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adventures in acting & stand-up

Archive for the month “November, 2010”

The Paradox of Time

I performed my solo show, THE SONGS I’LL NEVER SING, at Apotheca in Manchester on Saturday afternoon, as a small contribution to the Manchester Comedy Festival. I had a small, friendly audience who, once they’d got over the shock of a comedy show starting with a poem, seemed to enjoy it as much as I enjoyed performing it. Even the woman in the front row who didn’t realise that making phone calls REALLY quietly is still a bit distracting at a live performance. The people on telly never miss a beat when she does it, after all, and she WAS saying how much she was enjoying it, so I shouldn’t really have mentioned it, I suppose.

 

After the gig, a young woman approached me to say that, as a 20-something, she had enjoyed my ramblings about turning 50, which had reminded her of a poem called something like “The Paradox of My Time In History”. She couldn’t remember who it was by, but said, “You can google it”, adding kindly, in a voice she probably reserves for elderly relatives, “Do you know what google is?”

 

Well, I did google it. I had to wait until I got home, of course. I don’t like to carry the internet on my telephone in case it gets scratched. I found two possibles. The first made my heart sink. It’s one of those “let me motivate you to live a better life by throwing a bunch of fluffy words together” things that some people like to keep above the downstairs toilet. Here’s a bit of it:

 

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but
have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller
families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less
sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems,
more medicine, but less wellness.

 

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too
little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

 

It goes on and on like that for ages, encouraging us to love the people we love and to be good to our kids, concluding with:

 

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

 

This article about urban myths (http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/paradox.asp) tells an interesting story. Apparently, it’s variously credited on the internet to a survivor of the Columbine shooting, the father of a teenager killed at Columbine, and the late great George Carlin after the death of his wife. None of these is true. On learning of it, Carlin described the piece as

“a sappy load of shit…as true as some of the expressed sentiments may be, who really gives a shit? Certainly not me… The trick, folks, is not to give a fuck. Like me. I really don’t care. I stopped worrying about all this temporal bullshit a long time ago. It’s meaningless….the ideas are all expressed in a sort of pseudo-spiritual, New-Age-y, “Gee-whiz-can’t-we-do-better-than-this” tone of voice. It’s not only bad prose and poetry, it’s weak philosophy. I hope I never sound like that.”

According to the Snopes article, the real author was Dr. Bob Morehead, a pastor is Seattle. Until he resigned his position in the face of 17 sexual abuse charges. How’s THAT for a paradox?

Just as I was about to give up though, I came across this:

 

The Paradox of Time

By Henry Austin Dobson   

 

Time goes, you say? Ah no!
Alas, Time stays, we go;
Or else, were this not so,
What need to chain the hours,
For Youth were always ours?
Time goes, you say?- ah no!

 

Ours is the eyes’ deceit
Of men whose flying feet
Lead through some landscape low;
We pass, and think we see
The earth’s fixed surface flee:-
Alas, Time stays,- we go!

 

Once in the days of old,
Your locks were curling gold,
And mine had shamed the crow.
Now, in the self-same stage,
We’ve reached the silver age;
Time goes, you say?- ah no!

 

Once, when my voice was strong,
I filled the woods with song
To praise your “rose” and “snow”;
My bird, that sang, is dead;
Where are your roses fled?
Alas, Time stays,- we go!

 

See, in what traversed ways,
What backward Fate delays
The hopes we used to know;
Where are our old desires?-
Ah, where those vanished fires?
Time goes, you say?- ah no!

 

How far, how far, O Sweet,
The past behind our feet
Lies in the even-glow!
Now, on the forward way,
Let us fold hands, and pray;
Alas, Time stays,- we go!

 

 

I REALLY hope this is the poem she was telling me about. The idea that my silly little show might bring to mind such a beautiful piece of writing is incredibly flattering. But maybe she saw me as a cloakroom philosopher after all. Who cares. I’ve found a poem I hadn’t read before, and spent a bit of time on George Carlin’s website (http://www.georgecarlin.com). And all because I know how to google.

 

You can find out more about Henry Austin Dobson at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Austin_Dobson and there’s another nice poem by him at http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/dobson.htm

 

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