Time (Clock of the Heart)


1. Life’s Span

Chuck Klosterman noted his grandmother was born before the Wright Brothers made history, and died after it got boring to go to the moon.

His conversation with Marc Maron, and some other stuff, has got me thinking about time.

For example, I just watched the trailer for the movie Dunkirk, out next summer.

I once worked in an office in which an older gentleman (my third favorite Belgian, in fact) would sometimes stop by. One day we were chatting – presumably about something unrelated to work – when he told me he’d been at the Dunkirk evacuation.

This seemed extraordinary. I know, actuarially speaking, it’s entirely possible to encounter someone who’s been at a major WWII event, but still: in my head “Dunkirk” is like “Gettysburg.”*



That said, my own father, who grew up near the Bremerton Navy Yard, as a child shared a meal with two sailors from the Prince of Wales. His brother had met them and invited them home for dinner. (“In all the war I never received a more direct shock,” Churchill said of the ship’s sinking, not long thereafter.)


2. It Goes So


In three years Twin 1 has octupled her weight. I know it’s probably different, but imagine yourself doing that by 2019.

All this makes me think Kurt Vonnegut** had it about right:

There was a lot that Billy said that was gibberish to the Tralfamadorians, too. They couldn’t imagine what time looked like to him. Billy had given up on explaining that. The guide outside had to explain as best he could.

The guide invited a crowd to imagine that they were looking across a desert at a mountain range on a day that was twinkling bright and clear. They could look at a peak or a bird or a cloud, at a stone right in front of them, or even into a canyon behind them. But among them was this poor Earthling, and his head was encased in a steel sphere which he could never take off. There was only one eyehole through which he could look, and welded to that eyehole were six feet of pipe.

This was only the beginning of Billy’s miseries in the metaphor. He was also strapped to a steel lattice which was bolted to a flatcar on rails, and there was no way he could turn his head or touch the pipe. The flat end of the pipe rested on a bi-pod which was also bolted to the flatcar. All Billy could see was the little dot at the end of the pipe. He didn’t know he was on a flatcar, didn’t even know there was anything peculiar about his situation.

The flatcar sometimes crept, sometimes went extremely fast, often stopped–went uphill, downhill, around curves, along straightaways. Whatever poor Billy saw through the pipe, he had no choice but to say to himself, “that’s life.”



*A couple of years ago I was seated at a wedding next to an amiable German about my age, who told me his grandfather, while in the Wehrmacht, had seen Moscow through his binoculars. (I should emphasize this wasn’t how he introduced himself.)

** Next time you think you’re having a rough day, read Kurt’s letter home. #Jeepers