When I was young, time stretched on before and forty-year-olds were, I believed, on the edge of extinction. Now, as a seventy-five year old, I measure forward time in decades and more and backward time as an instant. How could one doubt for one second that time is relative?
I have been blessed with a full life (so far) full of loves, achievements and travel to more than 70 countries, and now with a second family and two 18-month-old twin daughters I have a future that stretches far into the distance. There is no opportunity to contemplate retirement or decreasing abilities that usually mark declining years. To my mind there are no such things. By good fortune, I am immortal.
In reality every moment is relative to those that one has experienced and those that one anticipates. It doesn’t take an Einstein to tell one that.
Furthermore, another kind of relatively distinguishes “near time” from distant time. Yesterday almost never occurred it has passed in a flash of things done and things left undone, today is winding its way along with a few more things to do before its close, while tomorrow is a whole new epoch of promised achievement.
Also, as time passes, one’s vision and approach changes so that time is seen differently through different lenses. At twenty I heartily despised those old men they must have been fifty at least who drove spirited Jaguars. “How could they at the end of their life,” I wondered, “enjoy such cars?” Now at seventy-five, driving BMWs, I wonder what my next model will be and how much greater acceleration I will have.
Yet, sometimes, we question the past. “What might have happened if I had bothered to get a doctorate instead of buying a typewriter for my first book?” “What would have happened if I had not stayed with my first wife for thirty-eight years?” “What would have happened if I had invested more in my son, now a multi-millionaire?” The answers are always inconclusive because time, being relative, is being judged from the advantage of future time.
Dylan Thomas implored his father, when he was dying,
“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Old age should burn and rave at close of day.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
I cannot imagine better advice. Don’t consider normal considerations of time rage and live into the future.
Of course time is relative.