Friday, December 22, 2006


Sometimes, in Cambodia and the Philippines, the power will go out for no reason. A brownout, it's called. You're typing away, tapping the keys, then boom -- out goes the light, in comes the dark. Sometimes it lasts for a minute; others times, an hour. At all times, annoying.

But what can you do? Call the power company? Complain to the cops?

You simply have to wait.

People living in third-world countries get used to disasters big and small, natural and manmade. Life happens, essentially. Get over it.

Arriving back in the Philippines from Japan, it's not only the heat that's a shock to the system. It's the kids, dozens, hundreds of them, popping in and out of homes, ramshackle and ragged. It's the sense of life being lived, if not on the edge, at least precariously close. Day to day. Week to week. Leaving things up to God for all the rest. Poor and rich living next to each other, sharing the roads, perhaps, but little else.

Recently I finished reading The Fabric Of The Cosmos by Brian Greene, a user-friendly physics book that can totally upend your conception of the universe, if you think about it too much. (And I mean, shit, I didn't even understand most of it, but it still screwed with my head.)

One of the more interesting parts of the book has to do with the notion of parallel universes that may -- or may -- not exist side-by-side with our own, undetected, as their light cannot reach ours, and ours cannot reach theirs. Other versions of ourselves, possibly, playing out different versions of our lives.

Tantalizing to think about it.

Our entire existence may be but one of billions. A billion mes; a billion yous. Side by side, unnoticed.

Space and time are linked, is what Greene is getting at. And these spacetime allotments could hint at another, deeper realm of understand that we have yet to discover, which could possibly render our own conceptions of space, and time, moot. Or limited, at the very least.

So many intriguing notions scattered throughout this book, especially regarding how we intrinsically view time as moving forward-- but, according to physicists, this is not necessarily the case. Time and space are two peas in the same pod, and time doesn't necessarily move anywhere. It just is. Future, past and present -- all slices on the same spacetime loaf of bread that come into existence, yes, but not progressively.

Or something like that.

Which makes sense to me.

We've all had that feeling. You meet somebody you haven't seen in ten, fifteen years, and there you are, finishing each other's sentences, picking up where you left off. As if not time has passed.

Well, it hasn't.

It hasn't moved anywhere.

It's simply there, somewhere within that loaf of spacetime. One slice near the front, one slice near the back, but all a part of a whole. We've moved through space, from here to there, there and back again, but time itself is wrapped up in itself. Which is why we can so easily sink back into our prior selves, our past relationships. They never left us. Nor we them. We were always there, together, further down the line, perhaps, still embedded in the same small space.

My childhood and adolescence, my adulthood in Japan, Cambodia and the Philippines, my observations of the rich and the poor, the high-tech of Nippon and the dirt of Phnom Penh: encapsulated.

And beside me, another me, in another world, asking similar questions, different questions. Taking alternate paths and identical ones.

Recently I read a book called Lance Armstrong's War, a fantastic chronicle of the Tour De France, and in it Armstrong's main competitor, Jan Ullrich, preparing to commence a particularly demanding stage of a race, states: "I go today to my borders."

What a phrase.

Pushing oneself to one's limits. Seeing what one is capable of.

And yet, to do that, to go to one's borders, we must, inevitably, intersect other's borders as well. Physically, psychically, spiritually, emotionally.

The genius of modern science persists in insisting that perhaps those borders are translucent and arbitrary. The rich and the poor, the clean and the dirty, the hot and the cold, me and you: we can find our borders, and cross them, and see what lies beyond.

When the brownouts come (as they will), and the darkness falls (as it must), it's nice to know, or to believe, that there is another place, another space, where the light still shines bright. A place where you (another you) and me (another me) may meet.

All of this, simultaneous.

Where space and time, light and dark, will compose the same essential state, and where we will find ourselves at each other's borders, eager to enter.

I will wait for you there.

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