Thursday, 4 October 2012

My travels through time

I'm going to start this week by re-explaining the part that fantasy plays in my life.  I've mentioned it before in this entry on how life ought to be magical.  However it's odd enough that I feel the need to reassert my position. 
I am quite sure that everyone has moments of whimsy in their life, where they imagine that everyone else is a robot or that they a really rather good friends with a tree.  It's just fun silliness and I think most people either disregard these thoughts entirely or enjoy them and move on.  My approach however is much more to cultivate them, to let them develop and play out until my walk to work is enriched by a whole row of tree friends. 
There's a tendency to (often correctly) think that entertaining such thoughts is akin to a kind of madness.  My point of view is that it is a lot more like play, as in the play of a child who gets totally enraptured in the world where their toys are having an important tea party without ever totally abandoning the world where Mum is making dinner downstairs.  I don't think we should be ashamed or worried about entertaining such fantasies as adults, there is a great joy to providing these fun little ideas with just enough belief to give them life.  Nevertheless, bringing up these ideas tends to garner me the type of odd looks which are reserved for the slightly insane.  Hopefully in this entry I can demonstrate why these thoughts are worthwhile and why letting a little bit of madness into your life for the purposes of play can be awesome.

Recently I have had the rather strange sense that I am moving backwards through time.  There are a large number of reasons for this.  In an unconnected series of events, I watched a few silent films, took up swing dance and saw a whole bunch of vintage cars and people dressed in vintage clothes.  The net effect was that my life was suddenly invoking the 1920s and, particularly because so many of these were totally random encounters out on the street, I began to feel as though that period was somehow sneaking up on me.  As though I might wake up one morning to find myself back then.
I was well aware, of course, of the scientific explanation for this.  That a number of events (the film watching and the swing dancing) had flagged those times as important in my head, causing me to much more easily notice these things as I walked the streets.  I say I was aware of this but I want to stress that I took this awareness and very quickly shoved it in a ditch for the simple reason that it was boring.  Instead I made a point of exploring this movement through time which was occurring to me.

I knew I was travelling back through time but I could also see that this wasn't at all like your standard science fiction time travel.  Rather than a sudden switch between two times I was experiencing a slow slosh, an intermingling of the two times until presumably one would completely take over.  This makes a certain amount of sense to me.  We all naturally travel forwards through time, but time is also divided (at least in humanities awareness of it) into fairly distinct periods.  Perhaps those periods had a certain separate existence and, by invoking them as I had, one could shift between them, moving from living a 2010s life into a 1920s one. 
I actually really love both the idea that time periods co-exist after a fashion* and that travelling between them would be a gradual shift, something which happened over the course of years rather than moments.  Both of those are ideas which if I'd simply dismissed my imaginings would never have occurred to me.  I also had a really fun few weeks as I imagined what life in 1920s Edinburgh might be like and what all my computing skills would translate to when I arrived.

Hopefully this has been convincing, but more than that I hope that it didn't come across as defensive.  There would be good reason for it to be, because I believe that the idea to write about this came from a situation where I repeated some of these ideas in company and was misunderstood completely.  However what I really want to do here is evangelise this approach to life.  It seems crazy to me that so many people have so little space in their lives for whimsy and play.  Maturity, whilst it is a perfectly good response in any number of life's situations, starts to stink a little like lack of imagination to me when it is overused.

*[There's actually a possible source for this idea.  Philip K Dick had a bizarre experience where he became aware that the Roman empire never went away, that it was just hidden behind the illusion of this modern life.  He spent many years and hundreds of thousands of words writing about this, through which he explored quite openly the possibilities both that this was all a delusion and that it was all true (and, I would expect, that both those answers could be true at once).]