All of history has not been leading up to this very moment. This is not the end. See? Another minute passes. The seconds do not stop. They never stop. There is never a ‘now’, always a just passed.
What if we were to view time without putting ourselves at the centre of it? It’s pretty easy to get swept up in your own life. We are the centre of our own experiences after all, and if ever we stop to look around us at our present, it’s tempting to view every second in time as an end point in itself. But wrench yourself into the centuries for a second. Let’s forget about “2016” or thirty-something years old, or twelve months into this year. Take the long view.
I found myself in a church recently. It was lit by candlelight on a winter’s night, and the speaker talked of how it had stood, stone-still, on the top of that hill for nearly five hundred years. All that time, people with lives – mothers, children, hopes and fears – had come and gone through its doors. I looked back through time and saw the trail of the decades, stretching back behind me, winding and coiling until me, right now. I thought of how the world around that building had changed. The fields, the soil and the trees around – all still there, but gilded by electric light. The distant throb and hum of petrol engines racing down buzzing tarmac stripes slashed hard across the old ways. Computers in our pockets, the wisdom of the world searchable through the magic waves in the ether.
The reach of mans endeavour; thrilling and horrifying.
But what you get from a place with history, is the dawning realisation that you are just a part of it. You are not the end point. What happens when you throw yourself into the narrative not at the end of five hundred years, but in the middle of a thousand? The stillness of a moment captured by old light is just a glimpse, a pause, just a part of time marching on. We are the pinch point in the hourglass, time flowing through our grasp, sharpened and honed through our experience, one grain at a time. As I sat in that church, I wondered five hundred years into the future. We have the benefit at the moment of seeing the sand gone before us – I could only look down, at the certainty of time already passed, but in an instant I felt the weight of all the sand above me, all the time to come.
There’s a freedom in this sense of perspective. Consider, the lives we worry over are a walk on part in the million year old play of history, the future is there to unfold. I fall into the trap of assuming given a typical life expectancy that I’m around the middle of my speaking part, but it might not be so. There will be people after me, that much is sure. I will die. So will you. But what joy in imagining how the land will go on! That strangers will sit within stones you moved. That unknown eyes will drink in the light from the same stars you do. Your children’s children’s children might be still and wonder who you were, and what you were like. That in some distant year on the rope of time, people will imagine how it was for you, sitting in a church on a foggy winter’s night.
These are times of unrest, and change. But take comfort that it has always been so. And the seconds will tick on, regardless. Here we float, pressed between the past and the future like a bubble trapped in glass, but light shines clear through it all, if we lift our heads to look.