drawing by petersilie

Larissa Miller's
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Down the River
In lieu of Conclusion

Everything passes with time: the man and the age. Another age arrives, and another man. Yet he, like his predecessor, is bound to start reflecting on his relationship with TIME and SPACE. Past, present, future – what do we know of them? Do we know more about the past than the future? "The leisurely pace of the good old days", I read in someone's memoirs. But were they really leisurely and good? Or is that an illusion? What does "old" mean anyway? And won't the frantic pace of life today seem moderate and calm tomorrow? Yet remembering my childhood I cannot help thinking about it in the same words: "The leisurely pace of the good old days." The long winter evenings, the fringed lampshade over the table where Granny was darning, Grandfather was reading the paper, and I was drawing. "It's quiet, so blessedly quiet that you can hear time flowing past." And so it flowed leisurely and smoothly. I swam in it leisurely and smoothly.

Each of us, when we are born, falls into the river of time and swims with the stream, rejoicing at everything we find on the way, until one day we suddenly stop and ask ourselves: "Who am I? Where am I going? Can I touch the bottom?" Once you have asked this, you begin to flounder and sink. You stop swimming like a fish in the river of time and have to learn to swim again, which may take the rest of your life.

"Row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream", says the old English folk song. It is normally sung as a round, with people coming in one after the other, the same way you enter the river of time. Only, alas, few of us manage to swim along this stream "gently and merrily". It is hard to accept the fact that "life is but a dream", in which nothing exists except deceptive ideas about deceptive things and that if you say "I know" today, you may realize tomorrow that you were mistaken.

A friend of ours who emigrated to the States in the early seventies complained to an American colleague: "The trouble is I can't get to work without a car, but I don't tike driving. It makes things very difficult. I have a most complicated relationship with my car. I don't know what to do." "I think you must change your attitude," the sensible American advised him. "Change your attitude," I have repeated to myself hundreds of times when I found myself in a no-win situation. Change your attitude to the deceptive, fickle world where changing illusions is as natural and unavoidable as the changing seasons. Change the accent, shift the emphasis from vain hopes to vain despair. What you call a change of mirages could just as well be termed a transformation, something that turns each new day into a tabula rasa. So swim without fear or hesitation. Swim until time drifts into eternity and you into oblivion. Yet who knows where time will drift and what will happen beyond the bounds of this earthly life.