Saturday, September 12, 2009

Einstein's Dreams

Teaching GIS two days a week this semester is a lot more work than I thought - not sure I want to admit to how many hours I spend preparing for each lecture. But it is a new challenge for me and I really like it. It does not feel like "work". It will be interesting to see what kind of GIS projects the students come up with (there are 45 of them).

Last night I finally got back to my much neglected writing, thanks to the busyness of fellow writers getting me motivated. N.L. has made a wonderful start to her second novel, The Gift of Remembrance, a story about genies and jinns that I have been bugging her to write for years. Now that she is finally passing me sections to read I am not disappointed. It is wonderful even in rough draft.

Also, we have several new people in writer's group this fall. I was very impressed by the short story one young lady shared. She said she spent an entire semester working on this story in her advanced creative writing class. Now she is putting the final polishing touches on it and has a literary magazine she plans to send it to - I would be very surprised if it doesn't publish because it is excellent writing, a compelling story, striking images... made me sigh and wonder if anyone will ever say such things about my writing. Not unless I keep working at it! So I am back to working on chapter 17. It is a good day to write because after a glorious stretch of hot sunny days, it finally turned chilly today.

I am also starting to think about what I will do for NANOWRIMO this year, which is coming up fast - less than 2 months away.

There are several new Bible studies starting at our church this fall too - I am really looking forward to Beth Moore's study on Esther.

I am also including some excerpts from another great book recommended by Heather. I have this fascination with time, especially time travel or stories about twists in time (this is why the Time Traveler's Wife is on my list of favorites, and then I have my own back-in-time story that I'm writing, too. Though this book was a collection of essays rather than a novel, it offered some fascinating takes on time. Not to mention some beautiful writing.

Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman

One description a variation of time:
On this late afternoon, in these few moments when the sun is nestled in a snowy hollow of the Alps, a person could sit beside the lake and contemplate the texture of time. Hypothetically, time might be smooth or rough, prickly or silky, hard or soft. But in this world, the texture of time happens to be sticky. Portions of towns become stuck in some moment of history and do not get out. So, too, individual people become stuck in some point of their lives and cannot get free.
Here is another poetic fantasy of time:
When clouds form faces, the faces stay... painted balconies exposed to wind and rain become brighter in time. The sound of thunder makes a broken vase reform itself, makes the fractured shards leap up to the precise positions where they fit and bind. The fragrant odor of a passing cinnamon cart intensifies, not dissipates, with time...In this world, the passage of time brings increasing order. Order is the law of nature, the universal trend, the cosmic direction.
Suppose there was a place where time stood still: where as you travel closer to the center of time, it slows down, until a kiss can last forever, where you can never grow old, or have to see your children grow up and leave, or fall out of love. "Some say it is best not to go near the center of time. Life is a vessel of sadness, but it is noble to live life, and without time there is no life. Others disagree. They would rather have an eternity of contentment, even if that eternity were fixed and frozen, like a butterfly mounted in a case."A world in which time is a sense, like sight or taste, a sequence of episodes may be quick or slow, dim or instense... orderly or random, depending on the prior history of the viewer... some people are born without any sense of time. As consequence, their sense of place becomes heightened to an excruciating degree.

Suppose time is not a quanitity but a quality, like the lumnisence of the night above the trees just when a rising moon has touched the treeline. Time exists, but it cannot be measured.

Time is a visible dimension. Just as one may look off in the distance and see houses, trees, mountain peaks that are landmarks in space, so one may look out in another direction and see births, marriages, deaths that are signposts in time, stretching off dimly into the far future. And just as one may choose to stay in one place or run to another, so one may choose his motion along the axis of time.

This one is my personal favorite, though it is sad:

Time is a flock of nightingales. Time flutters and fidgets and hops with these birds. Trap one of the nightingales beneath a bell jar and time stops. The moment is frozen for all people and trees and soils caught within. In truth, these birds are rarely caught. The children, who alone have the speed to catch birds, have no desire to stop time. For the children, time moves too slowly already. They rush from moment to moment, anxious for birthdays and new years, barely able to wait for the rest of their lives. The elderly desperately wish to halt time, but are much too slow and fatigued to entrap any bird. For the elderly, time darts by much too quickly. They yearn to capture a single minute at the breakfast table drinking tea, or a moment when a grandchild is stuck getting out of her costume, or an afternoon when the winter sun reflects off the snow and floods the music room with light... on those occasions when a nightingale is caught, the catchers delight in the moment now frozen. They savor the precise placement of family and friends, the facial expressions, the trapped happiness over a prize or a birth or romance, the captured smell of cinnamon or white double violets. The catchers delight in the moment so frozen but soon discover that the nightingale expires, its clear, flutelike song diminishes to silence, the trapped moment grows withered and without life.
One last one:

A world in which cause and effect are erratic. For instance, one day for no accountable reason a young girl's "heart soats, she blushes, she paces anxiously, she becomes happy... days later, she meets a young man and is smitten with love. Are the two events not connected? But by what bizarre connection, by what twist in time, by what reversed logic?... in such an acausal world, scientists are helpless. Their predictions become postdictions. Their equations become justifications, their logic, illogic... but... in this world artists are joyous. Unpredicability is the life of their paintings, their music...they delight in events not forecasted, happenings without explanation, retrospective.

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