For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to time travel. Maybe it was my first viewing of Back to the Future in the early 1990s that started it all, or that summer afternoon when I built a time machine out of a spare cardboard box. Regardless, time and I have always had a complicated relationship, mostly because I often feel smothered by its ubiquitous temperament. Time is not only at the root of everything we do but it is inescapably embedded into the core of who we are. So many of our actions are based on saving time, wishing we had more of it or attempting to adjust it in some capacity. For me, time often feels like an old VCR. I either want to rewind, fast forward or pause the tape. So, let’s load a cassette and go time traveling together. You can press the buttons on the VCR.
The sand reduced the space between my toes like a look of affection fills a gap of silence. Each wave that crashed on the shore spoke to the one that came before it, creating a dialogue as captivating as the view. My brother and I were digging for buried treasure and our excavation was cut short as my mother called us over: “Boys…come quick or you’ll miss it!” Under a watercolor sky, we raced back to our towels, I jumped into my father’s lap and the four of us turned our eyes to the sea. We watched the sun descend slowly into the horizon while my tiny heart was overflowed with a sense of refuge. And there it was, as transitory as it was inimitable: a flash of green light.
I had no idea that my next green flash would be so profoundly different a few years later, with my parents in the midst of a complicated divorce and my older brother away at college. Time has a way of accelerating our stages of personal growth, whether we are ready or not. The eloquence of innocence is eventually replaced by the intricacies of experience and there is a brief period where these colors bleed into one. Our experiences of losing innocence are made impactful by the rawness that is hidden beneath the situation. Even the first fights on the playground or the initial heartbreak carry resonance; they are anchored in the purity of the moment. The emotional truth at the core of a transition from innocence to experience is carved out of the veracity of our response. These expressions of time, along with the reactions they elicit, are completely genuine. Time uncovers the authenticity behind the human condition.
I remember how the clatter of a distant train was muffled by the silence of falling snow, how she swung around the lamppost and back into my orbit with a passionate kiss. It must have been 20 degrees outside, but I felt warm. Our laughter echoed across the street as we took up the whole width the sidewalk, the glass of the shop windows serving as an infinite wall of mirrors in which we could see the reflection of our love. It felt as if the strands of Christmas lights were flickering just for us. Time and magic had coalesced.
I wanted to press the pause button, in hopes that I could exist within that beautiful moment forever. As I was falling in love, I gripped those precious minutes to stay upright. As time passed, I became enamored with the moment, so much in fact, that my attachment to the moment became its defining quality. Eventually, when the relationship ended and we went our separate ways, the moment twisted from something I wanted to freeze into an instant I wanted to erase. Now, my desire rests somewhere in between these two actions, but my heart speaks to me with clarity. A powerful moment in time can only exist if it is given the space to thrive. Our experience of the moment will deepen if it is held lightly, or the flame will turn to smoke without the oxygen it needs to burn.
If a moment is a speck on the large canvas of life, then a process is the shape these dots resemble after we have connected them with ink. However, a process is often an expression of time that takes longer than we may be comfortable with. I sometimes feel as if time is filibustering, staring me down until I throw my hands up in weary resignation.
I have wanted to speed up time so I pass the benchmarks in my life, the certain signposts along the way that signify progress. My last two years of high school were essentially an extended countdown until graduation, until I could roam free across the open vistas of the college experience. After university, I couldn’t wait to immediately “start my life” and find satisfaction in a job, where I would thrive in my chosen professional world. And soon after that, I had my heart set on meeting a beautiful coconspirator in life and we’d build a magnificent castle out of our shared love. With the ideals of both career and relationship, I would have “it” figured out, whatever “it” was. The process would equal progress. As you may have guessed, my process has been quite different from what I had planned, but I am a better man because of it. Progress flows when time is discarded of any form of expectation.
It’s time to remove the tape from the VCR and put it on the shelf. Time travel is indeed possible, although not in the method we traditionally perceive. Our capacity to journey across time rests in the ability to simply pass through it with an aura of passionate embrace. We are already courageous explorers with a general compass bearing and an idea of where we want to go, but the experience of our voyage is at the mercy of the open sea. The expedition becomes transformational with heightened awareness.
Time can only be adjusted if we completely pay attention to its performance and the supporting role we have in the production. Attention is identifying where we are, as opposed to where we thought we’d be. In placing an attachment to where we think we should be, we lose sight of what could be. This possibility gives birth to trust, which creates the space for transcendence. To merely exist as we move across time, to pay attention to the magnificent details as we pass through, our identity changes from that of a simple traveler into something far more rewarding: we each become a witness to the exaltation of time.