We think time is linear – life progresses in a straight-line, from A to Z. What if time works more like a circle, from A back to A? You start here, and end up back here. We believe that electrons circle around the nucleus of an atom. We see that planets move in circles around the sun. However, the universe is not standing still, but expanding and rushing through space. For us, like the planets, the A we return to is not the A we left. The A we return to is familiar but different.
When you return to your childhood neighbourhood you notice that the trees are taller and the houses are smaller. Memories wash over you – there’s where I played on my skateboard, there’s where Mom would hang our wet laundry to dry, there’s the park we played kick-the-can. Small changes in the external landscape are registered, but you eventually realize that the big changes that have occurred are in you. You are different.
We reach the end of our lives with our travel trunk full with memories. Some are pleasant – our first love, our last love, children laughing, pets frolicking, friends cajoling – memories condensed to nano-seconds of joy, slipping through our fingers like water.
Some memories cause distress, but time, whether linear or circular, dampens the painful bite they once held. Sifting through our trunk we can examine these less pleasant events with the comfort of distance. Given the opportunity, hurled back in time, would we act differently?
We need not be hurled back in time if we return to A. By returning to A, we have another opportunity to meet the events scrubbed anew and test the hypothesis – would we act differently? The A we returned to though, would have its tweaks. The people are familiar but with different dress, similar circumstances but different landscapes and the same protagonists but different catalysts.
To truly test the hypothesis – all would be masked by a veil of forgetfulness. Will we act differently?
Some sages argue that these recyclings do occur. The pleasant memories are weightless while the unpleasant ones stone-heavy. Until our travel trunk is feather-weight, we carry its burden through repetitive loops until, like alchemists, convert our sorrows to joys.
Freed from the weight of pained memories, we are free to fly to new cycles of time, of experience. The pleasant memories remain with us until all cycles are completed, and then time no longer exists at all – simply joy, love and bliss.
Epilogue from Life on Earth: A Visitor’s Worldview 2014