The Simultaneity of Now

(In this Age of Quarantine, I am re-posting some of my past pieces of a non-political nature (a solemn pledge I took for the duration of this pandemic) They are for your entertainment, since you are a captive audience. This piece describes the beginning of a trip we took to Southeast Asia several years ago. I look forward to the time the world reopens and we can once again travel as much as we can for as long as we can.)

I’ve always been struck by the fact that every moment of every day the sun is both rising and setting simultaneously. Every moment is a beginning and an ending. An Alpha and Omega of the simultaneity of time. Traveling skews our perception of the absolute nature of time, making it relative.

Einstein said “the difference between the past, present, and future is a persistently stubborn illusion.”  It is not easy to wrap our linear brain around it.

In the world of intercontinental travel and time zones, we departed later than planned for the trip to Southeast Asia. Such are the pleasures of travel.

Sitting here in a pressurized metal tube at 33000 feet over the earth while traveling 500 miles per hour, the simultaneous nature of life is even more evident. We’ve flown almost due north out of Boston, crossing over Canada, the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, and grazed the edges of the Polar Ice Cap. Since I’ve never seen it from this perspective it’s hard to say if it is shrinking, but it is magnificently, blindingly white.

We got on a plane in Boston on Tuesday, April 3rd at 8:00 a.m., traveled for 22 hours and will arrive in Bangkok (have arrived hopefully when you read this since I can’t post from up here at the moment) at 4:10 p.m. on April 4th. In those same hours, it will be 5:10 a.m on April 4th for you there on the east coast of the United States.  Somewhere along the way we will have gained 11 hours time difference or lost 11 hours depending on your point of view.

We will be 11 hours in your future. 

So with time on my hands to think, my mind, always a mix of random thoughts ricocheting from the sublime to the outrageous, compels me toward contemplating what now means.

On this planet, at this very moment, right now…

The sun is both rising and setting

It is both day and night

A life is beginning and ending

Now is yesterday’s future and tomorrow’s past

When I am standing in the lobby of the hotel in Bangkok most of you will still be asleep (although some of my highschool friends may be on one of their nightly trips to the bathroom, old kidneys and prostrate problems trouble the old bastards.) Yet we will all be in the same moment, now. The clock on the wall will be different for each of us, yet we share now.

Now is a more difficult concept than you might think.   

So for now I think I will look out the window at a part of the world I’ve never seen, yet always suspected existed, and enjoy the moment

P.S. To borrow and twist a line from Bill Bryson’s book about Australia, A Sunburned Country, Bangkok is a supremely satisfying word to say. 

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