Tag Archives: Lionel Shriver

Time: is it a sandwich?

My 13 y.o. waxed somewhat rhapsodic on our ride home from his cello lesson last week. What if time didn’t matter, he said. What if everything is happening all at once, and time doesn’t move forward like we think it does but instead is a big thick layer (a Dagwood sandwich sprang to my mind) and time travel wouldn’t take us forward or backward but just to the other layers that we’re in.

I’m not sure where he gets these ideas, tho’ it’s a good bet that his leave-no-crumbs wolf-down consumption of nonfiction helps. And Engineer Hubby hooks up podcasts about science on road trips and that helps, too. But I never, and I mean NEVER, thought about what time might be like when I was a child. I never think about it now. Except when he’s talking and then my little mind gets blown.

I think about people and why they do what they do and what would happen if they did something else and how could someone get away with shoplifting or embezzling or murder and how hard it would be to go into hiding from the mafia, and alternative outcomes for country song story lines. Usually all of these jumble together in my brain while I shower.

There are plenty of theories and studies about creativity; environment certainly has a lot to do with it, and being supported by someone who cares about you is also important (I have an informal theory that every artist has had at least one teacher who said YES! to whatever they tried) but ultimately: we are unique collections of molecules. And the organization of those molecules into the human form, the human brain, follows a regular DNA pattern book, a pattern book with a lot of variations but not an infinite number of combinations. Why do some of our pattern books lead us to think about time instead of about people? Or is the we-are-molecules-and-an-electrical-system concept too limiting, failing as it does to account for the soul, or spirit?

It has taken me most of my adult life to glom onto the fact that others are Different From Me. Profoundly, completely different. That not everyone cleans their dishes before going to bed. Or washes their sheets once a week. These dish-in-sink, clean-sheet-slackers appear to be happy, healthy, content.

Photo by Mickey Destro

Photo by Mickey Destro

These days, as I do said dishes and load aforementioned sheets into the washer, I find myself thinking: Andrea Barrett doesn’t do this. Lionel Shriver doesn’t spend this much time on domestic duties. Writers must write which means dust bunnies will be free to frolic and breed. Maybe, just maybe, if I imagine hard enough and write long enough, I’ll be able to release my inner dirty-dish-lover, and she in turn will surprise me by creating that which I cannot yet imagine: a sandwich of words, comprised of pastrami particles and swiss cheese holes and mustardy molecules, the crumbs left for the ants.