Have you ever really thought about what time actually is? In a very simple everyday sense, it’s a measurement of our planet’s progression around the sun repeated ad infinitum, the tyranny of hours, days, weeks and months, those things we designate to order our “civilized” lives.
In a broader sense, it provides a panoramic view of such things as the development of our species from killer ape to human, from those forest creatures who lived in harmony with nature to those city dwellers who are now exploiting and destroying the very planet that sustains homo sapiens. Talk about stupidity.
In my own life, it’s a record of the progression from birth to now, all the drama I have experienced and been a part of, and even as I write this (and you read it), these moments are slipping into the past. The present is ever elusive.
Time is not something we can either see or touch. It can’t be turned off or on, or sped up or slowed down. It’s always moving on, even when we desperately want it to stop for a while. It’s something we’re stuck with from the moment we take our first breath until that second we expel our last.
I’ve been thinking a lot about time recently. Two old friends were in town. One I have not seen in maybe a decade or so, the other 20 years. It was strange. Especially since both meetings happened at different times on the same exact day.
And that evening, I was on a panel speaking about the legacy of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. I can still remember when playwright Larry Kramer gave the fiery speech in New York that inspired the birth of ACT UP/New York and the chapter in Philadelphia that I knew so well.
I went to bed with a head land-mined with memories that kept exploding. Some made me smile and others tore me up inside.
Sometimes I just want things to remain the same, to be as they are. Freeze frame. It’s not possible. People change. Things do, too. A seedling becomes a tree and a tree eventually dies. Even rocks crumble and become sand. At some point we have to let people and things go. We have to move on. We have to accept that nothing will ever be the way it was.
Everything in the universe is impermanent. It doesn’t make sense to me. We’re born to die. We can make up all sorts of comforting tales about how we got here, why we exist on this Earth, and where we go (if anywhere) when we die, but the simple truth is that we end up as worm food and beyond that, we just don’t know.
Anyone who says they do know is either a fool or a liar.
Or, worse yet, a snake oil salesman.