On the Idea of Time in Physics
Let me try again to speak of beauty.
Say you narrate the sounds of the street to me one night in bed. That was the sound of a truck braking, you might say, or, there’s a street sign set a few inches too close to the side of the road; fine for normal cars, but when trucks hit it, which they often do, the mirror is the perfect height, it makes that little rattle and echo you just heard, that reverb. You knew these things because you were attentive to the secret rhythms of the world in a way that exceeded the attentions they seemed to merit. You listened beyond the sound. That was how you processed the world, and you listened to people beyond the person too. You refreshed my glass of water when it wasn’t cold, put a sheet over me at night, abstained from another drink so there’d be enough tonic left over for my next round.
But those were a normal type of kind behaviors that made me like you, that made me see your compassion. It was your vision that made me marvel. When I needed things to be slow and quiet, when I needed to get off the mental roller-coaster for a moment and take a break from the rush, you saw me and would speak in unrushed, simple words about something pedestrian that I could feel nothing about. When I asked you to stay for five more minutes in the morning, you saw me and knew that I was asking for something else, asking you to kiss me and tell me I would never feel alone in the world ever again. When we were all tethered to the external world, you were detached from it, enlivened by it; you were an anthropologist among a different society, taking notes on the mating rituals and customs of humankind, human love.
That kind of beauty makes me feel too good. I get to work half an hour too early these days just to pace the surrounding blocks, burning off some of the excess feel-good energy. Like a dog, I must walk myself to exhaustion when overexcited. Too often this achieves the opposite effect. I listen to romantic music that’s so real I’m ready to burst. Sometimes I can’t believe how elated I am, how elated-making this life has become with you in it.
But if I now approach you with the request to explain to me the sense of the statement more precisely, you find after some consideration that the answer to this question is not so easy as it appears at first sight.
Sometimes I really can’t believe it, and when I ask you for a form of proof I end up less certain than I was before. As soon as we’re apart, the vision disappears. You text me back just at the moments I’ve almost given up all hope. You can’t be as busy as you say you are. Yet it’s all I can think about, this hunger, starving for your attention, trying to distract myself, thinking only about you, about my next fix, craving you at every turn. How long can you keep this up—how long can I? I know this elated feeling is bad news; I get it after the best first dates and must force myself to think about the eventual end until I cry. Only then is it real. I’ve been here before and I know how it ends. Something’s got to give, something needs to break. Two opposite forces are at work on us simultaneously. The harder you pull away, the more I need you. The farther you are, the closer I want to be. You finally text me back and I respond immediately. And wait. And wait. And wait.