To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour. William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)
January is my birth month, and as I celebrate another year I start to think of how transitional time is. At the close of 2018 I wrote: “Another year has passed. A year with a thousand happenings, pleasant and unpleasant, long and brief all at the same time filling my days broken up into hours. Every hour seems so short and at the same time endless. And what about those minutes? In one minute, a thousand thoughts can cross my mind, and in a flash, it’s over. And in one second, every word spoken is already in the past. These fleeting moments, shorter than a second, a decisecond, or is it a centisecond? Oh how brief it is, that intangible millisecond which, as I speak is already in the past. But it is all that I really have…that intangible moment, the present, which is where I always am. And while my present is slipping into the past as I speak, I am at the same time transitioning into the future.”
Past, present and future are overlapping. The shortest of these is the present. It goes by swiftly, moving me forward into the unknown future. Whereas, having lived a good many years of my past, I recall a great deal more of the it with memories that nourish and strengthen me. When I was a child, I thought time didn’t move fast enough. Even “tomorrow” was too far away for me to comprehend. “Tomorrow” was not within my vision and I could never get there fast enough. I’d ask, “Are we there yet?” Or “Is today tomorrow?” When I reached young adulthood, there were the big moments when I wanted time to stand still. Those were wonderful moments of exploring emotions of growing up into the world of books and romance, adventure and fantasy and of love. And because I still had not had much of a past, the future became more interesting; something to long for. It was unknowable, and the thought that I could affect or even cause the future was hard to imagine. I dreamed what could be and fantasized the outcome while living in the present fragment of my life. Now, as a mature adult, I recognize today as the future I couldn’t imagine. I am living in the “tomorrow” of my past. I have slipped into it, one moment at a time, yet it feels like I have leaped into it.
In the span of “short” decades, science and technological advancements have led me to change how I work, play, socialize, exercise and relax. I wake up to a smartphone, check email, and scan news headlines even before my first cup of morning coffee. I conduct meetings and conference calls between workouts and commutes, and finish my day by completing projects after the household is in bed. Like the world around me, I cyber communicate from home, coffee shop, office, airplane or beach, blurring the lines between professional and personal life. Advancements in science and technology have created and designed systems that were once a fragment of my imagination —imagine self-driving cars, artificial wombs, Artificial Intelligence –the tomorrow of my yesterdays has fast become my present reality. And while the present is where I always am, I look toward tomorrow, because forward is the only direction in which I can move in time.
The past, my past, travels with me. It is a history that is my heritage. And the longer the past, the sweeter my present becomes. I cannot bring back the past nor do I wish to, but I can unlock the emotions of moments lived and re-live them in the fragmented space of my present. Those endless moments—running through orchards intoxicated by the aroma of orange blossom; speechless, standing in the shadow of the pyramids or agape at the vastness of the Grand Canyon; wishing on a shooting star and being awed by the cosmos; losing a friend; falling in love; childbirth; hugging; laughing; crying — are endless emotions that travel with me to present time.
Time moves, and I transition with it. I live in the short moments that unfold in my present. They go by fast, but they add to the length of my life, while, simultaneously, I slip into the future. What was yesterday is not today. What is today will not be tomorrow. The present is all that I occupy. But time moves forward. And by the grace of life granted me, I transition with it one moment at a time.