Time, memory and a sense of the present


Time moves on and on, and the past sinks deeper into our murky pool of memories. We simply can’t encapsulate a moment or an experience so fully that it can be retrieved and relived with any of the colour or depth of the original. Memory is thin and fragile; lacking in colour and detail, devoid of precision and notoriously unreliable. It is a series of cameos rather than a fully scripted record in full costume. It preserves at best a partial set of impressions and images. And most of our days, with their millions of unique pictures and interactions are lost forever. If memory were a hard-drive we would have had it replaced years ago.

Time moves on quietly and predictably at a constant speed. We cannot hold the hand of time, like we would that of a small child. It does what it does, and will do what it will do. All we can do is follow along.

I am sitting on the balcony of an apartment overlooking an inlet of sea near Dubrovnik at midnight. Across the bay are the random orange lights of houses and street lights, like stars. Without my glasses they are a little blurry. They reflect on the ripples of the black water. I can hear music. Some sort of Croatian music from the Dubrovnik festival at the end of the bay. It is getting louder and now quieter again. Is that the volume changing, or the change of the wind? The same wind which is now rustling the leaves of the ivy which covers the roof above the balcony and blowing through my hair. It is warm and gusting increasingly strongly. The light flickers above me as the ivy blows in front of the bare light bulb.

I can hear the soft click of the keyboard as I type. t y p e. Sometimes I watch as my fingers dance across the letters. Other times I allow them to work alone, and then correct my own mistakes. It is confidence thing. A microcosm of life. My hands are brown, and more wrinkled than they used to be when I was younger.

Time. It leaves plenty of wrinkles. I realise I will never sit in this place again and have this same experience. The lights, the wind, the music. We never return to the same place twice, even if we try to. Even if we did, it would not be the same. Every second is as unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint and will never be recreated. And 99% of them will be forgotten.

So there we have it, The uniqueness of experience, the relentlessness of time and the lightness of memory. Quite a handful.

Tomorrow we travel home. There is a sense of loss of something we looked forward to so much – a holiday in a beautiful location with our children – completing. One day it will all complete, and they will live on without us, and all our memories will be lost with us in the dust. Meanwhile, we have little alternative than to enjoy the present, to absorb all we can of this amazing thing called life. The past and the future are but ungraspable figments of our imagination.

Yes, all we have is the present. The music is quieter. I may as well finish this bottle of Merlot. Life can be quite frightening when we thing about it too much. The world and time can be too large and ephemeral. I look up to the vastness of sky and think backwards and forwards to the emptiness of time. A little alcohol will dull the vague feeling of panic.

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