Arguably the most profound narration from Proust’s huge tome, which is composed of a number of novels, is the description quite early on of what happens to the narrator’s sense of time when he tastes a madeleine. This moment of remembering has coined the term a ‘Proustian moment’, which refers to how a sound, sight, sound (music), smell, taste or happening can trigger a flash back of strong emotion to an earlier time.

Proust’s cake

Through his writing, Proust examined what is perceived, and also what is remembered, and the repeated and ever-present links between perception and memory.

This interests me because I find the idea that time is a linear yet intangible ‘something’ completely meaningless. Many people, it seems, see time as something invisible that they live in and they travel along, as if they are a dot travelling along a long line that stretches from birth to death. They accept it as natural and dependable as the air that they breathe.

Is time like this?

I don’t see time like that at all. Time disturbs me. I see time as a big cumulus cloud with me in the middle.

Time, if it were pretty

If time were a line and I had to draw it, it would look something like this.

My theory of time

Time often feels as if it is traveling at a constant, linear fashion. Yet, there will be a moment in time’s journey, when I’m in a building I’ve been in before, or smelling a smell of the past, or tasting a taste of my childhood, or thinking about someone who has long left my day-to-day existence and I will get what I can only describe as a time-carrying emotional wack in the stomach. It can be a good wack, or it can be a bad wack.

I also have these time-carrying emotional wacks when I am driving. In fact, I get them a lot when I am driving. I also get them at Zumba, when I’m trying to sleep, and when I’m waiting in a queue. So they are sometimes triggered by an external stimuli (a smell or taste) and sometimes triggered by a total lack of external stimuli (boredom). Time exists in the chaos and the void.

So it may be n number of years since an emotional event happened, good or bad, but I can be thrust back to that event just as suddenly and unpredictably as I can not be thrust back to it. The idea that time heals, is utter rubbish. Why? Because time is a cloud, it isn’t linear. It doesn’t just have speed and direction. It has position as well. Perhaps the physicists need to step in at this point and make the observation that they have made many times before that you can either examine the velocity of a particle or it’s position but not both.

This theory is called the Uncertainty Principle. I therefore propose that we create an Uncertainty of Time Principle as well. Time is like a particle. We can see the position of time in our minds, or the velocity it is travelling at (with us along with it), but we can’t see both together.

If I could control my emotions and prevent the lack of or all-encompassing stimuli to the senses, then time would be predictable. But I can’t and it isn’t. So I have to accept that this is how time is. Time is woolly. It can’t be measured.

There’s no point fighting or seeking the emotional wacks, they will come when time wills.

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