A Chirp in Time

Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman

After posting my first illustration from Einstein's Dreams, the wonderfully well-read Alison Moon mentioned that she'd like to see a drawing from the chapter that features a world where Time is embodied in the form of nightingales. I hadn't yet gotten to that part, but anxiously awaited it. Of course, it turned out to be the final chapter (except for the short epilogue, of course)!

So, picture a world where people are able to pause any moment in their life. How do they do this? Well, they trap nightingales under a bell jar. Nightingales in this world are the embodiment of Time, and if one catches one, Time is caught as well. This freezes the moment, and the trapper can essentially live out one happy moment for a good while.

In an interesting note, elderly people can't catch the nightingales because they are just too slow. Which is rather unfortunate, since the elderly are the group that most desires to hold onto moments. Children really have the best chance of trapping the time-birds, but they don't really have a will for it. What need do they have of pausing Time? They just want to play and such.

There is one more important point to the chapter, but I will not go into it. I'd rather not spoil the entire world for you, right?

Additional Thoughts

This book was a brain-massage. It makes you think about all of these short little "what if" universes, but doesn't require you to analyze much or dive into research or theory. Lightman just flows the ideas over you, and you can wade in them if you'd like.

I'd like to add a little time-world theory of my own for you. Well, I guess mostly for Alison, since she suggested this book to me, haha.

Imagine a world in which Time moves like the turning of a page.

In this world, people live their life in sections, much like a page spread in a book. While your life is open to a certain page, you can view everything that has happened on the two pages facing you. You can skip around and revisit anything on those two pages for as long as they are visible. You can reread parts over and over, or skip whole paragraphs if you'd like.

Time moves in brief spurts, so you are free to "reread" parts from your life that are open. Re-experience graduation, or getting a raise, or spending the night with someone you love. Experience everything you've felt when your son scored three goals in his soccer state final, or how good you felt when someone you've had your eye on complimented your sense of humor.

Gloss over any parts you wish, as well. Who would want to experience a nasty bout of food poisoning again? Getting rejected while asking a crush to a high school dance is no fun (at least I assume... I never asked anyone). When your long-time pet passed away, just leaving you with a few pictures and a memory.

But eventually the page would be flipped. You would not be able to revisit anything from the previous page of Time, because Time decided it was time to have another spurt. Now a new spread is open for you. You can look ahead and see what will happen a few sentences down. You can begin to read through, or even reread passages once again. Don't be afraid to try new things! If they turn out well, you'll be able to experience them often. If you fail at something, you'll be able to pass over it in memory.

This world would make passionate readers of us all.


lucky said...

I really love your little bird!
Everything about it is wonderful!

Great job, Burt!

(And thanks for the comment!)


Burt said...

Thanks for YOUR comment, Denise. I was starting to think no one liked this one...

Well, at least you and I like it...

Caitlin said...

This is gorgeous. I love the colors and the softness of it. Of course the nightingale has to be soft and glowy.

lucky said...

I'm not the only one who loves this one!

I thought I'd post something unsavory.... (Since you reserve the right to remove anything unsavory!)
How about "Liver and Onions"?

Are you going to remove my post?

Have a great weekend, Burt!


Burt said...

I actually enjoy both liver AND onions, thankyouverymuch.

So the comment stays!