Time as we know it runs a constant stream. It flows ever forward, never backward, never subject to anyone’s will but its own.
It’s a strange concept that we all learn from an early age. Once a moment has past, it is impossible to take back. Time is like glass. It can be broken down to a million pieces, a million little moments, a million little seconds and minutes and hours and days. We can try to comprehend its complexity this way (as we so often try to comprehend what is beyond our limited human minds) by chopping our experiences into smaller portions. We say that our year is made up of key moments—places we’ve been to, people we’ve met, people we shall never meet again, consciousness turned to ash, new gravestones lain on fresh carpets of grass.
Still, a photo is more than parts put together. Snippets of time is not the same as the entire picture. To say so would mean that Mona Lisa is a masterpiece solely for her smile—and many would agree to this statement—but the Mona Lisa is a masterpiece because of the entire expression of her face, as well as the way her shoulders seem to slack, as well as the backdrop she had been painted in.
Such is also the reason Jane Austen’s novels are classics--Pride and Prejudice is more than Mr Darcy and Elizabeth, or shall we ignore the contribution of all the other characters who have made their appearance?
The riddle of life necessitates a glimpse at the entire photo—such a glimpse we perhaps will never truly see in our lifetime, for who is to truly say they’ve understood a person’s life and all the interwoven complexities hidden within it? We all have secrets, and sometimes, there are parts of time hidden from even our own selves—parts of time we can’t remember quite so well.
But what’s more perplexing than the riddle of life is how its preciousness is amplified by the little window of time we are given to live it. I’ve heard it said that the greatest equaliser is death itself, for no natural human being can escape it (although we’ve all tried). Once a person is gone, it is impossible for them to return. Not as they once were, at least. Never as they once were.
As such, I’ve dwelt upon this thought for the longest time—perhaps I am morbid for doing so, for calculating the number of years I have left to live, for estimating how much time I have left before my own little window comes to a close.
Bear with me.
If I had a total of sixty (or seventy) years to live a proper life, give or take, I have blitzed through a third of my existence already.
And what have I to show for it?
To be honest, mostly nothing. I’ve done nothing of significance at all. I am not a person of great repute. I have not read enough books to make me wise. I still quarrel with my parents and siblings over the most petty things. I continue to get upset over trivial matters. I sleep in when I ought not to.
The list goes on really.
My window of time leaves me feeling helpless.
Granted, I do believe in an afterlife, but it doesn’t mean I plan to squander my years away. I wish I could do something meaningful.
The facts of my existence, however, have made it quite plain: I am not as others—capable of creating stained glass artwork out of their lives. I am simply an ordinary individual being, just as so many of us on this earth are destined to be.
And I don’t think that’s a bad thing—a peaceful existence is one that many undervalue.
There’s a movie that has come out in recent memory. I first meant to watch it only because it starred three Harry Potter actors, and that was it. It has an interesting plotline, and I’ve always been fascinated with plotlines (suppose it’s the writer within me itching to reveal itself), but I hardly knew that when I'd first seen it.
The film’s name is About Time, and it’s rather clever. Tim, the main character, can travel to any event he remembers—in his lifetime, of course, he can’t go off and kill Hitler, as his Dad explains.
But the movie isn’t about this extraordinary act of bravery. It’s about how Tim goes through life the best he can.
Even if time travel were possible, it wouldn’t solve all the problems life brings us. We still have to stand watch as our parents eventually pass away; we watch as our friends make their own mistakes; we chase after our dreams and watch as they slip casually past our fingers.
Tim’s main goal in life is to live the most extraordinary ordinary life possible.
And I’d like to think that’s a brilliant way to look at our little window of life: a chance to make every single day extraordinarily beautiful in our own special way; a chance to leave fingerprints across people’s hearts by loving them with all our hearts; a chance to spark warmth in other human beings by simply truly staying present in the present moment.
It’s an ambitious feat—to live each second the best way we can—but then again, what better way is there to live?