Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Forward and Backward and Time

A lot of books start out with a part called a Forward. Half the time I used to completely skip this part of nearly every book I read. I could read the book faster that way. It saved time. The Forward was, after all, just a "look forward", talking about what's going to be talked about, so mostly redundant. If I'm already reading the book, why do I need to read what the book's going to be about? The whole notion of "forward" is also highly questionable. Do people really go forward? Oh, it might look like everyone's moving forward- truckers in trucks look like they're blazing forward down the highway, moms with bouncing kids in the back seat seem to be driving forward to some place, people walking down the street all seem to be walking forward, and even a parade going down Main Street definitely looks like its marching in proud and musical step forward. But maybe half of all these people are lost. Maybe that mom is a little turned around and going away from the street she's looking for. Maybe the trucker just thinks he's going to Pittsburgh when it's actually way back in his rearview mirror. Every pedestrian once in awhile passes the shop door he's looking for. The good thing about the parade is that, even if it's going in the wrong direction, it's still a parade. The trombone players and flute players and the glockenspiel guy and all the others won't feel as silly because they're all making the same mistake in the same wrong direction. They're all in it together. They'll be happy enough until they get arrested for making a huge racket outside their legally permitted area or they march down a dead-end street. The dip who knows he's lost is better off than all of these people. He might look silly, going back and forth, looking up and down, here and there, scratching his head, and spending a lot of time going nowhere at all. But at least he's not getting farther away from where he wants to be. And, too, he's already on the way to figuring things out. He'll be there before the people who never realize they're lost. None of the wrong or right ways these people are all going or whether they have even a slight inkling of where they're going makes a spit of difference if there's no time constraint. If they've got all the time in the world, if there's no deadline, no clock to crash down on them, it doesn't matter if they're going the wrong way or not. It doesn't matter how far they are or will be away from where they want to be. They've got all the time in the world to get there. As long as they're enjoying the journey, it doesn't matter. But except for Buddhists, we don't have all the time in the world. We need or want to be here and be there and then get on to the next place and the place after that. Or maybe we don't know where we want to go, but we just want to get out of the place we're at. And we want to be there- or be out of here- yesterday. This is when times get tense, when the sirens go off, the horns blare, when the little voice inside starts screaming like a demon. We have to move and can't sit still but there's nowhere to go, no place to be. We're in the middle of everything but in the middle of nowhere. And we have to be somewhere else in a hurry.

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