Monday, January 12, 2015

Boogeyman

There is a boogeyman who lives beneath my bed, and in my closet, and who stalks me every hour of every day, no matter where I go. I never see him, of course...boogeymen never show themselves...but I know he is there, and he knows I know. He saturates my mind like water saturates a sponge, and his name is Time.

He's been with me all my life, and has always been frightening. But he grows more so with each passing year.

I read a science fiction story many years ago that has stayed with me all this time. It was about a society in which murder was very rare, and the murderer was always detected. The punishment for murder was death, but it was administered in a very different way. The murderer was not put in prison. He could go about his life freely. But he was always accompanied by a machine which would, at some unknown point and totally without warning, kill him, as one swats a fly. He had to go through every day never knowing which moment would be his last, but knowing it was coming, and each passing minute brought it closer. Until....

And I still, strange as it may seem, identify with that story. Though I have not committed any crime, I am like that murderer, and the machine that follows me everywhere, and which I know will one day take my life, is Time.

I know this obsession is downright unhealthy. I know there is no boogeyman under my bed or in my closet, or deliberately, calculatedly, consciously following me around, just as I know a train speeding  down the tracks has no evil intent and has no awareness of anyone in its path. But if someone stands on the tracks in front of a moving train, the outcome is inevitable. Each of us is, in fact, standing on the track at different intervals, and each of us, in turn, will be run over. We can stand there, watching the train barreling down on us, and wave our arms frantically and shout for it to stop, but it won't even slow down. It's probably a blessing that most people stand with their backs turned to the train of Time, and are so preoccupied with the sounds of their own lives they cannot hear it coming. I can, and the sound grows louder every minute. 

I am fully aware, too, that in my preoccupation with how quickly the future becomes the past, I am unable to fully appreciate the present. Delight and joy are tempered by the knowledge that the particular moment must end. I wish with all my heart and soul that it were different, and am convinced that my life would be infinitely less stressful if I could somehow get over it. But as with so much of life, wanting something to be different does not, even with great effort, make it so.

On reading this over, it once again seems that I come across as a bitter, disagreeable curmudgeon; really a totally wet blanket, never happy, always bitching and moaning about one thing or another. I too, wish it were not so. Oscar Wilde observed that "A cynic is a frustrated romantic," and I fear he pretty much summed it up. I've often said that romantics are those whose hearts have never let go of the dreams of childhood and youth--of a world of kindness and beauty, without harshness or hatred or bigotry. Like all romantics, I want so very much for things to always go smoothly, and simply cannot understand why common courtesy and basic logic are almost universally ignored if not scorned. And disillusion creates a inevitable state of sadness and frustration. Perhaps, were it not for the boogeyman, all this wouldn't matter as much. But I feel cheated when so much of the terribly short time each of us has on this earth has to be spent countering the negatives. Let's add that one to my list of things I truly wish weren't so.

I blame it on my boogeyman. 

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

I don't think you come across as a bitter curmudgeon at all. You were, if nothing else, completely open and honest about your fear. I'd love to know the name of that story you read, too.

There is a film series based on a show that I enjoy, and the first film deals a bit with time. The adversary tells the main character (regarding time) "It's like a predator; it's stalking you. Oh, you can try and outrun it with doctors, medicines, new technologies. But in the end, time is going to hunt you down... and make the kill."

The main character, at the end of the film, addresses his version of time: "Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived."

I like to think of it as a companion rather than a predator, but I often do feel it to be a predator, too.