“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” -Albert Einstein
We were both thinking about time as I walked down the beach with my husband today. I was flashing on the last time we walked this same beach fifteen summers before. In Bandon, huge sea stacks mark the beaches; architecture from the sea that is unforgettable. I was remembering how small my 18- year- old son and 21- year- old daughter were on that last walk and how the beach portended the birth of my next child with dozens of embryonic looking sea shells at my feet. That baby is fourteen now.
My husband, who listens more than talks, turned to me and said, “This beach is a reservoir of time.” I looked up at him from my rambling and asked what he meant. My son says of his father, “He hardly ever talks but he is thinking all the time…” He studies things like other galaxies and looks at the world through a lens of millennia. He said, “These huge beaches are the most concrete geologic manifestations of the passage of time. The sand we are standing on is the result of millions of years of the water crashing on the earth.”
Thinking of time in terms of the changing earth makes the awareness of the amazing transitions that happen to children in the span of 15 years all the more relevant. Human lifetimes are a speck of linear earth time, but it is our most immediate measure. Situating our life in the context of millennial time is a good way to gain perspective.
Meanwhile, my younger son, who is starting high school in a couple of weeks was realizing again, with a few tears, how each step forward leaves the past behind forever. All these things are true about time. Time is both linear and circular and is reflected in the space in and around us.
My husband’s genius idea about Time’s reservoirs applies to both the huge millennial geological shifts that define our physical world and the ethereal, brief relational shifts that define our emotional landscapes. Maybe everything is actually happening all at once, and knowing that is kind of a relief.