Time is strange. Turning the pages of a diary or turning over the sheets of a calendar, it all seems equal, but when you look back on it, there are definitely chunks of time that lasted much longer than others. It is not just how long it lasts, either, it’s the order it came in. There are sections that were in the distant past that are fresh and clear and other bits much more recent that have become old and faded.
I once heard it suggested that all of time happens all at once and if we could just see around the corner we could see into our future or look back into the past. Psychologists would probably tell me that it’s not time that goes out of shape or gets out of order, but that it’s all about the physiology of my brain and that the files for 1979 are more readily accessible than the files for 1994.
Whatever the explanation, time has a mysterious quality.
I knew a wonderful lady who lived until the age of ninety-seven. “The problem”, she would say, “is that I don’t feel that I am the age I am”.
I think I understood what she was saying. There is a wonderful passage in the opening chapter of Milan Kundera’s Immortality that captures that sense of timelessness that many of us have,
“She passed the lifeguard, and after she had gone some three or four steps beyond him, she turned her head smiled, and waved to him. At that instant I felt a pang in my heart! That smile and that gesture belonged to a twenty-year-old girl! Her arm rose with bewitching ease. It was as if she were playfully tossing a brightly coloured ball to her lover. That smile and that gesture had charm and elegance, while the face and the body no longer had any charm. It was the charm of a gesture drowning in the charmlessness of the body. But the woman, though she must of course have realized that she was no longer beautiful, forgot that for the moment. There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless. In any case, the instant she turned, smiled, and waved to the young lifeguard (who couldn’t control himself and burst out laughing), she was unaware of her age. The essence of her charm, independent of time, revealed itself for a second in that gesture and dazzled me. I was strangely moved.”
Isn’t it such a sense of timelessness that is promised us in the prophet Isaiah?
“Those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint”. Isaiah 40:31