Friday, February 02, 2018

Time Freezes in ‎Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day

(“Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, was released a quarter-century ago today. On this Friday, the 2nd of February, 2018, the only celebrity groundhog of the universe, Punxsutawney Phil, has seen his shadow, predicting another six weeks of winter. But what accounts for the timeless appeal of the movie, for its enduring charm? I think the reason is clear: Time. The movie explores the mystery of time subtly yet forcefully, mixing humor with depth that forces the viewer – through the experience of the arrogant and narcissistic weatherman Phil Connors who is trapped in a time warp and finds himself living in the same Groundhog Day over and over again - to confront mortality, life, love, loss, priority, memory, leading ultimately to redemption and enlightenment. The sign of a timeless movie is not just that newer viewers also become fans but that repeat viewers find something new every time they see it again.)

What if there isn’t a tomorrow? There wasn’t one today!

Think of the myriad ways by which we describe time: time flies, time crawls, time stands still, time loops, time is finite, time is infinite, time is money, time dilates, the arrow of time, cyclical time, circular time, linear time, non-linear time, geological time, atomic time, fullness of time, texture of time, fleeting time, recursive time, in the nick of time, the gift of time, the labyrinth of time, and particularly in Silicon Valley, billable time.

Probably no metaphor is used more extensively to describe an entity in literature and science than time. Listen to the echo of time in “To Be Or Not To Be.” Proust spent decades “In Search of Lost Time.” For Muhammad Ali, “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” To Thoreau, “Time is but the stream I go
a-fishing in.” From Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney:  
So the little moments,/Humble though they be,/Make the mighty ages/Of Eternity. Rabindranath Tagore: "Floating on the sea of time, yet cannot grasp a drop of it!"

Physicist Richard Feynman: “A positron is an electron going backwards in time.” How about ‘forever and ever’ time? Physicists who won the 2017 physics Nobel Prize (Thorne, Weiss, Barish) were cited for “detecting gravity waves, predicted by Albert Einstein a hundred years ago, that came from a collision between two black holes. It took 1.3 billion years for the waves to arrive at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory detector in the United States. The LIGO registered the wave as a tone nicknamed the ‘cosmic chirp.’”

And if entanglement in space from quantum mechanics is not strange enough, how about entanglement in time?

So what do you want out of life?

The best way to honor the gift of life is to honor the gift of time …

The night sky is dense with stars. A new one seems to bloom every few minutes, making the dark domed garden even more inviting. But it is not the stars that hold me in their spell.
It is the trees.

I am in Chittagong, in the city of my birth by the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh, almost eight thousand miles away from my ‘naturalized’ home in San Jose, California.

The mango and the betel nut saplings that my father had planted a half-century ago are now taller than the three-story building of my adolescent years. Rustling and dreamlike, they speak to me in a voice so real and with such urgency that I have to grip the railing from trembling.
“What have you done with your time?” they ask. “You saw us in our infancy Now the stars are within our reach. What have you done with the years gone by?”

I scan my life for an answer, memory guiding me down a path of light and shadow. Experienced life’s inevitable ebb and flow. Father passed away a decade ago after fighting diabetes for years. Children grow up, move out. Mother confined to a wheelchair as time takes its relentless toll on this irrepressible woman.

Wife and I continue working, retirement not in sight for economic reasons, even though we are advanced in years.

But ‘summing up’ isn’t what these animated trees are interested in. They want to know if I have used my time well. They are not interested in fame or wealth, neither of which I have, but whether I have honored time, given it the respect it deserved. They want to know if I was able to coax from it the ability to connect the dots that lay scattered about me, each a milestone of sorts in search of an elusive meaning.

So I really don’t know if I have used my time well in six decades. The truth and the tragedy are that I probably never will!

Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
I don’t think so, but I could check with the kitchen.

Do you know what today is?
No, what?
Today is tomorrow. It happened.

What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same,
 and nothing that you did mattered?
That about sums it up for me.

Do you ever have déjà vu?
Didn't you just ask me that?

Although it is winter, the night is mild and redolent of Bay of Bengal a few miles away. A preternatural silence has enveloped the bustling port city and the occasional tinkle of a rickshaw at the edge of my consciousness only deepens this silence. I find myself caught in a time warp that seems to extend beyond the Milky Way. My wife is asleep in the room where she slept as a bride over three decades ago, unaware of the ghosts of yesteryears crowding me. A breeze rustles the mango leaves and sways the betel nut trees and I hear their insistent question: “What have you done with the gift of time?”

At last I give up. “I don’t know,” I whisper.

Sometimes, people just die.
Not today.

How about you? What do you want?
What I really want is someone like you.

I think you're the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I've ever met in my life. I've never seen anyone that's nicer to people than you are. The first time I saw you... something happened to me. I never told you but... I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could. I don't deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.

It's beautiful. I don't know what to say.
I do. Whatever happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I'm happy now... because I love you.

It's so beautiful!... Let's live here.
We'll rent, to start.

Phil Connors gets caught in a time warp and finds himself slowly turning mad. He embraces death but the warp keeps delivering him to life’s shore. Slowly the scales of solipsism and arrogance fall from his eyes and by the time he comes free of the “same old, same old,” he has found the meaning and purpose of his life.

If only the rest of us are as lucky!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Women of America Lead the Way

Power, Thy Name is Woman!

If only Shakespeare could attend the wondrous Women’s March in downtown San Jose on January 20, 2018, the Bard would permanently terminate the association between frailty and women.

The thousands of marchers who poured onto the streets across the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday would recognize one fundamental truth in these dark times under Trump: It is the women of America who will boot the immoral and incompetent Trump and his sycophants out of office soon.

I joined thousands of men in downtown San Jose to march alongside the women who outnumbered us almost 4 to 1. We chanted, “Hey Hey, Ho, Ho, Donald Trump’s Gotta Go!”

When a speaker declared, “It is the women of color who must step up and the Caucasian women who must step aside to take America back from Trump and the Republicans,” everyone – women, men, Caucasian and of color, roared their approval.

More women will be running for office than ever before, from local and state all the way to Congress and Senate, in the upcoming mid-term election on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Support your local women democrats and raise funds for them.

Listen up, men! This is our chance to redeem ourselves. We turned out to be lazy, careless and fickle. Women will lead the way. Take America back from the fascists. Vote for the women in your district. Walk the precincts, knock on doors, donate money and time. We cannot afford a Republican-dominated Congress and Senate one moment longer. Most of all, we cannot allow a treacherous, reckless and loutish Trump disgrace our nation and take us back to the Dark Ages. Help boot this bum out of office.

Let the protest signs tell the story of the stirring Women’s March in San Jose that I was privileged to attend and photograph on Saturday, 20 January, 2018.