Clocking Out

I just read a heartbreaking story about Jerika Bolen, a 14-year-old girl who has made a very difficult decision for herself and her family. She’s decided to self-euthanize due to Type 2 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a very rare and devastating physical condition that will inevitably cut short her time here on this earth. I found this news terribly sad, and I questioned the morality of it. I began to wonder whether we truly have the right to our time in this universe. And rather than figure out a definitive answer to that, I naturally dwelled on the topic for far too long.

Because the most beautiful thing that we as human beings will ever experience is not love at first sight, or the thrill of a satisfying career, or a supportive family, or our dope Snapchat story from Lollapalooza. It is time, the only resource that we share and control, the canvas onto which we paint our lives. We spend it on experiences, take it from the departed and give it to the newcomers, and share it with those we care about.

In my experience, the concept of time has been treated as just that: a concept. It would be defined something like “the measurement of our universe” or “the progress of things.” When I hear the word “time” not within a context of punctuality or scheduling, my first thought is of the fourth dimension, of which time is commonly considered the measurement. It’s usually something to study rather than understand; a scientific theory instead of the currency of life. Don’t get me wrong: while I like spacetime theories as much as the next person that likes spacetime theories, I think that everything we study must have meaning and without that, we won’t know how to take action.

I simply want to draw attention to the nature of time itself. And in a “hit the blunt” yet also serious way, I mean that if time were a person, what would he/she be like? Would she be like a parent, raising her child Humanity with the utmost attention to some uncertain age before she conceived Artificial Intelligence with Satan, her on-again-off-again lover? Would time be like a morbidly obese man, greedily eating organisms like meals, with us on his plate after the indigestion-inducing dinosaurs? Or maybe he/she’s a strategist, completely self-aware and deciding the future based on the logical outcome of all past experiences ever. Maybe we’ve even caught onto him/her, and we call the evidence of these strategies “destiny.”

The possibilities are endless, and I don’t want to go into too many more right now because I probably lost some readers in the ridiculousness of that last paragraph. But anyways, my point is, I think I have my own characterization of time. I see her as a tireless “talent agent” for everybody. Time is a karmic function, and in my eyes, also a very organized thirty-something woman with glasses and a satchel (she is particularly trendy). She directs everyone to the appropriate future event or decision depending on their previous experiences.

This is all getting very unnecessarily deep into the matter, so let’s get back on schedule (which is a cool little byproduct of time). Regardless of what sort of “person” you think it is, what’s more important than figuring out how people define time is learning how time defines people. All of us are merely a compilation of our past experiences, insights, and interpretations, like real-life Snapchat stories. We are lines defined by the individual points of what we learn along the x- and y-axes of time and quality of life. Each of us asymptotically strives to become vertical, trying desperately to avoid peaking–and yes, I realize the argument could definitely be made for a z-axis too but I’m not in the three-dimensional mood right now. Warning: here comes another completely off-the-rails analogy.

I think beauty comes when our lines intersect those of other people, and, to continue this wacky graph theory, our lines begin influencing each other. Human relationships exhibit a mathematically beautiful pattern: imagine that two individual lines end up crossing at a certain point, and remember each other. They decide to cross each other again because they are independent lines with dreams and aspirations and mortgage, and they each decide, “Ooh, I like this here line,” deciding to cross again later. Sometimes, these lines unfortunately do a downwards dance if they’re not good for each other, hopefully diverging to meet other lines of more promising slope. Sometimes, they angle upwards with one another, intertwining at an eternal pinnacle. Sometimes, a line will vanish abruptly, leaving its orbiting fellow lines scrambling for stability. Hopefully, a pair of lines will oscillate around each other like sine and cosine models until eventually branching off lovely little baby vectors from their closest intersection. Or perhaps, even the most perfect pair of lines will forever run parallel.

But we can sketch our own slopes; we’re rather artistically talented lines in that regard. We don’t know for certain what awaits us in the graph of life other than learning which of our high school classmates turned out to be racist, but we can angle ourselves in whatever direction we choose. We shouldn’t be allowed to ever use the expression, “But I don’t have time” because 1) we can never fully know how much we have left, and 2) it’s quite frankly the only thing that we have.

None of us knows when our stories will end; the only thing any of us know is to try and approach infinity (or at least an exponential curve). I don’t think it’s enough for us to simply experience the joys of life, or to “live life to the fullest.” I think what’s important is learning from our experiences to better improve ourselves and others. The biggest challenge is controlling time—-scarce, indefinite rat bastard that it is—-to brighten our future. Every second that we live is a victory, because every second that we live is an opportunity to learn about the world–both outer and inner–to figure out our place in this mass of squiggles. No matter how many other lines we intersect with, or how much our lives fluctuate in quality, or when our time will end, hopefully we can each look back on it from beyond the graph and smile.