On the Ongoing Passing of Time

I’ve been thinking about time, as these glorious days of full sunshine and warm breezes start to waft in. It’s been a mere blink of an eye since we were here last, twelve months ago.

I’ve thought often of how time is tied to memories, memories are tied to actions, and actions are tied to the places we inhabit. As much as I’d love to recall thoughts I’ve had over the years, these thoughts are infinite, a galactic ticker-tape that clicks and clacks throughout my days. There’s no way to count the thoughts I’ve had, no way to categorize them, to neatly place them in to boxes. Sure, I can vaguely group them, ideas I have on music and reactions I have to people I meet, but thoughts are so ephemeral, blink and they’re swamped by the next wave of thoughts and so on until we die.

So if I want to remember something, I need to tie it to something physical – a place I lived, or a meal I ate, or an experience I shared with someone. Even better if I can tie it to a memory and include a physical artifact to pin the memory to – here is the artwork my aunt painted, there is the pair of sticks I stole from Prince’s drummer John Blackwell when they played a secret show to forty people at Bennett’s Lane Jazz Club, here is the coffee machine I took from hard rubbish and spent most of our first lockdown repairing. Each of these physical artifacts sparks a memory of how it happens, and each of these memories has other memories tied to its tail, a cascading waterfall of rememberances. Josh Foer’s Moonwalking With Einstein delves pretty deeply in to this, if you’re ever interested in memorizing packs of playing cards or wandering through Greek memory palaces.

When I think back to this time last year, I have a vague sense of what my life was. We were coming out of lockdown, I was starting to book in summer gigs, there was a sense of optimism amongst my friendship group. I remember the strong emotions we have to get out of this sharehouse and I need to find something to do with all this spare time, but only because they are tied to strong actions – signing up to a thirty year mortgage and taking on two extra days of teaching. I remember a sense of awe at the first time we went out to a pub for dinner, ten friends and endless pints at the Brunswick Green. I can almost remember parts of the conversations we had, but only because I have photos of that night, turned in to a physical photobook that sits on the coffee table at home. I remember excitement at the first gig I got to play, I remember delight at stumbling in to friends I hadn’t seen in a while, I remember joy at leaving the house and having a picnic in the park.

It gets even more interesting when I dive back in to my diary from this time last year because my day to day thoughts were not what I thought they were at all. This time last year I was a dark human, weighed down by the weight of the world. I can understand why I was feeling like that – we’d just spent the better part of six months in lockdown, there was no real path forwards beyond crushing the curve and hoping we didn’t die. But my memory of it being a positive time, all sunshine and rainbows and happy thoughts of the summer to come are completely constructed by my current mind who looks back on the past as a positive experience. The current me knows the future gets good in the past, so I create this narrative that I was having a good time and living day to day and hopeful for the future, when the only physical signposts I have of my mental state then point to the complete opposite. Wild.

So now when I think about the future I start to realise I need to leave these little artifacts behind me. If I’m to remember the past, the past needs to come with me in the form of memories tied to actions tied to physical things – whether that’s photos or my diary or knick-knacks I pick up along the way.

Final thought: turns out I spend a lot more time thinking about time than I thought I did. When I searched my own blog for ‘time’, 21 posts came… Not least of all this one.

Final final thoughts, I released this video with Justin Yap 367 days ago…

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