Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
–Philippians 4:8-9 (NASB)
They say time is like water with currents, eddies, backwashes, yet it flows inevitably in one direction, from the past into the future. I’m standing on a narrow shoal looking out over a shallow sea. The clouds are particularly lovely at dawn, the subtle blues intermixed with hints of pink and white.
Of course, it’s all an illusion. No, that’s not fair. It’s better to say it’s all a metaphor. Even though I’m dead, my human senses and cognitive processing won’t allow me to perceive time as it truly is.
I’ve heard it said that there’s no such thing as time, it’s just human perception as we have to organize and make sense of our moment by moment existence. I’m living, well, not in a corporeal sense, proof that’s untrue.
I used to be a man, a living human being, just like other living human beings. I woke up, went to the bathroom, ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, got dressed, checked my email, and went to work just like everybody else.
And then I died, just like everybody else.
When you die, well, it doesn’t matter if you have a religion, are spiritual, or are a total atheist, the spark within you, the human you, ascends to return to the Source. For billions upon billions of us, that spark inexorably rises and returns to the One who is the Source of all life, of all existence, the entire universe, everything the living can possibly perceive.
But every once in a while, a spark, now detached from conventional timespace, is diverted to serve another purpose.
Who I was, my name, identity, all of that, doesn’t matter anymore. In my current “now,” if there is such a thing, my name is Jonathan David Cypher.
I’d like to think I’m above it all, beyond the cares of mortal existence. In my current form, if I really have a form, I’m perpetual, everlasting. I was created to be this way. We all were. We all are. Most people don’t believe that. It doesn’t matter. Belief is irrelevant.
But mortal existence and cares are not. That’s why I exist. That’s why I’m standing on the shoals of time, watching it pass, flowing around obstacles, casually drifting, occasionally rushing. I exist because of all the things and beings created, only human beings have free will, and thus only we can affect time. Technically, they’re called temporal anomalies. Believe me, I’ve encountered my share.
A four-year-old girl who is kidnapped by a sex trafficking ring in Africa, sold into slavery, and is raped to death who should have grown up to be an ambassador, a teenage boy who gets drunk and assaults a younger girl, destroying both of their lives when they could have been so much more, a young man killed in the London Blitz who should have gotten married and whose granddaughter should have discovered the cure for cancer. Time anomalies. Erroneous events that disturb the paths of a few of those infinite number of sparks returning to the Source.
Even the Divine cannot, or rather, refuses to interfere directly in human free will.
So a human spark possessing free will watches and waits, and when an anomaly appears, I become “involved.”
Sometimes I imagine my ability to see anywhere and anywhen, up and down the time stream and across the myriad quantum realities, as a room with an infinite number of windows. Peek out a window and can see the first flash of the creation of the universe, the last gasp of its heat death, and anything at all in-between.
Often, I imagine being able to step into those anyplaces and those anytimes as being in a room with an infinite number of doors. Walk across any threshold at all and I am really there and can act on human lives, sometimes in great ways, sometimes in small ones. If things go really well, no one notices I’ve been there, but many times, things don’t go well.
I don’t have a playbook or script. I don’t know what’s supposed to happen and how to change it. An angel doesn’t whisper in my ear and tell me what to do.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I don’t know if she’s an angel. I only know that she’s called Raven. Her very existence flows from the Source, like water. I’ve always wondered if she’s even a person. Maybe she’s more a consciousness from the Source, rising out of the current, suggesting a direction, then returning, melding, merging with time itself.
The water’s flowing faster around me. It can feel an urgency. I think she’s near now. Sometimes she appears as a young woman, long, obsidian-dark hair, brown eyes, a gown of lavender that streams down her body to become sapphire foam, coursing into a greater ocean. She’s not that now, but she’s here.
I don’t know what’s about to happen, but I know I have to do something. For me, it’s never about racing against time. I just dive in.
“My name is merely Raven, but I speak for one who is better than I. He gazes from one shore to another, seeing all there is to see. He yearns to return to the Source, but must pause for a moment for the sake of all the others, so he teeters at the precipice. His name is Jonathan David Cypher, but he has another name, one that is spoken in solemn whispers and in reverent tones across all of human history.
And then the Never Man leaps into unknown depths.
And then he wakes up.
I wrote this both for Tale Weaver #191 hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie and the Thursday Photo Prompt #writephoto challenge at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. I combined one of Sue’s original photos with the Tale Weaver prompt “The Race Against Time,” which wasn’t easy. Once again, I employ my Jonathan David character, who I’ve featured many times before including in the story Tikkun Olam.
Unlike those other stories, there’s no problem to solve, and very little drama or action. After all of the political drama and personal angst that’s been bombarding me from the news and social media, I thought I’d take a break and paint a picture of peaceful contemplation. If you could see everything everywhere and across all of time, would any one moment stand out more than the others? It’s an interesting question.
12 thoughts on “The Shoals of Time”
A very interesting question, james. perhaps only ‘now’ ever stands out.
Love the way this is written and the outlok it contains.
I suppose we are all in the eternal “now,” Sue.
We are, James.
Love this bit: “She’s not that now, but she’s here.”
Thanks for sharing your thoughts James, the whole theological discussion is always intriguing.
It’s a unique way to look at a “time traveler.”
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Now is all we have and free will. I like your thinking 💜