I was lamenting time, and its cruelty, as I spoke with my husband about how much longer it takes now to get the kink of gray hair out of my mane. His response was a nonchalant shrug and a peppy, “Just think of how much time you’ll save once you stop caring!”
His words struck me like a bullet of carelessness and lodged deep between two ribs. To say they were uncomfortable would have been a gross understatement.
And I believe I’ve figured out why.
I think that I could handle everything else about growing old – the constant alarms for medication, the deterioration of my body parts and the terrible expense they accrue, the pain – if it weren’t for the loss of my looks.
What would society say to a man who had once been a genius, who loved solving the riddles of the universe, who took great pleasure in it, and whose existence was tied to the map of molecules beneath his skull – but who was now losing his mind and mourned the loss of his ability to think, the loss of that experienced pleasure in having defeated a mental problem with the workings of his beautiful brain?
They would mourn along with him, no doubt. They would lament the problems he could no longer solve. They would cluck their tongues and shake their heads at how unfair it was that time could take his love, this thing that he depended so much upon, away from him.
“Callously,” they would say. “Callously, time has done this. We hate time.”
Now imagine that time worked differently in our universe. Imagine it worked differently upon the body, causing the mind to go first, long before the skin sagged and hair turned gray. Imagine that tending to the molecules above the skull – the outer appearance of the physical form – was the attention that mattered more. Because it lasted longer. Because it was the “long run.” Imagine it was the thing that stuck with you through the better years of your life. Imagine that feeding the mind rather than the skin above it was a fleeting endeavor: Why bother? It won’t last. Pay attention to what does.
Imagine that genius now. The one we spoke of earlier – the man who cared so much about the inner working diagram of his brain, about the magnificent construction of his mind. Would society still lament his loss? Would empathy be shown? Or would they roll their eyes, and with a peppy shrug, say, “Everyone loses their minds. It happens to the best of us. Pay less attention to what’s inside and more to what really matters – your looks.”
For you see, it is time, and time alone, that determines what we as a whole judge to be important. But what is fleeting to some is crucial to others. What is meaningless to the masses is everything to the one.
The brightest candles burn out the quickest. The most beautiful stars in the night sky are the “stars” that are falling. And we, as time’s ignorant sheep, have no right to decide what is meaningful at all.
– Heather Killough-Walden
(aka, The Shallow)