I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Somewhen younger

The book I recently finished reading, Biocentrism, spends a lot of time reframing the habitual ways we think about time. It's been on my mind lately, trying to come to terms with, well, not being as young as I used to be. From the book:
Consider all the days that have passed since the beginning of time. Now stack them like chairs, and seat yourself on the very top. Isn’t it amazing that you just happen to be here now, perched seemingly by chance on the cutting edge of infinity? Science claims it’s a big accident, a one-in-a-gazillion chance.
I still feel like the young girl whose blond hair streaked behind her as she ran on sturdy young legs, with total unselfconscious joy. But today, when I need to hurry across a street, I can feel the effort to get those legs going even a little faster than my normal gait. In the morning when I first get up, I totter uncertainly on those same legs, until I can get them out of sleep mode. I remember when I would spring out of bed, and it wasn't that long ago, either.

The way I talk about time does make it seem like a train, using phrases like "back then" to describe the young girl in an earlier car, or "back in the day" to talk about the way things used to be. If time is truly infinite and the linear passing of days and years and millennia is created within our brains, what is the truth of it?

In reading the book, which I found quite comforting in many ways, I am beginning to wonder how I might reframe my mind to think of time not being linear. Lanza, the book's author (you are linked to him in that first paragraph), found a passage in Ray Bradbury's wonderful book, "Dandelion Wine" that says it perfectly for me:
Mrs. Bentley said, "Everyone was young once." 
"Not you," whispered Jane, eyes down, almost to herself. Her empty ice stick had fallen in a vanilla puddle on the porch floor.
"But of course I was eight, nine, ten years old, like all of you."
The two girls gave a short, quickly-sealed-up laugh. Mrs. Bentley's eyes glittered. "Well, I can't waste a morning arguing with ten-year-olds. Needless to say, I was ten myself once and just as silly."
"You're joking with us," giggled Jane. "You weren't really ten ever, were you, Mrs. Bentley?"
"You run on home!" the woman cried suddenly, for she could not stand their eyes. "I won't have you laughing."
"Good-bye," said the two girls, giggling away across the lawn under the seas of shade. "Thanks for the ice cream!"
"Once I played hopscotch!" Mrs. Bentley cried after them, but they were gone.
Although I might feel young, I am looking ahead on that linear time train towards the milestone of seventy. I feel a lot like Mrs. Bentley.

The other day I experienced heat exhaustion on a hike with my fellow seniors. It was pretty distressing to do what I've always done and have new symptoms that emerged because I'm no longer as durable as when I was younger. It was also distressing to feel so badly and know that nothing would do except to keep going until I got out of the woods. All I really wanted to do was lay down in the trail and moan. But I couldn't, so I kept going.

It would be so wonderful to have another way to think about time. Lanza says that time and space are both created within our consciousness and give us a way to explain reality. If it really is all created within my own brain, I should be able to find other ways to frame the passage of time.

We all face the same trials and tribulations just being alive. And everything that is alive must die, it's the nature of biology. God created me, and you, and the world. And we created the blogosphere, and here we are.

19 comments:

TechnoBabe said...

Perhaps it was the extreme heat and not your part of the aging process that affected you on the hike? Hope you are doing well and up and running again or in your case, hiking.

gigihawaii said...

That's all conjecture, of course, HIS conjecture. Somebody else might have a different opinion. No matter what people surmise, it's still guessing. No one knows for sure.

I believe in God. God would surely hear the tree falling in the forest, even though there was no body else there.

Yet, what do I know? How can I be certain, absolutely certain, that there is a god? Pure guessing, on my part... and hopeful wishing!

Jo said...

When my mother passed away, the first thought I had was that at another place in time she and her sisters are riding their horses across the South African Veldt -- not were but are. We think of time as linear, because we appear to move forward through it. Past, present, future... And all living things do suffer the ravages of time. But, in another place in time, we are ten years old, playing hopscotch and running through fields of buttercups.

#1Nana said...

Thought provoking...you hooked me, I'm following.

I retired last year and am spending my time figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing. Aging gracefully doesn't seem like enough to me!

Jann (another one with an unusual name...that's Jann with 2 n's, I've spent my life having to spell it out for people.)

SquirrelQueen said...

Hi DJan, this is the first time in awhile that this blog of yours has appeared on my dashboard. Blogger is a pain.

Heat exhaustion can affect any age group. Try a broader brim on the hat and drink that water even if you don't feel thirsty. You and your fellow hikers need to keep an eye on each other and watch for the symptoms. The humidity over here is so low I have a bottle of water with me at all times.

While I do subscribe to the Big Bang theory the book does sound interesting.

Gigi said...

Sorry to hear of the heat exhaustion - it truly is a problem w/any age group particularly when exerting oneself in the heat - which is why I don't exert myself ;-)

Linda Myers said...

I had heat exhaustion in 2001 when I walked in the Breast Cancer 3-Day. It was scary. But I'd never walked 20 miles in a heat wave before, and I just outdid my body's ability to cool itself. I was 52 then. Looking back, I'm grateful I had the experience of walking that far. Every now and then I consider another marathon. But just every now and then.

It's true that my body doesn't have the stamina it used to. But my mind has lots more peace and a little more wisdom. It's worth the tradeoff to me.

gayle said...

I am so sorry for your heat exhaustion!! My body is not working like it use to either. Sure wish it could be different!!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Terrific, thoughtful post.

Linda Reeder said...

If you come up with another framework for time other than a linear one, please share it.
I like intellectual exercise, but this is just not my cup of tea. I'm too grounded in reality, or what I perceive as reality.

Whitney Lee said...

I struggle to grasp the concept of time as a non linear quantity. I just haven't quite managed. I keep thinking if I can quit thinking about it so much and just feel the truth of it then it'll be more real. This is a great post. I am certain that as I age I will struggle with many of the same things. Perhaps you can also consider all of the wonderful pieces of aging (such as the wisdom of being truthful from your last post).

Robin said...

Jan,
This post reminds me of the novel "Slaugherhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut where the hero is trapped in a Chronsynclastic Infundibulum and keeps slipping back and forth through time.

If you never read that classic, you should.

robin

Far Side of Fifty said...

When I was little I used to think people over thirty were old..as I got older the time switched... all people 20 years older than me are old.. aren't they..and here we are.. I loved that last line. I don't have the energy to think about similar time lines running all over amok. I am still trying to figure out who shortened all the days ..as I get up and the day is over..and here we are:)

Nancy said...

I have that book on my stack. I think it harkens back to Talbot's book on the Universe as a hologram. I remember from my Perception class in college that what we see is actually a scene from the inside and back of our skull. We really don't see anything other than what we imagine we see. I think it is the same with time. It's a reference point. A way of keeping track.

It's scary when things don't work right. When we know that what we have to look forward to is not what we've experienced. But you are strong and full of life. Living in the moment is the only way to deal with aging.

Donna B said...

I enjoyed your comment on Jo's blog. I too prefer to hit "reply" and answer a comment, so all my comments go to my email as well as my blog.

I agree with #1 Nana...YOU HOOKED ME TOO, and I will be following you as well. I have one blog, Mystical Journeys and mostly, it is about my Father who has Alzheimer's, but I pop in some creativity and my thoughts along the way. Lately, I have been doing more on Dad, and I started another blog, Discovering The Purpose of Our Lives. I would LOVE to have your voice on the latter blog. Would you please email me at donnab6464@gmail.com, so I could interview you and reference your blog on mine?

Very thought provoking post and I too can so relate to why you do your blog.

Chatty Crone said...

Donna did reference you on her blog and I am checking you out! I've read a couple of blogs and must say I have enjoyed them. Sandie

Star said...

We may all be getting older and slowly crumbling away, I know I am, but we have each other to talk to and that is such a comfort. My back and my knees are not what they were, not what they should be and I have to be very careful that I don't twist and turn in such a way and then spend a week recovering. It annoys me and it distresses me, but I always see so many people who are worse off than me and that brings me up short. I think I look younger than I am, which is actually difficult to deal with because people expect me to act like the person I look, but I can't. I creak and I grind and I groan and I know my age, on the inside!
Blessings, Star

Mel said...

I've jsut stumbled onto your blog and it is a lovely revelation, to find so many similar thoughts and voices. I'm creaking too, trying to focus on what I can do, and not what I can't, but it's hard not to whine somedays.
I adore a good book and Dandelion Wine made my summer a few years ago. It made me remember everything, and think about so much. I now look for it at Goodwill or book sales to always have spare copies on hand to give away. I love Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut's work and that probably tells you plenty about me right there. Nice to meet you, I have hours of reading ahead of me to catch up on your interesting thoughts.

CrazyCris said...

We all go through that... I find it frustrating that in my early 30s there are already some things I can't do as well as in my early 20s... like recover as well from all night dancing! ;o)
Then there's the fact that my body seems to giving up on me sometimes... stupid sprained ankle is still giving me trouble! Damn hernia in the lower back... grrr!!!