Posts Tagged ‘time’

2020 & The Tyranny of “Time”

December 31, 2020

It is December 31, 2020. The end of a horrible year.

Covid is raging.

My Father can’t remember anything past 15 minutes — he has multi-infarct dementia.

My little brother — my Best Man — is about to die — he is in the final stages of brain cancer.

I am crying.

Almost uncontrollably.

Yet, simultaneously, I am listening to my brother play. A captured moment in time off of his solo album, Heavy Breathing.

It reminds me of an exchange that I had with my other Father who now lives in the Clearwater area. One is my biological father, the other my step-father. I will not tell you which-is-which, as when it comes to my heart, that is an irrelevancy. He has had some battles of his own with his health, but is sound of mind. Here’s our recent exchange as his adopted hometown Rays made their run to the World Series:

I call it “Ratatouille” moments. There are times when we simply remember things, but there are other times when those memories become present, like when a bite of an elevated peasant’s dish took Anton Ego directly to the moment when his mother cured a little boy’s boo-boo with the flavors his favorite meal. Past and present intertwine. The two Doctors meet as their Tardises (Tardi?) overlap at the same moment, even though those moments are at two different places in linear time.

To nerd this up just a bit more, let’s talk science & philosophy. A recent article I read suggested that physicists have new evidence that the future is not the open question that we living in linear time intuit to be. Indeed, it seems that the counter-intuitive notion that the future is as fixed as the past seems more-and-more what the science is suggestion is the truth.

Of course, to a Star Trek nerd raised on Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, this rubs against the grain. But, as Professior Alison Fernandes of Trinity College Dublin sagely notes:

“Human minds aren’t geared to intuit what fundamental reality is like. Typically, it takes a lot of empirical work to figure out the way things are. It was very natural at one time to think of air as weightless, and of solid objects as filled with matter. But we’ve learnt that air is weighty, and that solid things are mostly empty space – even if we can also make good sense of why these things seemed otherwise. Given these lessons, it would be very surprising if we had direct insight into the fundamental nature of time.”

That lack of fundamental understanding shaped by what we feel is a major reason I am almost militantly agnostic. Much to I’m sure the aggravation of devout Atheists like Richard Dawkins (one of my 10 different Covid-reading books I’m in the middle of is his, The God Delusion), I do not think that we are even close to enough of an understanding of our universe to simply dismiss faith. That level of certainty seems to be on par with those on the opposite side who demand that their belief is somehow proveable.

On that side of the coin, I recently got into an exchange with my devoutly Jewish mother as we cried together over the impending end of my brother’s life. She finds comfort that which is Dan, “Everything that is not of the body,” as Sarek says of Spock after his demise at the hands of Khan, will go on; his soul traveling to heaven.

She chafed at the fact that I could not share that belief with her, as I have no idea if there is something beyond our bodies, or whether we have a definitive beginning, middle, and end. The Taoist philosophy that we are all part of one larger way, and simply shift in our form in that flow, certainly always held appeal to me. But air is not weightless, and solids are mostly empty space…

To my surprise, my mother decided to continue this conversation via email. Below is the exchange, including the link to the video my mother asked me to watch:

https://youtu.be/Oc3YpDG9hMg

Love to know what you think of this. Mom

******

Okay, so I watched this. Not sure you’ll like my reaction to it, though. I found the logic here to be so tortured as to be almost comical. Essentially, the notion is, “These events have historical proof, and the Bible says that G-d played a hand in it. Therefore if you believe the Bible, it’s incontrovertible proof s/he exists.” So essentially the only actual “proof” of G-d is in the Bible.

The argument that because the Jews have survived so much it’s obviously proof of the Hebrew G-d is similarly silly and ethnocentric. There are MANY ethnic minorities and cultures around the world who have faced similar threats and survived. Large empires attempting to stamp out ethnic differences or assimilate them is a historical standard. Armenians, B‘’hai, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and countless others could tell similar stories. I’m not saying the Jewish story isn’t impressive—it absolutely is—it’s just not unique.

What this means to me personally is the very same that it did before I watched it. There is a real power to a “leap of faith” but it is just that. You are leaping beyond logic and proof and trusting in something that really cannot be proven. I understand the attraction and power of making that leap and will never bash anyone for having that (provided they do not attempt to foist their belief on anyone else—that’s where I draw a line). But, if anything, watching this made me even more agnostic because I feel it’s almost dishonest in twisting history and archeology to try and make a factual case for what is clearly a leap beyond logic (which is fine, but that’s what it is so I say just own up to it, IMHO).

So, there you go — your agnostic son’s view. Hope you don’t find this insulting but you asked my opinion, so there you go.

The fact that I love you and you love me is definitely something I have faith in!

Shmoolik

******

Thank you for taking the time to listen to Solovechick and to respond. Noone claims that we are the only people chosen to have a path that can help perfect this world. But you ignore or explain away all the “coincidences”. How amazingly the prophets have predicted what would happen, the Assyrians simply fading away with a plague just as they were about to sack Jerusalem. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree, I guess we will find out when these bodies give out. Yes I do love you very much, but not your choice in liquors. Mom

*****

I’m not ignoring prophecies. Frankly, given how many prophecies were wrong or so vague or metaphorical as to mean about anything, I find the fact that some of them happened to hit home doesn’t do much for me, personally. Here’s a good article that encapsulates how I feel about biblical prophecies:

https://whistlinginthewind.org/2014/01/15/were-the-biblical-prophecies-fulfilled/

You are correct, we’re going to agree to disagree for now. I’m happy to keep listening and reading the stuff you send — I often do. Maybe my opinion will grow and change. Being agnostic rather than atheist is that I don’t know or believe I’m right — I just don’t think you are, either and so far I just don’t see anything except leaping beyond logic into faith, which nothing in my experience has made me do.

Hope you’ll be able to join the Zoom in a bit,

The Shmoo

Indeed, as this tortured year—and my Best Man’s life — comes to an end, I am finding a strange and unexpected comfort in my uncertainty. If time is not really as we experience it, and things to come are just as fixed as a memory of things past, then past and present are just as eternal and real as the undiscovered country.

Perhaps the illusion is the very notion of beginning and end. Those Ratatouille moments are indeed two fixed and forever points in time intersecting. This would mean that if we have a beginning, we never actually have an end. That the love I feel now for my brother is indeed forever; as is he. His impending release from his tortured present body in no way erases his existence. He existed, and therefore, perhaps, he always exists.

With so many having lost so much this year, perhaps there is some comfort in that for others. After all, before his resurrection, Spock told his brother from another mother, James Tiberius Kirk that, “There always are…possibilities.” (Make sure you read that line with Bill Shatner voice in your head for maximum dramatic effect)

I will have far more to say about my brother in time, but, at this time, that is about as much as I can type between tears. May your New Year’s 2020 be a safe and peaceful one, and thank you for joining me in this moment in time.

Home Run on the Edge of Forever

May 11, 2017

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He’s a strong kid, my big fella.  He was a contender for Varsity this year as a 10th Grader, but ended up on JV.  It was the classic dilemma for a baseball parent, not sure if being on the Big Club and mostly sitting would be better than being the Big Fish.

I’m voting for Big Fish as of now.

I sat in the stands a couple of nights back watching my boy’s team competing against a team they weren’t supposed to beat.  Indeed, this was a season they weren’t supposed to be competitive because they lost too much underclass talent to Varsity.  But Gus’s Generals came up with the W.

And Gus went deep.

My wife missed the point of contact, as her eyes were focused down on the mound of green billing papers she had brought to the field in her eternal battle to stay true to her profession and her passion.  But she didn’t need to see it, as it made that sound.  That clean, slightly high-pitched and distinctively loud PING! that means the ball has been struck just slightly better than perfect.

The home run itself is something quite unique.  The power and precision.  The ability to do something that is truly indefensible.  And to see the ball go over the wall at the High School level is something of a Unicorn.   Gus’s was just the 4th Home Run of the whole W-L season—JV and Varsity combined.  Gus was the one-and-only on his team.  Indeed it was the only one we saw from any team the entire season including from the Big, Bad, Madison team with its JV squad full of Juniors.

So as that drive rose, it took us all a little by shock.  Gus’s Mor-Mor was on hand and seemed entirely bewildered.  The confusion from everyone seated behind the plate was compounded because backstop obstructed the flight of the ball.

The left fielder slowed down, and turned to watch.

Did that really just happen?

It did.

Gravity ceased to have meaning on the field as my boy floated ‘round the bases.  He promptly crashed into a sea of navy and gray as his coach attempted to manage the balance between legitimate celebration and showing up the opposition.

In the stands, however, I can attest that gravitational laws were still in full effect, as I leaped and clamored thunderously on the bird-stained metal bleachers.  The joy of the moment was overwhelming, to be there to see my son do something he will always remember.  To think about all that went into that single swing.

The Chocolate Donutz-eating t-ball team;

The pudgy 2nd baseman with a decent bat taking the 3rd Grade house championship;

The B-Team catcher starting to find his form;

Dealing with A-Team rejection, concussion, and the monster of self-doubt;

The cup-of-coffee with the A-Team in the 12u wood bat tournament finally proving he could play with the best;

Moving to the big field and back to B-Team;

Working his keester off and moving up to A;

More rejection as an 8th Grader as he gets cut from JV;

More frustration in 9th as he struggles to catch up to High School pitching;

Determination to improve as he dives into training to become bigger, stronger, faster, and better;

Getting into a groove as a Sophomore, only to be sidelined by injury;

Feeling his way back after missing two weeks; and

BOOM

The bat sang, and a Dad swelled.  No, more just a Dad.  At that moment, I was every proud Dad.

Wait, no, that’s quite not it.

Oh.

Oh my lord.

I was my Dad.

Divorce and distance had kept him from seeing me play for the most part.  But one spring day he had made his way down from Queens to Atlanta, and sat beside my teenage sister as my Northside Youth Organization Phillies were taking on the A’s.  I had just explained to my teammate that my bat with the grip tape dangling loosely from the top of the handle, “really isn’t a home run bat.”

And then…PING!

That feeling of perfect nothingness when a ball connects just right.  And the ball sailed over the left-centerfield fence.

My memories are watching the ball leave, getting mobbed by my teammates, and the booming sound of a slightly-overweight, middle-aged guy leaping awkwardly on the aluminum bleachers.

And now that memory and this circle each other, making the past feel present, and knowing that this moment will live past me in the stories Gus will, if he is so lucky, tell to his children.  For in the words of the prophet Terrence Mann:

The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.

This field, this game, this moment(s) in time was good.

And I remember that it always will be.