Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Time Goes By

In elementary school I marked my age by grade. Older folk (from High School to parents) were lumped together as "adults" (people who had facial hair and a tame sense of humour). I didn't understand how people could confuse what grade I was in. At the time the distinction between Grade 5s and Grade 4s seemed like night and day. I could tell you the grade of anyone in the schoolyard. It was in the way they ran. Their vocabulary. Their attitude. Now they are all children to me. Currently, my age is marked by other people's kids. I've seen two kids grow from babies to storytellers. And now, my sister has a baby and they plan to record her height in a penciled line on the image of a giraffe. A vague memory of my old house. Old pencil marks on the trim of a doorframe.

When I coached improv I would commonly refer to Jurassic Park. This simple Hollywood film about dinosaurs, made in 1993. This Saturday, when I hold an improv workshop for high school students, some of them will have been born in that year.

I think reading Albert Speer's biography (Sereny's extensive Battle With the Truth) has me thinking a lot about time and memory. Imagine spending twenty years in prison training yourself to regret the greatest time of your life. In Germany, no one dares recall the positive impact of the Nazi party before the war. The Holocaust has left an indelible mark on the world's memory.

As John Toland wrote: "If he [Hitler] had died in 1937, he would undoubtedly have gone down as one of the greatest figures in German history."

In 1984, one passionate member of the Nazi Party, recalling the early contributions, stated,

"I want nothing to do with all those people who now claim they weren't [members of the Nazi Party], that indeed they were resisters. I really sometimes wonder who it was who elected Hitler and fought and won all those battles for him. All of Germany, it now appears, was nothing but anti-Nazis. Disgusting." (pg. 180)

What years? Time is only the quality of your memory. Amnesia means your personality is dead. The endless digital photography of Facebook is a struggle to live. To help the mind remember more life than death. Alternately, Dunbar from Catch-22 tried to live longer by making his life as boring as possible in order to slow time.

In elementary school I used to date each page. They trained us to write the date in the top right corner. How foolish I felt in January when I would catch myself writing the wrong year. It wasn't 1988, it was 1989. Get with the times.

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