Time and Again
From the book description at Amazon:
"Sleep. And when you awake everything you know of the twentieth century will be gone from your mind. Tonight is January 21, 1882. There are no such things as automobiles, no planes, computers, television. 'Nuclear' appears in no dictionary. You have never heard the name Richard Nixon."
I'm only a few chapters into the book. This is a new experience for me, to read something at a deliberatley slow pace. Normally I tear through books, speed reading my way through chapters so that it takes me only a day or so to finish a novel.
There's something so profound about this book, that I put it down after each chapter - sometimes after single paragraphs - to contemplate the concepts the author has put forth.
These are things that won't be profound to everyone that reads them. But a particular theme running through the story so far has resonated with me for a reason - it's something I think about often, but trying to describe it to other people, to talk about it or explain it usually brings shrugs or strange looks in response.
I'll excerpt the book first before trying to explain myself.
He said, "There are other essentially unchanged buildings in New York, some of them equally fine and a lot older, yet the Dakota is unique, you know why? I shook my head. "Suppose you were to stand at a window of one of the upper apartments you just saw, and look down into the park; say at dawn when very often no cars are to be seen. All around you is a building unchanged from the day it was built, including the room you stand in and very possibly even the glass pane you look through. And this is what's unique in New York: Everything you see outside the window is also unchanged."
[...]"Picture one of those upper apartments standing empty for two months in the summer of 1894. As it did. Picture our arranging - as we are - to sublet that very apartment for those identical months during the coming summer. And now understand me. If Albert Einstein is right once again - as he is - then hard as it may be to comprehend, the summer of 1894 still exists.
Time and space. Have you ever visited an historical site? Have you ever stood where Paul Revere once stood or touched a wall that Edgar Allen Poe once touched? Have you ever looked at the trees in your backyard and wondered who was here before you, when those trees were just saplings?
It's a feeling that's hard to describe, to feel the coming together of time and space, of histories, of past and present. I think if I sat in my yard long enough, facing the grouping of trees on the north side and maybe looking up, right into the branches and leaves so I can see nothing else, I could be back there, when this was all forest and woods. And if I sat just as long in the vast fields of the elementary school, at a time of day when there were no cars zooming by on the parkway that edges the school, maybe at that time of morning where it's neither dark nor light, I could see the old potato farms stretch out before me. January 2 of long ago.
My parents' house used to be an airplane hanger. Who's to say it's not still an airplane hanger, with each moment in time living on top of the other, each unaware that they ever stopped or started existing. Maybe time piles on top of itself and never really disappears.
If you try hard enough, if you are open to the ideas and tuned into the past, you can feel it when your feet touch upon a stone walk that existed in the 1800's. You can feel the existence of the thousands of other feet that walked there before you. If you put your mind in the 1800's, you can sense the people like ghosts. Except they aren't ghosts. They are the past, living in tangent with the future and the present.
As I said, it's not something that's easy to explain and it's certain to make some people think I've lost touch with reality. The idea that different planes of time can co-exist is something talked about in science fiction novels, but taken seriously by very few. I don't know anything about quantum physics. I can understand very little of the mechanics of theories put forth on this subject. For me, it's not a matter of equations and calculations. It's just feeling. It's the knowing that something existed long before you did and lived and breathed on the very spot you are standing on now. Who is to say it is that January 2, 1894, 1900 or 1776 does not still linger there? Perhaps reaching those dates from 2005 is a scientific impossibility, but that doesn't mean they aren't here, unfolding right on top of us, unseen.
I've written about this before:
See, I believe that every thing, living or inanimate, has an energy to it. A store, a car, a person. And when that person or object moves from one place to another, they leave some of that energy behind. So as I stood there I looked around me and saw not racks of DVDs and action figures, but tables and chairs and the people I used to work with. I could almost hear my name being called from the kitchen. It's as if little ghosts of all the people who passed through the restaurant were still in that place, eating and drinking and cooking....It's not a theory, it's not a scientific fact. It's my own way of connecting time and space. It's what I feel connects us with the past, because the past never leaves us. It's here, we just have to look for it.
Furthering that theory, it's not even about the people or objects leaving the energy behind. The past and its energy is soaked up in everything it touches. So those stone walkways, the brick on your house, the tree in your yard, the dirt under your feet that goes on for miles, the walls of a school, the sign on an ancient building, the Egyptian artifacts in a museum, dinosaur bones; they are all what binds us to the past, they make it possible (for me) to believe that if parts of the past remain, then past as a whole must remain also, surviving off the energy its remnants hold.
I'm sure I lost most of you a few paragraphs up and I'm sure more than a few of you are wondering if I've had too much holiday egg nog. As I said, it's a hard thought, a difficult concept to explain without sounding loopy.
But who can prove it's not a real concept? Maybe a man can walk out of 1970 and into 1882, maybe not in a physical way where he can alter things or interact, but as an invisible presence, observing, just as the past is an invisible presence to us right now. Perhaps all it takes is an open mind and willingness to see that the past is still very much in the present.