Writer,Sandra Shippy, Sandra Johnson, short stories, radio plays, DIVERSITY website


From time to time (pun intended) I think about time - the nature of time; the quality of time; the limitations, the boundaries, the horizons, the expanses of time.

What exactly is this thing we try to quantify, control, hold literally, in our hands and heads? I know that hundreds of far greater minds than mine have pondered this and will doubtless continue to do so in all the time to come.

But wait a minute (if you have the time) what if the time to come has already been and gone?

I have wrestled desperately with the concept of time and have thought it may be linear and then discarded that because (to me at least) it makes no real sense.

I think that time must be circular if this maddening thing can be glimpsed at all. It hangs in the ether of the Universe like a fine gauzy curtain that can be pushed aside with no real effort, draped over one’s shoulder so to speak weightlessly and at the same time, presses down on one with a gravity so heavy that one wants to die.

We say ‘oh it’s timeless’ when talking about things of beauty such as a certain sculpture, a breathless soupcon of jewellery or even a gown that transcends the fashion trends or era.

But looked at logically how can any thing be timeless?

The word is contradictory in the extreme. If a thing has been created or an event occurred then at some point there will be this minute indentation in the pattern weave of time. What we really mean is that this particular item would fit in anywhere from the moment we began to try and measure time to an infinitesimal infinity so far past the horizon we can no longer see or calculate it.

So surely must it be with occurrences of larger significance. The indentations will be greater or smaller depending upon the force with which they impact on the pattern perhaps even creating what scientists call ‘wormholes’ according to the amount of energy expended at the moment of occurrence. It seems to me highly likely that wormholes are the passageways created between one door and another, or maybe between several doors.

I envisage the entire Cosmos containing a million, trillion doors that shimmer in and out as you pass through and if you have the keys, you can open any one of them and pass through for a visit.

Could you affect anything by going through a door? Should you even if you could? And how would you get back out? Would the door close behind you and this be a one-way journey? Would the key you used to enter permit you to use it to go back to whence you came from? Or would there be no keyhole on the other side? Are wormholes not just passageways but the keys themselves?

The fascinating thought of being able to change things, not just great historical things such as righting wrongs, saving lives, averting wars but the small personal details of one’s own existence loom large in my mind. No doubt they do in many others.

There have been many wondrous books and tales about time travel. That which springs most readily to mind is of course H.G. Wells’s ‘The Time Machine’. While this book is and has been the basis for much speculation and many movies, it has always seemed to me to be pretty useless as a blueprint. The machine itself is not big enough really for lengthy comfortable journeys; the main character only takes it to the future and this is a non- productive thing, as none of us know what’s there.

People mutter on and on about ‘paradoxes’; not being able to occupy the same space with the same person; altering something will change everything else; and of course the eternal wonderful phrase ‘the past is another country, they do things differently there.’ Of course if we do ever manage to invade the past we shall find they do not do things so very much differently because we will be there doing them anyway!

For me all of this is nonsense, as nobody knows for certain that those things would happen and I would posit that if someone did change something in the past and that changed everything in the future how would you even know? Once having been altered the changed future you lived in would be normal to you – that is if your own existence had not been wiped out entirely!

I defy anyone in all honesty not to admit that if they could go back they would change nothing. I will be completely honest here and say that if I could go back I would change everything.

Of course you might not be able to do even that theoretically because first you would have to have the knowledge of all of your present life to take back with you in order to change it and if you did succeed in doing so then all the knowledge of your present life would be lost in any event and that would pre-suppose it had already happened!

Are you following me so far? I hope so because I’m getting pretty lost and might need a guide sooner or later.

The most exciting aspect of time travel to me is to imagine that I could look through every door and see what shape my life might have taken had I chosen to travel another path. If you could look through every door into time there is the exciting possibility you would see many different lifelines and how they turned out. Then maybe you could opt for the one you think would be the best of all and let all the others fade to nothing.

The problem with this is that while you were busy opting for another thread of your life someone else might be doing the very same thing at the very same time and affecting what happens to you and all your efforts would be for nothing and you would be living their version of events!

We try to control this giant of the physics world by having watches and clocks to keep pace with its inexorable march and we comfort ourselves by saying things like ‘I’ve got the time; I haven’t got the time’ time will tell; time marches on; time is on our side; time heals all wounds; time for dinner; time to work; time to live; time to die.’

The truth is time is, if anything, our master and not our servant. Time will exist as long as the Universe itself (and maybe beyond). It has no sensation, no emotion and no entity as such. We have as little control over time as we do over the certain fate of all our physical bodies.

Anyway I haven’t got the time to devote any more time to discussing the nature of time.

It’s time to move on.

Sandra Shippy