“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured, “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.”
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Last line of The Great Gatsby
Gatsby created a beautiful dream and could not survive when the world did not bend to his dream. It’s a cautionary tale. When Facebook serves up old posts that we put up years earlier, I am always fascinated by the fact that I seldom remember doing so and never remember why what I posted had resonance for me back then. Time is the most ephemeral thing.
I write these things because there may be a day when I wonder where my mind was at during these times and where it looks like the minds of the world were. I leave out the day to day specifics of politics, the outrage, the incompetence, the lying. Historians will feed on these facts for lifetimes to come. Of course I experience the rage and the frustration but I think it will come to an end and those creating it will find themselves powerless and forgotten, except for their venality. One can hope so.
To write is to seek to capture time, as is to play music, or paint, or create some new art form. They all have this commonality, to stop things for a moment and illuminate them. There are so many things we forget, most of them, and the things we remember are altered as time passes until, like those old Facebook posts, they become curios.
Mark Rothko, the abstract expressionist master, was a man who was frustrated by his inability, in his eyes, to capture a certain luminous thing. A frustration that led to his eventual suicide. His last works eschewed color and were composed of shades of black displayed in a dim meditation space built for them in Houston, a space he never saw. The greatest colorist in modern art had left color behind in search of something beyond. To capture that something in a frozen moment. I think he succeeded but he didn’t see it that way.
In meditation we seek to liberate ourselves from time, a measurement of thought and the movement of planetary bodies. We don’t leave, it stops owning us for a moment. An elusive goal. Right now, as we isolate and wonder what the future looks like, it feels like time has slowed. I count the days, 38 now, and it doesn’t seem that long. The end is not in sight. Of course, there is no end.