A few weeks ago, I had a dream that when we die; we return to experience the exact life again.
We meet the same people, make the same mistakes, occupy the same story.
I put it aside, reflecting that it was a strange dream. Further attaching to my belief that If we do return, we live a different life than the one we just had.
I let it be.
But a few days ago, I stumbled upon a book called Einstein Dreams by Alan Lightman. As soon as I opened to the first few pages, it was as if he was describing the dream I had.
It was kind of eerie for me to read it. The novel was first published in 1992.
It started out like this.
“Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.
For the most part, people do not know they will live their lives over.
In a world in which time is a circle, every handshake, every kiss, every birth, every word will be repeated precisely.”
Sitting at the kitchen counter shaking my head, remembering my dream and re-reading the words in the novel. Do you suppose there is a world where we relive everything a million times?
In the Einstein Dreams Novel, every chapter imagines a new conception of time. People existing in different worlds experiencing time in ways unfathomable to us.
“There is a place where time stands still. Raindrops hang motionless in air. Pendulums of clocks float mid swing… As a traveler approaches this place from any direction, he moves more and more slowly. His heartbeats grow farther apart, his breathing slackens, his temperature drops, his thoughts diminish, until he reaches dead center and stops. For this is the center of time… The loved one will never take his arms from where they are now, will never give back the bracelet of memories, will never journey far from his lover, will never place himself in danger in self-sacrifice, will never fall in love with someone else, will never lose the passion of this instant time.”
Are you breathing?
I forgot to breathe for a few seconds when I was reading this paragraph.
He then continues this unparalleled writing journey with these words. “Those not quite at dead center do indeed move, but at the pace of glaciers. A brush of the hair might take a year, a kiss might take a thousand.
While a smile is returned, seasons pass in the outer world. While a child is hugged, bridges rise.
While a goodbye is said, cities crumble and forgotten.”
This is what happens when we remember someone we lost a long time ago.
We freeze time. Even though that is not what Alan meant with his breathless book, this is the only thing we can do inside the linear time world we are living in.
The only way to freeze an embrace is by remembering it. The only way to stop time is by stepping into it with your mind and climbing inside the memory.
I can only imagine the liberties that people who have not visited the province of death make, about time standing still inside the realm of grief.
Here is how time stands in mine. On July 21st, it will be 15 years since the father of my children and my first husband left our linear time world.
As I approach July 21st each year, I go on a walk.
The walk is invisible, and it happens simultaneously in everyday life. I may be doing the dishes, talking to a friend, writing to you, but the walk continues.
I am wandering towards the last few days of his life and I freeze time. During the walk I see my house, the kids young. I see him ageless and not noticing I had arrived from the future. He smiles. He nods. 15 years have passed.
I am weathered. I have a perpetual silence that seeks me everywhere.
He is running around with the girls. He doesn’t know that in a few days, it will all be over. Nobody knows. Even though we were instructed to prepare. We never did. He stops at the grocery store during his last regular day. He does the mundane tasks that we perform when life appears as if it will go on endlessly. I now realize the air was a little thinner that day in the parking lot as we walked out to take that last ride home.
My walk goes from there to him giving the kids a bath, and reading them a story in Danish. They sing together. Then I make it to the earlier years. It seems like I am running when I am there. It is a faster pace. But I can still remember everything. The birth of the girls. Our youth. The travels. The notion of assuming we could live forever. That is when I walk back to today, 15 years later.
I didn’t know then how long the future was. How much life he was going to miss out on. Here time is linear, 15 years seems like a really long time, but for you, I expect for you it is like in Alan’s book. Time is experienced in every way, slow, frozen, circular, and you get to visit us whenever you want. For that, I am sure.
When I take my walks to find you, I bet you visit with my future self while I visit with your past self.
We meet there. Don’t we? In the intersection of time.
One last thing before I go.
The girls are doing well. You would be proud.
Thank you for sending Eric. He is as you said he would be.
With many more unseen walks ahead,