Time is fixed in the photograph which you remember so clearly as if it was yesterday. The photograph provides a window into the past. Opening a portal between now and then. Taking you back to previous lives and times. Like time travel on the cheap. Before time travel has been invented. Past and present are reunited, like long lost friends, as if there’s no barrier between them. And time collapses, as if it didn’t really exist at all. And yet, when you try to remember what happened immediately before or after the photograph was taken, your mind stutters and draws a blank. The exact details, if not forgotten, are hazy and indistinct. If forced to remember, you will find yourself inventing a storyline. Filling in the gaps. Because not knowing what really happened is shocking and offensive and too terrifying to admit. But the photograph itself leaves such a distinct impression on your mind. The impression of an abiding memory. The reality of the past at a fixed point in time. A life lived and a life remembered.
Where does that leave us? No further forward I’m afraid.
Shit happens! That much is true. All our actions have consequences. Every action counts. But often in ways which we do not expect or intend. And usually we are unaware of the effect that we have on other people. Just as they are unaware of the effect that they have on us. So much remains hidden below the surface. Unacknowledged. Or masked behind polite talk. Of course, words matter too, whether you believe it or not. The things you say are important. Nothing said can be unsaid. Nothing can be retracted or struck from the record. Once it’s out there your words may come back to haunt you and you are vulnerable to attack. You can apologise or attempt to explain your reasoning but you can never take anything back.
Every encounter is fraught with excitement and danger. Every moment pregnant with possibility. Miracles and disasters appear round every corner and follow you down the street. Shadowing your every move. Stalking you. Waiting for an opportunity to ambush and overwhelm you. Just one word, one action and the world could change in an instant. And nothing will ever be the same again.
That’s nonsense of course. Normally nothing ever changes. And we are forced to repeat ourselves over and over again. Acting out an everyday life full of ordinary banality. And yet things change nevertheless.
Each moment is preserved and exists forever – exactly as it happened. Unfolding, second by second and grouped together like mini-episodes. Each episode joined with the next in an unbroken chain forming the story of our lives. And intersecting along the way with the stories of everyone else we ever knew and every interaction that took place between us. Everything that ever happened still exists. Frozen in the moment. Stuck in a rut. Captured and bound. Gagged and bleeding. Like a slice of space-time saved in the mental library of some universal consciousness. Archived for future reference. A movie playing over and over in an empty cinema for all eternity. Proof, if proof were ever needed, of the facts of the case.
Will we get a chance to watch this movie of our life? Once it’s all over. Done and dusted. Later. When we have time to stop and reflect. Surely that would be the ultimate hell. Perhaps just the edited highlights and catastrophes then. Our greatest hits and our worst nightmares. Would a complete history of our lives include our dreams too? And all the subconscious thoughts that ran away screaming into the darkness. Howling like demons. Hiding their unloved faces and their guilty secrets. Too ashamed to expose themselves to the light of day.
Time is money, honey! So tell me what you want and name your price and let’s get it all over and done with. Quick as you can babe. If you don’t mind. I can’t hang around all day you know.
29 January 2019