When Garden Spices Magazine announced that the topic for this issue would be “change,” I thought about all of the change that is happening in our country and the world: stunning turnovers in Congress, worldwide terrorism, and vindictive murders. This fast-paced, terrifying demolition of our formerly “safe” spaces lead me to wonder if the changes we are encountering could be reversed or at least paused somehow.
We need time to react to the decisions our leaders are making on our behalf. Is Obama moving too fast? Is there a way to stop some of the momentum of the newly elected members of the Senate? Stopping time while an understandable desire is nevertheless an unrealistic goal. Since no one has yet found the mythical fountain of youth, we will all grow older no matter what else is happening around us.
As Alan Lightman argues in his enjoyable book, The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew, we are all a part of “the arrow of time.” Following Lightman’s argument, the changes we are experiencing and, in some cases advocating, may be inevitable whatever part we take in the process.
Still, time has always been a prerequisite for real and lasting positive change. The changes of the 1960s are being modified and enhanced today, so I wondered how we could hope that current activists for LGBTQ rights would succeed in this generation, hampered, as we are, by conservative reactionaries here and elsewhere. And yet, as I was writing this paragraph, I received the news that a federal judge has struck down Alabama’s unconstitutional ban on marriage equality.
Sometimes change happens slowly, but sometimes it comes in unexpected, glorious bursts. This ruling will alter our community, even though many people are already struggling to find a way to appeal the judge’s decision.
When I was in the hospital for a major Multiple Sclerosis exacerbation, doctors and nurses kept testing my cognition and temporal awareness by asking me to tell them the date and time. It was April, 2011, but that date is meaningful to me only now; it is a marker of a time when my world changed dramatically and irreversibly. At some point I remember saying in exasperation, “What difference does it make what day it is?” Of course, I was right.
At that moment, stuck in a hospital room for an indefinite amount of time, questions about dates and time, whether it was Wednesday or Thursday, when I wanted to eat lunch, even what I wanted to eat, seemed maddeningly irrelevant. And we all know from Einstein’s writings that dates and times are artificial – constructed by humans to impose a spurious order on our surroundings.
Many fictional and real captives or adventurers have carefully recorded the dates and times of their isolation in order to maintain a connection with the world they have left behind. Robinson Crusoe hopes to instruct other young adventurers who encounter his writings to stay home and avoid the trouble he has experienced. To put it another way, he wanted to mark the circumstances that changed his life. In my own life, I find that dates are critical for any change to happen and to be maintained.
We mark the date when women finally got the right to vote, and the date of the civil rights act; not only to celebrate these milestones but also to ensure that they are preserved. We will always remember September 11, 2001, but we will also remember our own birthday’s as well as our children’s, not so that we can travel backwards in time (although that would be nice,) but so that we can memorialize the change in our world.
I suggest that we embrace and celebrate (noting the dates) changes we consider positive (such as marriage equality in Alabama) and that we also note and remember changes with horrific consequences, such as the bombing of Tiananmen Square and the recent murders of journalists by ISIS. Writing doesn’t stop change, but it can preserve a moment.
Peace and Love,
Anna grew up in Alabama, spending her entire childhood in the same house where her parents still live today. Anna is a retired Professor of English and Women’s Studies from the University of North Alabama, where she charmed her loyal and adoring students for almost twenty years until a bad MS exacerbation convinced her that she should start spending her days playing games on her iPad, reading and writing whatever and whenever she feels like it, and watching the birds feed outside her window.