‘Time marches on…’ my teacher would declare expansively, as if it was a revelation never shared before. ‘…so what have you done with yours?’ Experience taught me to expect that addendum, but seldom how to answer satisfactorily. Often caught staring out the window, it wasn’t hard to figure out I’d been daydreaming again. Escaping into my imagination was my favorite pastime and the best way to control an environment unfailingly skewed in favor of the adults in my world. And besides, my imaginings were just plain fun, which most of my real world existence in school wasn’t.
I remember now how I’d slouch back against the chair after the teacher left, picturing the line of sentinels in perfect, relentless step with each other, all representing the onslaught of time marching on in my mind’s eye. I’m sure that’s why I’m sensitive today to any discussion of a timeline in my writing work, be it memoir or fiction. How could time be a line, I wondered, picturing those marching soldiers of my youth still goose-stepping their way to infinity? It seems to side-step the issue of perspective, a move at best foolish, and at worst disastrous.
Clearly it depends on which end of the time line you’re at, and in which dimension as well, since the viewpoint from well above the line affords the viewer an omniscient perspective lacking those on the same plane as the line, who also have very differing viewpoints depending on where they are along it. Having enjoyed this private argument for many years, I was shaken by the recent revelation that I’d never thought about the topic of memory and the mind’s eye. Surely that’s another dimension where perspective is vital, and you’d think I’d be an expert on it by now with my early start at developing the skill. But in the interest of full disclosure, it never occurred to me until I read a passage in a little book by C.S. Lewis.
The book is called, A Grief Observed (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis), and although there’s no doubt about the topic at hand, in typical Lewis fashion he explores many peripheral adjuncts to the topic of grief, including love, loss, marriage and (dare I say) time. It’s that last one that took me by surprise. Continue Reading