Tradition has it that after Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, the revived one never laughed again. Except once, while sitting in the marketplace watching a thief steal a clay pot. He found that hilarious. “Clay, stealing clay!” Ah, the philosophical bent of those whose souls have temporarily stepped out of time and hovered above their own decomposing bodies.
Time is unruly, an elusive commodity temporarily spliced into the DNA of the universe. Whether we’re on time, out of time, or in the nick of time, we measure this invisible bafflement by simple things; the ticking of a clock, our breath, the movements of celestial bodies. Theoretical physicists like Sean Carroll offer visuals like his “arrow of time” that slices through a vast multiverse, where defining terms we recognize—causality, memory, progress, aging, metabolism—are attached to puny time’s events as they hang onto the arrow for dear life.
Yet here we are, mostly non-physicists, shuffling through the present, racking up piles of the past like old sales receipts, anxious about the future, and wasting time like crazy. So few of our recollections seem to inspire the sense that that event/obsession/outlay of energy was worth investing in, back then, when that was the now. We feel as wretched as Shakespeare’s Richard II: I wasted time, and now time doth waste me. If anything in life requires faith, it is the conviction that a worthy tapestry is somehow being woven from it all.
Think back to the night of your senior prom. You were supple and stunning in ecru muslin and pearls, he pressed a red rose into your hand, you danced to “Colour My World,” then slept within a stand of quivering aspen while sparks from your campfire wafted into open space, where Dr. Carroll’s “progress” or “causality” might or might not be relevant. Question: If sparks from a teenager’s campfire drift across the border from time into non-time territory, and no one is there to notice, is the power of young love strong enough to give the sparks causality?