Time, Premises, and Change

We can live without our senses. We know that. Human beings can survive without sight, hearing, smell, and, although I’ve never heard of this condition, I’m sure we could live without taste (I’m not sure about touch… it would be pretty hard to walk and sit and stuff, but we’ll just ignore that for the purpose of this post). In essence, if all of those things were taken away from us, we could still think and communicate and exist. But what would happen if we lived in a world without time?

At first, when pondering this question, I was imagining time as a free-floating unmeasurable aspect of this new world. Things would still happen, but whenever they wanted to. However, the more I thought about this abstract concept, the more I started envisioning a world that was just a snapshot of a moment. And it never changed. And it never grew. And nothing ever got worse. But nothing ever got better. As I created this image in my head, I couldn’t help but wonder if the past would matter to the people of this strange place. After a while, the snapshot would become so normal that nobody would even remember anything before it. But how long is a while if no time passes? Ultimately, I’d like to point out that it is extremely difficult to imagine a world without this abstract concept we have come up with to measure change and patterns of existence. That being said, imagine if we took a snapshot of this day, even this week, and that became reality forever. Pretty scary, right?

The marvelous thing about time is that in our world, it keeps going. No matter what we do, or what we don’t do, time continues. In light of recent events, I have tried my best to examine the future, as well as the past, to try to figure out where our society is going. With growing tension and anger and frustration, I’ll admit it’s hard to see any type of a sustainable future. At this point, I feel like we are a bob on the end of a pendulum, and we’re as far away from equilibrium as we can get. So I wonder if we will swing back, or if we’ll just fly off the pendulum altogether into oblivion (that was a touch dramatic, but it’s the best illustration I could come up with). 

Sometimes I like to pick one event, big or small, and trace it back as far as I can to find the moment that caused it. Usually it goes back years: I just graduated from Interlochen because I went to Academy because I went to camp because I got accepted because I applied because I wanted to go to a summer music program because I went to governors’ school because I applied because my best friend told me about it because we were small talking because we were in line for the bathroom at Shakespeare in the Park because we were best friends because we met in 5th grade because we went to the same school because I had my name drawn in the lottery because I applied because I had good 3rd grade test scores because I had good elementary school teachers because I went to a good elementary school because my parents sent me there, which happened because we lived in Nashville because my parents met in Nashville because my mom moved to Nashville because her dad was pursuing music. And so on and so forth. This little exercise makes me wonder what the present moment will cause in the future.

I’m reading an incredible book right now called The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, and I keep re-reading the chapter on premises (it’s that good. I NEVER re-read anything). It talks about how every good play has a premise, and every good premise has three parts: noun verb noun. The first noun implies a beginning or some quality of the main character. The verb implies conflict and change, and the second noun implies a resolution of some sort. Our lives function the same way. We start at point A, something happens, and we end up at point B, then something happens and we get to point C. The cycle continues, sometimes skipping points or going back to old points, but either way, we start someplace and end up elsewhere. 

We’re lucky because we have enough recorded history to look back on how we got here. We’re in the 3rd part of the premise, and we’re fortunate enough to not only know the first part, but also the second: where we came from and how we got here. We are not, however, fortunate enough (yet) to know where we’re going or how we’re going to get there. Sometimes, it’s very easy to get caught up in how we got from point A to point B. Naturally, we like to feel proud, or examine our mistakes, by looking back on what caused the status quo. However, when we dwell on that, we’re forgetting that point B is more than just an ending: it’s also a beginning. It’s like we expect life to be little line segments, completely disconnected from each other, when in reality, it’s so much more circular, and even the more linear parts are completely intertwined. The third part of every premise can always be used as the first part of another.

So Reagan, what’s your premise? Acceptance of the passage of time leads to hope. Rule #1 of premises: the author must completely agree with the statement, and disagree with the converse. I wholeheartedly believe that if we choose NOT to accept time as a force that can and will change everything, we’ll go flying off the end of the pendulum. We have no hope. BUT. If we recognize that Point B is as much of a beginning as it is an end, and we start treating it as such, we can all end up okay. Yes, we have worlds to change and worlds to win, and we’ve already changed some and won some. But that also means that somewhere out there, there are worlds to not change and worlds to not win. And I don’t know about you, but I really want to win. I also want to acknowledge that I do not have all the answers, nor do I claim to. I don’t know what we can or should do to get back on track. But I do know that the only thing that can give us hope is the comforting knowledge that we DON’T live in a snapshot of the present, and as long as we use our time wisely, we can change everything.

With this potential to change everything unfortunately comes the potential to ruin it all. Like I said before, a world without time can neither get better nor worse. Therefore, a world WITH time has the ability to do both. “So you’re saying that not only do we have to do something, but we have to do it right?” Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. But also as I said before, I don’t know what we should do. To be honest, this paragraph is pretty irrelevant, but I wanted somewhere to mention that we can’t mess up this world because it’s the only one we have. Every time we do something or say something, it’s a part 2 of a premise. It’s an opportunity to lead somewhere else. So we should make sure that all of our actions and words are going in the right direction, because I’m sure we’d all much rather live in a world full of positivity than a world full of anger. I know I would. Have a wonderful day :)

ThoughtsReagan Casteel