Wednesday, August 25, 2004

In-Transit Reading

"The Aare bends to the east, is sprinkled with boats carrying potatoes and sugar beets. Arolla pines dot the foothills of the Alps, the trees' cone-laden branches curving upward like arms of a candelabrum. Three-storey houses with red-tiled roofs and dormer windows sit quietly on Aarstrasse, overlooking the river. shopkeepers on Marktgasse wave their arms at all passersby, hawking handkerchiefs, fine watches, tomatoes, sour bread, and fennel. The smell of smoked beef wafts down the avenues. A man and a woman stand on their small balcony on Kramgasse, arguing and smiling while they argue. A young girl walks slowly through the garden at the Kleine Schanze. The large red-wood door of the Post Bureau opens and closes, opens and closes. A dog barks." (Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams, 113)

I started reading "Einstein's Dreams" the other year during the long flights to and from L.A. Waiting and reading about time seemed to go together. Ironically, I never finished the book. While I was rummaging through my bedside books for a nice read while in transit to and from H.K. I rediscovered "Einstein's dreams." I realize that the prose was very heavy for me. The passages are the kind where one would like to linger and absorb the slanting sunlight through stained-glass windows. Poem-like, actually. I needed to be in a situation that would induce me to slow down. Breathe. Smell the coffee. So, before I dozed off out of sheer exhaustion in the hotel room I had the brief and sweet luxury of imagining time slowing down so that I could see raindrops suspended in the air, or lovers poignantly locked in an embrace in a world where they cannot fathom the future.

You have to be completely absorbed or you will give up on the book, entirely. It was a bliss to immerse myself in the hypothetical universes of "Einstein's Dreams." Now, time isn't something that I would want to cram into tiny spaces. I want to extend it, live every moment to its fullest. Enjoy it. Whether I like it or not... time in this universe moves forward. It is a dimension that cannot be seen but can be measured, whether through mechanical means or the color of the sky or the height of a child. It cannot be reversed (not yet, or not ever... who knows?). The book made me sit back and re-examine my own philosophy of time.

It's a beautiful book. A bit difficult if you're not in the mood. But worth the wait.

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