• Craig Messenger

On Time

It is still a strange time. I really don’t know what I want to do. In life. A lot of the time, my prevailing sentiment is that I don’t want to do anything. Am I too young for that? Too old? Should we young adults worry more about the moments gone past or the ones that have yet to come? The ones that never came at all?

It’s hard to make sense of it all, of anything. I read a really great book last year called Wind, Sand, and Stars. It’s a semi-fiction tale of the pioneer pilots who delivered air mail over Africa and South America a few years before their payloads turned into pyrotechnics. Its best line reads:

“So in the heart of the desert, on the naked rind of the planet, in an isolation like that of the beginning of the world, we built a village of men.”

The point being that everything started out without much promise and without much direction. Everything had to be made. That notion meshes well with some advice I caught from a teacher, in less strange times.

“Life is about figuring out all of the things that you don’t want to do.”

Most people don’t heed that advice. That very teacher may not have, I’m not sure. But it has both poisoned and purified my soul – I have absolutely no work ethic or patience for things that I don’t enjoy. The idea is that over a longer time horizon, over a longer testing period, by some jolly chance we can weed out all of the things we don’t want to do and arrive joyously at a path we enjoy – without ever having to think too hard about it.

But it is so alluring to think too hard about it! All we want to do is sim through the hundreds of broken paths filled with boredom and mindlessness, confusion. We want to skip to the end! And then when we are at the end, then we can long for the days of suspense. Then we can long for the days when we didn’t know how it was all going to work out. Then we can long for the days of now. It’s quite a vicious Catch 22.

I’ve also noticed that when we’re younger we don’t really care how other people did things in their life. We don’t need their maps. We’ll figure it out on our own. And we do.

But later on, as clocks tick, we start craving that advice more and more. A direction. We look for any semblance of gradient in a world blown flat. The planet’s naked rind. So eventually we do ask our elders, the higher-ups, how and why and what they did when they were green like us, and we actually stare into their eyes attentively this time. We now understand that this wisdom is paid for in entropy, the highest price in the cosmos.

Meanwhile these same advice givers stare back into our juvenile eyes longing for some mode of time travel; thinking, hoping, wishing if perhaps when our retinas dilate for just the proper amount of time the two of us may swap hourglasses. And that purgatory of a wish, that wistful reminiscence of a lifetime of moments, in a way fulfills their thermodynamic dreams. So then they obligingly turn to philanthropy and tell us all about the things that they did well, or would have done differently, or would have just done at all.

Back here in the now – my now – as each moment passes, as my own time potentials continue going kinetic, I’m left with a familiar existential balance beam. It’s always a careful equilibrium of ambition and nihilism, the former to ride the crests and the latter to buoy the troughs.

What do I want to do? It’s a question that vacillates between being so overpowering and so elementary depending on where I fall on that wave cycle.

But the process of elimination seems to be working so far.