The great and too-soon forgotten Hendrik van Loon began his Story of Mankind this way: “High up in the North in the land called Svithjod, there stands a rock. It is a hundred miles high and a hundred miles wide. Once every thousand years a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak. When the rock has thus been worn away, then a single day of eternity will have gone by.” Compared to that rock our individual histories wouldn’t amount to a grain of sand, maybe not even a neutrino. Another year of our lives matters to eternity as much as the shock waves of my great uncle’s after-dinner belches matter to an undiscovered planet in the Kuiper Belt. But then, what does eternity matter to us? Nothing. Absolute zero. Time isn’t even a matter of time, but of quantum fortune and misfortune. Dreiser in Sister Carrie gave time’s crawl a less soaring quantity than van Loon’s bird: “Oh, the half-hours—the minutes of the world. Ye gods, what miseries and griefs are crowded into them.” But Dreiser wasn’t a Copacabana kind of guy. So take your pick. At year’s end, at year’s beginning, time is either the train smashing by and leaving you behind, stunned for having barely realized that your great ride is already over, or it’s being in the train itself for a few more stations—preferably not of the cross, as Dreiser would have it. Or hurtling toward the Cassandra Crossing. But drinking Veuve Clicquot and French-kissing the view.
—L.D. Amabed Jr.