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I was watching Back to the Future 2 last night with my family, as we enjoyed a quiet night in during this time of social distancing. After, my daughter asked me if time travel was real. I answered, unhesitatingly, that it can’t be real. Time is a function of the laws of physics and is defined through entropy and gravity and how other forces act in relation to one another… therefore, there is no ‘past’ or ‘future’ in any meaningful way – they literally do not exist. We have memories of things that have happened, but they are not currently unfolding in some alternate reality. Likewise, the future is even more dubious, it cannot exist until it does exist, until the physical phenomena has interacted and played out and has created that future state that we imagine in our minds.
All the thinking about time travel, and that all that is real is the here and now, started to give me some perspective on this current COVID-19 crisis.
I’m like everyone else. I flash between complete calm, rational in the belief that everything will be okay, that this too will end; then 10-minutes later I’ve consumed one too many social media posts showing empty shelves, cancelled events and apocalyptic prophesising and I’m anxious, stressed and worried.
Recently, I woke up in that state of unease, concern eating away at my resiliency to deal with boisterous children and the day’s normal cycle of events. I was angry at my son for dropping an egg on the floor, and immediately apologized. I’m upset and lashing out because I’m scared, not because they’ve done anything wrong. I felt my joy, my reason, dripping away, replaced by a cloud of gloom that dims even the bright light of a beautiful spring morning or my youngest son’s strong armed hugs.
Desperate for perspective, I went out for a run. The birds chirp, the gorgeous daffodils that line the pathway outside my historic home here in Scotland are out in full force. Sunny yellow faces turn to the sun, for the one month of the year that they glow in the fragrant air, born from the dormant bulbs that sit silently in the earth for the other 11 months. Can you imagine, waiting for that one moment, that glorious chance to grow, glow and be seen, feel warmth and wind, before retreating back to the damp darkness, knowing that it is your meaning and purpose to live in a rhythm of life and death?
And with that thought, it all kind of clicks into place: ‘Back to the Future’, daffodils, fear and joy and COVID-19 infecting my Facebook feed. All that is real is this exact moment in time. The past and future do not exist; I have my moment, my glorious time in the sun, this short short breath where I get to grow and glow and be present. Eventually, I will retreat back into the dark damp; and if I spend the short time I get above ground worrying about what it might be like when I inevitably go back down below I have wasted my chance to taste joy. If I spend my entire time here worrying about things that don’t exist – the bogeymen of the future – I will not live now, in the only moments where I truly DO exist.
As I run, I feel the draw of breath into my lungs, cool and sharp on this early spring day. I can see the light dancing off the clouds, the wind sending those short lived daffodils to sway and shake their yellow heads. I feel strong, alive, resplendent in the glory and grace of movement on the Earth that I am both above and of. I can feel the resolve building in my soul – that part of me that goes beyond the physical; the part that, much like energy and matter, will transcend the physical properties of time. Those elements that exist separate from the things that are born, form, age and die; the stuff of eternity.
We will come through this time of COVID-19; or we won’t. Some of us will escape the physical, that realm where physics reigns supreme and dictates the flow and direction of time, to join the elemental and eternal. I refuse to fear the pain that may come, that could come, that will come. I will instead run in joyful abandon, and I will accept only the reality that exists, that point right now. I will know that pain is going to come, must come, to all of us, and when I am in that moment I will accept it with grace. I am grateful, in this time of fear and illness, that I have so much to lose. And I will not lose it before it is gone through the fear of pain. I will live in glorious joy for my few short moments; and when I am resting in the dark my spark will shine on.
Teresa Waddington lives in Aberdour, Scotland.