- T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
We want time to stand still.  We want, like Peter at the Transfiguration - at the best moment of our lives: at the ecstatic height of a concert, or at the sleepy moment when an infant droops onto your shoulder, or just when you've hit that warmest hour among a circle of friends where no more needs to be said - we want Time-Standing-Still.  (Unless we are in pain.  Then time repeats, and we wish that it would not.)

But, if we are to believe the greatest thinkers from Socrates to Saint Paul to C. S. Lewis, it's better that time does not stand still with us.  Because these joys are temporary, imperfected, hints of Joy itself, but not Joy Himself.  Were we to stay there, we would be no better than Peter Pan, refusing to grow up and demanding to eat the air.

THERE IS MORE.  There is so much more.  There is so much more than even the most mind-blowing moment of human ecstasy: there is MORE, and we are too timid - not to grasp it, as Time will not let us grasp anything and keep it here - but we are too timid to HOPE.

To hope that we are made for something better, something infinite, something stable.  To hope that there's a purpose in this repeating pain and fleeting joy: that somehow this spiritual gymnasium has been created for the sole (soul?) purpose of preparing us to endure such a weight of glory, that we, in our timidity would otherwise abandon.

We can grasp joys here on earth; we have free will to clench our fists and plant our feet and say: "This thing is mine."  But in this clenching, this planting - our souls go into rictus; we bury ourselves alive.

Compare Happy Days by Samuel Beckett

to The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Rather, I think I'd go with the latter.  With letting go, with braving the storms, with placing my feet wrong, ("'Do I dare,' and 'Do I dare?'  Time to turn back and descend the stair"), without Time-Standing-Still and saying, "This is as much beauty and truth and goodness and love as my little soul shall settle for."

Rather, I think I'll go with good old Mr. King, here:
“Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”  ― Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption

"Hope Visits in a Prison of Despair" by Evelyn De Morgan



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