How Time Flies

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 (Paul Staley)

Recently, over the span of just a few days, our twin sons turned 30 and I received the class report for my 40th college reunion.

I've noticed that there is a social convention when it comes to this sort of milestone. It is deemed appropriate, if not mandatory, to express shock that an interval of several decades has passed. This is obviously not the surprise of the unanticipated; predicting that this day would arrive was always a matter of simple arithmetic. And rarely is it an appreciation that we have lived long enough to witness such an occasion. These days most of us take this amount of longevity for granted.

But it occurred to me that our difficulties with perceiving time could be explained by resurrecting the ancient notion that all things are composed of four elements: earth, wind, fire and water. When we express disbelief that thirty years have passed so quickly we are registering a geological assessment of that span of time. Thirty years is less than a blink of an eye to the earth, and so there is more than a bit of rock in all of us.

We are also the creatures who harnessed fire, and we love not just its warmth, but the glow and dance of the flames as well. Our days are a parade of bright shiny objects. We distract ourselves with drama and entertainment, and all the while, the days relentlessly march on. This is the essence of the magician's craft, and we fall for it every time.

We have dominion over the planet, but time is the one thing we have not tamed. It is a body of water we will never contain, a river that we can never dam.  


Finally, time is, like the wind, an invisible power and we have a complicated relationship with things we can't see. On the one hand, unseen things are by definition easy to ignore and so we go about our days acting as if they weren't there.  But then there is the moment of revelation when we see what the invisible has done, and we are in awe.  We are shocked.

With a Perspective, I'm Paul Staley.

Paul Staley lives in San Francisco.