If I could keep time in a bottle would I lock it up and hoard it away, keeping eternity at bay? Or would I measure very carefully each precious second and minute so as to not waste a drop? What should I do with all that time concentrated in my hands waiting to be let out, like a Genie in a bottle, waiting to do my bidding? Jim Croce had his own idea about saving time in a bottle since it was a love song to his wife. No, damn it! Elton John never wrote it, he bought it from the estate. Jim died in an airliner crash and left behind a wife and two children. Elton John bought a couple of Jim’s big hits, and there were hits long before elton ever sang a note of any of them. Croce sang in bars and joint, working his way up to clubs and finally got a break when a few of his recorded hits made the top 100 and even the top ten. Man, ten, fifteen years of grueling work and the man is on his way. Hardly anytime to enjoy his fame when the bottom drops out. The young don’t know your name. Back about 2002 I remember calling up a DJ on public radio who caller Time In A Bottle an Elton John song. She thought he wrote it. I read her the riot act. If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing I’d like to do, is to bring back all the young musicians who died and see what they still could do.
George Gershwin, a name most Millennials and few Slackers know and yet his influence in the American music scene gave us a sense of place. I am amazed that the world knows Gershwin and yet most Americans have forgotten him. He wrote the music and his brother, Ira, wrote the lyrics of a great number of popular music. But it was George’s foray into the world of classical composition that shook up the older generations and put the world on notice that here, at last, was a composer for the twentieth century. Who in modern times can compete with such a master? All over the world his American Opera is played to sold out audiences. Porgy and Bess, the music and the lyrics are very haunting. The opening number, “It’s Summer Time” and the living is easy. Leontyne Price does perhaps the best rendition of that song. Her performance still sticks in my mind so many decades after she recorded that tune. George died at 38 from a brain tumor, a great loss of talent. The pantheon of musicians and writers who died so early in life has become so crowded. A tip of the hat to Robert Okaji for remembering the Russian poet Sergei Yesenin, another early death. Yes, if we could save time in a bottle, just think what we could do. We could spend an eternity keeping them working all for the likes of me and you.
With all our time saving devices one might think that saving time in a bottle a very practical application of the space time continuum. I fear all we will ever do with the promise of time saving devices and waste instead of accumulate time. Perhaps we might take a different look at time and learn to spend it wisely. Of course there are times when no matter how wise we may think we are, life kicks us in the head. Poor Glen Campbell, a popular singing star, a would be actor, the good life. A hansom man blessed with wealth and talent. Now his time is laid to waste by alzheimer’s. Linda Ronstadt has parkinson’s disease and will never sign another note, hasn’t for several years. A famous choir director and composer has an aneurysm take out his ability to for any long term or even moderate term memory. He forgets after less than five minutes what he has said, seen, and done. Yet his long term memory has not been destroyed, he can still remember the choral works he knew decades ago. He has time in a bottle but that time is always now. Time comes in all manner of dimensions and sizes of bottles.
Most of all, time is what we make of it. After all, we are part of that space time continuum, the fabric of the universe, energy and mass that occupies space and time. That is what we do so well, occupy space and time regardless of moral purpose, for the universe doesn’t give a damn about our morals, such as they might be. In the world of the physical universe, there are no morals, there is no purpose unto heaven, there is merely existence, the accumulation of mass and energy that occupy space and time. For us, time matters because our existence matters to us and maybe to a few other individuals. Beyond that, time has no meaning. Distance is measured in time. How much time will it take to go from point A to point B. Even Zeno’s paradox is about time and distance. True, it is a false assertion and much discredited. But it highlights an element of truth. Before we can go from point A to point Z we must travel halfway to point M. And before we can reach point M we must travel to point G. And so on, constantly halving the distance. So by that standard, if we try to save time in a bottle, first we must try to save half of it. But in order to do that we must first save a third, and before that, a quarter, and before that an eight, and before that, a sixteenth, and before that a thirty second, and before that, well one gets the idea. As babies we would never grow up and become adults. And the old folk will never get old, babies will never be born, and I’ll never have another birthday celebration. There is more to time than might meet the eye.
But time is distance, the rotations of the earth in regular and periodic turns. It is space distance because the earth travels around the Sun. Time is a measure of occurrence. It is a matter of change. Could I save distance or change in a bottle? Maybe, never tried. Time is not a commodity to be bought and sold for there is no clear ownership that a court of law would uphold. Time is a way of living, of doing, of perception.