This January business can get you thinking. The fresh starts. The taking inventory. Looking back and looking ahead. In my case, 2015’s emergence dovetailed nicely with my first-born turning 20.
I’m not feeling too shocked or overly sappy about how two solid decades just blinked by. Then again, I was thankful to stumble upon an essay about time in Smithsonian magazine. It discussed how philosophers and physicists have spent, are spending and will spend a lot of this “time” thing debating its very existence. As I read the piece, I was oddly comforted. But only temporarily.
The essay began with a quotation from smart dude Albert Einstein. Right before he expired, he sent a letter to the family of a friend who had passed away. He tried to console them in his unique style: “This is not important. For us who are convinced physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however persistent.”
I see irony in his use of the word “persistent,” but he was more of a numbers guy. What really irks me is his conviction about time being an illusion. Really? I think about my son turning 20 and I just want to clock Einstein upside the head. I’d have to time travel to do that, considering he’s dead, but apparently old Albert didn’t (or doesn’t) think he would be gone thanks to timelessness, so I’ll just present my own time theory here and hope that he reads The Kansas City Star.
Get out your pencils and calculators and particle smashers. Here’s how I prove in just one word that time does indeed happen: Jowls.
That’s right, jowls.
As I’ve mentioned here before and on the ever-flowing Twitter Stream of Anxiety, I am on Jowl Watch. Because nothing measures time and proves its existence better than a nice, fleshy set of jowls.
Take one day last spring. I caught my reflection in some very bad (realistic) lighting and found my fingers reflexively, gently pushing my cheeks up a smidge higher, back to 1995 levels. When I let go, they instantly recalibrated to the present. To cope, I ran to the computer and tweeted this: “Another day closer to Richard Nixon jowls.”
A sorry public announcement, but I do these things for the sake of science.
The problem with Einstein was/is, he never looked/looks in the mirror. Evidence? His hair. He never combed/combs it.
Seriously, if he had taken some so-called nonexistent time to groom, he would have noticed over the years his wild follicles went from raven to silver. But more importantly, if he would have glanced below that untamed mop, he would have seen his own serious jowl drop.
But this month I learned the best proof of time is parenthood. The kid turned 20. Smithsonian magazine can throw every “theoretical model of classical and quantum gravity in which time plays no fundamental role” right in my face and I’ll say this: You get labor pains at 3 a.m. (It’s always 3 a.m.) Fourteen excruciating hours later you’re holding a big blue-eyed bundle of perfection in your arms. He eats, sleeps and cries for months. Smiles appear. He crawls. He walks. He runs. He falls. He gets up. Over and over again.
He talks. He reads. He laughs. He hugs. He adds, subtracts and divides. He grows and grows and grows. He drives in circles around the neighborhood. He drives himself to high school. Then he drives away to college.
He comes back home for his 20th cake.
I don’t need a scientist to tell me there’s no such thing as time; I need one to help me slow it down.
Jowl Theory: Time exists because days pass and we all get closer to looking like Richard Nixon. Time is a crook.
Parent Theory: Twenty cakes.
So now, I wait on a handwritten letter from Einstein to invalidate my proof of time. Until then, I will bravely carry on and search for better lighting.
Freelancer Denise Snodell writes alternate weeks.