Tag Archives: time

James Gleick again

I’ve been trying to read James Gleick’s latest book Time Travel: A History. I say trying because I’ve had great difficulty in recent months focusing on books. (I’ve had great difficulty focusing on almost everything since the lockdown, but that’s another story. Pandemic brain.)

I take a book from the library and then don’t read it. Sometimes I read a few pages and put it down and never come back to it. I’ve done better with Gleick for some reason but I still haven’t finished it and I am afraid the library is going to repossess it soon.

One problem is that Gleick, like Stephenson, is such a deep thinker that he requires good concentration to extract value from the book. with

Stephenson’s novels it’s a lot easier because there is a plot. Gleick is a science writer. One reason I liked his book Chaos so much was that it had a narrative. Time Travel, perhaps deliberately, does not.

Gleick shows that time is a concept that humans both understand and do not understand. Even the measurement of time, which we in Western civilization like to think is straightforward, is dependent on consciousness, which leads to memory, which for me today leads to Zach. Nowadays, I think of Zach as being in the past but his memory is with me in the present. In a way he is as alive in my memory as he ever was before when I was not in his presence.

The future we tend to take on faith. After Zach was killed I remember telling people in grief sessions that I had to rewrite my future without him. There was a hole where I had expected him to be. So the future we expect is not assured. This is hardly profound but Gleick presents it engagingly.

I haven’t finished the book yet but I think there is some humor in reviewing a book about time before finishing it. Gleick even comments on how books are time machines themselves in that the reader can go back and forth through the pages if s/he desires.

Of course, the memory of Zach is not the same as having Zach alive in our now world. I can experience Zach by reading his journals and getting wisdom from them, but experiencing his living presence would generate different wisdom. So, I am sad to not be able to experience Zach’s different wisdom in my now. I take comfort in doing my little part in transmitting his now static wisdom into the future.

time and sadness

It’s been ten days since Dad died. Many people have expressed their condolences to me. No doubt many more have done so to Mom and my siblings.

Yet we’re all pretty dry eyed and matter of fact about it – at least in my company. We Wood’s are famously even tempered but this is our father, for god’s sake!

So I’ve been thinking about why. ‘He had a good life.’ ‘He was ready.’ ‘He had been in a long decline and wasn’t really who he had been for a long time.’

That last is kind of my best answer. He really died a long time ago. The weird part is that it wasn’t a clearly defined event like last week. The breathing stops, the heart stops – he’s dead.

But that begs the question of who ‘he’ is. Preparing for the funeral, Tom created a slideshow for people to watch. We started with 20 or 30 pictures but it quickly grew to nearly 100. That was Tuesday. As of yesterday, it was up to nearer 150. We’ll probably keep working on it right up to when we have to leave for the church Monday.

What was interesting to me was that the exercise brought back into my mind the man who raised me – without doubt the most influential man in my life. Over the last four years that man has slowly slipped away.

I can’t help but contrast Dad’s death with the death of Zach. Two people who were as close to me as anyone could be and yet my reactions couldn’t have been more different. The circumstances were vastly different, of course, so that must be why.

The time that has passed since Zach’s death has muted my feelings. Life goes on. I still get angry about the actions of the two drivers and will approach the DA once more about reopening the case. But the overwhelming sadness that I felt for months afterwards hasn’t shown up for Dad.

The funeral is Monday. We’ll see how that goes.