A boomer examines whether time is real or an illusion

We don’t get too philosophical at BoomerCafé … but when a reader does, we take it seriously. In this case, Gary Carter takes a serious look at where we baby boomers are in life … and how we come to terms with it. He is coming to terms with the promise of “some day.”

The other day, for no apparent reason, I was struck by the concept encompassed within the phrase “some day.” The dictionary makes it short and sweet, defining it as “at some future time,” and noting such synonyms as “eventually” and “sooner or later.” But it was the synonym “finally” that perhaps was closest to my own thoughts.

I believe what triggered this unexpected examination was thinking about a place I find wonderfully alluring — Big Sur in California — and telling myself, “I’d like to live there some day.” Then I suddenly recognized that now, much closer to the end than the beginning, my “some days” are somehow limited. What would have been at age 25 a reasonable fantasy that could realistically be translated into a reality, now must be tempered by a true expectation of how many days remain.

Big Sur, California.

Big Sur, California.

“Some day” is a phrase that defines itself differently depending on age and perspective. It roots itself in the concept of time, that relentless ticking of the clock and thecold fact that life makes no promises, offers no guarantees. Which leads toeither willing acceptance, or blind denial.

But “some day” also can be a trigger, a notion that cracks the whip and says that time might be shorter than you think, and therefore, you should get on with anything you truly want to do or accomplish or experience. “Some day” says there is no wisdom waiting for tomorrow. Einstein saw it in coldly mathematical terms: “People like us, who believe in physics, know the distinction between the past, present, andfuture is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

In a recent New York Times article entitled “A Quantum of Solace,” Dennis Overbye revisits the long-standing debate as to whether time is real or an illusion. He wrestles with the way in which “the learned consensus keeps swinging between the yin-and-yang theories of existence: free will and fate, change and eternity, atomicity and continuity.”

Writer Gary Carter

Writer Gary Carter

Or maybe in a simpler form for us, what our “some day” can be, will be, or should be. What it means to stand in the fact of the present — the only solid foundation we have — and consider paths, weigh needs and desires, and move ahead with courage and conviction. There is, of course, the option of staying in place, letting life come to you and dealing with it. That also requires a certain type of courage, to accept things as they present themselves and make the best of them — or just hope for the best and accept fate. Regardless, the objective should be to strive to live fully and well.

Overbye mentions that John Archibald Wheeler, a visionary Princeton physicist, once pointed out that the future and the past are theory. These two elements of time, at least asperceived in our human experience, exist only in records and the thoughts of the present, the point in which all stories end and begin. This empowers the hope that “a single moment of insight or beauty or grace… can illuminate eternity.”

In that elegant sense, this concept of “some day” becomes a platform for standing on the edge and waiting to see what unfolds, or looking forward to what’s desired and taking steps in that direction, or maybe just plunging into the abyss and seeing what happens. Maybe I won’t be able to live in Big Sur “some day.” And admittedly there are other “some day” scenarios that strike my fancy, even as I accept the tenuous nature of my life and the uncertainty of tomorrow. But, then again,there’s always the comforting appeal of “never saying never.”

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2 Comments on "A boomer examines whether time is real or an illusion"

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Eric Mondschein
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Thank you Gary, you have given me something very interesting to ponder.

Charles
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September of 2014 I obtained the age of 70…with two Cochlear implants, 6 teeth implants and stroke (5 yrs. back) I beat it instead of the other way around, but not without fallout, A recent divorce of a 25 year marriage and struggling to make any sense of the whammies I’ve experienced and then I read “Someday”. It it home like nothing else I’ve read!

Thank you,
Charles

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