A Profound Peregrination
You must remember dear Higgins, of my oft repeated desire to travel to that exalted land of the Himalayas and Vedic wisdom. Ho ho, you will say, snake charmers and elephants et al. But I must tell you dear chap, it’s all here, the Hindoostani fellows have got it right all the way.
I was on this train from Bombay to Delhi, they call the city Moombai now, after some old devi. Well to my singular good fortune, I was seated next to this rather dingy looking young chap in a faded shirt and a loongi of sorts. He had this matted dreadlock hair (a sure sign of ancient wisdom, I have always held) and wore nothing on his feet (even more profound).
Just as I was observing his other worldly appearance, he turns to me with a gaptoothed grin and asks of me: ‘Saar, what is time?’
My dear Higgins, scarcely could I have asked for a better initiation into the esoteric realms of Hindoostan. What is time! How many hours have we spent in long debate over many a pipe in your study, how many years have our peers at Triflebotham College vexed over this conundrum!
Is time merely a measuring system used to sequence events, to compare durations of events and the intervals between them? Or is time part of the fundamental structure of the universe, a realist dimension in which events occur in sequence, as old Newton told us? Or do we subscribe to Leibnitz and Kant’s view of time being an intellectual structure like ‘space’ and ‘number’?
The question begged of an answer and he transfixed me with his yellow eyes, this ascetic bloke. Should I tell him a second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the Caesium 33 atom?
But nay, I sensed he wanted a metaphysical answer. He had sensed in me a worthy intellectual companion and without hesitation had forayed into Sophia’s kingdom. But as I faltered, he seemed to doze off to the rhythmic rumble of the train and left me to confabulate with myself.
Is time linear as our Judeo-Christian beliefs tell us, dear Higgins, or is it cyclic as the jolly old Mayans, Incas and the Hindoos themselves aver? Should I emulate St.Augustine when he said ‘What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.’
There is no halfway. As I was about to make a choice between being a Newtonian and a total Kant, the blessed old mystic opened his eyes and asked of me:
‘Saar, where you going?’
You could have knocked me o’er with a feather, Higgins, a feather nonetheless! How did this wretched old rishi come up with Zeno’s Paradox of Unreachability?
I did undoubtedly have in my pocket a first class ticket to Delhi. In a certain time I would cross half the distance from Moombai to Delhi. And in a while more I would cross half of half and go on to half of the half of the half ad infinitum. I would mathematically and physically never reach the capital city. I and my good ascetic friend would be lost in an infinitesimally slow journey to Delhi. We would probably die before we reached there. I was actually going nowhere and I was going to die before reaching there!
And that is precisely why his last oracle to me was the most earthshaking. His stop had come up and he stood, plucking the folds of his loongi from the recesses of his buttocks. He smiled and he said:
‘Will meet again, saar!’
The continuum, Higgins, the continuum! How effortlessly he had mastered the all encompassing convergence of the time-space-energy continuum. We would perish some day, perhaps on some abominably paradoxical journey to some godforsaken and timeforsaken place. And we would merge into the continuum, become one with the Collective Unconsciousness! We would indeed meet again at that moment, indefinable by Kantian or Newtonian time. Just meeting each other, not knowing we are meeting, but just knowing everything together as a cosmic force! In death we would meet again in a divinely compassionate train!
The sheer magnitude hit me like a booted hoof in the bollocks, and tears flowed down my cheeks. The sheer Karmic serendipity of my train journey shook my intellect as no discourse at Triflebotham ever had.
I walked around the Delhi Station in a daze for a while. I couldn’t find my wallet in my trouser pocket, must have left it on some table in Moombai in my absentmindedness.
But I dwelt in this metaphysical euphoria for many days, Higgins old boy, weeping like an old girl, repenting for all my sins. When I get home, do set up a lecture with Professor Gluteus Maximus at our alma mater. I must hold forth on Hindoo mysticism, dear chap. What a journey! What a profound peregrination, indeed!