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Playing With Infinite Time

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I still remember well the afternoons when I was a child.

When I played with my friend, in a park, building things with wood or inventing some competition. With all the time of the world, until evening came, and the other day gifted us with another afternoon.

Or when I just played alone in my room, with Lego, trying to make ideas real.

Or when I played on the balcony of my grandparents, again trying to craft something, and observing others on their balcony, or through their open window.

Afternoons were at the same time infinite and never enough. Long available hours, but always filled with playing, experimenting, building, learning.

And when my grandfather once said – secretly unconvinced – that death is necessary for life, I replied that it wasn’t so. That I would have invented immortality, showing him that it was possible.

When I grew up, things didn’t change much.

I have countless memories of my afternoons in the campus, at the University, or walking the several fascinating streets of the city, or playing Dangeons&Dragons with friends, or programming a video game, or trying to understand some philosophic mystery.

It seems that across all of my youth, the mornings were the objective time, the one that provided the “growth” line, transitioning from class to class. The afternoons were the subjective time, dedicated only in part to study, but mostly to build and to learn what I wanted. I could build my own world, for the life that was going to be, for the long and mysterious future where I could realize marvels.

But we all know that at some point in our life, time tends to accelerate. The far future tends to become present, slipping away, and soon irrecoverable past.

I rarely see my old friend. I still have boxes full of Lego, but I’ve other projects for my time. The balcony of my grandparents can’t be visited anymore, because the house is no more of my grandparents. Because my grandparents are dead.

And all the size and distance of the stars that I learned reading on that balcony are now just useless. Not a single craft, paper or wooden, whatever, remains. I thought I was building for the future, but all that I was building was me. That’s indeed something, but not what I hoped. I hoped that something else would remain. I hoped for different achievements.

And then, life. The job, the marriage, and everything else.

Again, afternoons building something. Working. Organizing something for my work. Researching things that would never appear in a book. Reading, doing, preparing something for a future to come.

And, at some point, again, the future comes, and passes.

People die. Careers can vanish overnight.

You change. The world itself changes. Everything changes.

Things happen as they happen in the past, someway, but the past is gone. And you realize that it will never be again.

Doing and learning nowadays, knowing that time is not only much less than expected but also unpredictably limited, is much different.

You still have to see in the distance, but all that you have in your hands is your present. And what you can’t do in your present, you know that will never be.

Now, the afternoon has a different taste. The sun talks of infinite time, but the birds sing the song of this single afternoon, that at some point will be the last one of that chapter in your life, or even the last one at all.

“Collateral beauty” was the theme of a movie I recently saw. And I love that expression.

Afternoon now speaks of mortality, yet showing more beauty.

And while the afternoons were links of an infinite future chain, at that time, they’re now portals to countless memories, guardians of a restricted number of options that you even have to shrink to one, givers of intense life.

This one afternoon is now the one and only life that I have. The only opportunity to change anything that I want to change. The right time to stay with somebody. The right time to start or continue what’s dear to me. And if I choose wisely or I pick by instinct, maybe it doesn’t even matter. But why I do it, it matters. Its being true to my life, it matters. My being entirely here, it matters.

It’s like everything switched from the infinity of the future to the infinite meaning of a single moment.

I’m still playing. Just differently.

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