It’s curious that traveling can stimulate the imagination. For centuries, writers have used road trips or journeys to bring up deep emotions and thoughts, much the way a brisk walk might stimulate the heart.
There seems to be a definite parallel between the journey one makes across land and the journey one makes into ones own heart. One experiences life differently while traveling. It’s like an exercise in relativity: ones experience of time is relative to the speed one is moving.
An earlier post examined the relativity of time in narrative. Stories take us out of time into another world, sending us on a journey into our own hearts to be deeply changed.
This for me is why stories are spiritual experiences and should be treasured and should be taken very seriously.
In this video, Stephen Hawking talks about his most significant theory, Imaginary Time.
“People think it’s something you have in dreams, or when you’re up against a deadline. But it’s a well defined concept. Imaginary time is like another direction in space. It’s the one bit of my work science fiction writers haven’t used. Because they don’t understand it.”
The expansion and contraction of time within stories and dreams is in fact something which has long been explored by stories. Characters disappear through a wardrobe and live a lifetime of adventures before returning as though no time had passed at all. Alternatively, children disappear into the land of Faery and return to their home to find their parents long dead and everyone they know old and almost forgetting their existence.
“Put your hand on the a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like minutes. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein
The journey a soul or imagination goes upon during a story, is a fascinating one, one Science Fiction writers should explore more. Journey into dream and travel in “another direction in space”.
“So these Kings and Queens entered the thicket, and before they had gone a score of paces they all remembered that the thing they had seen was called a lamp-post, and before they had gone twenty more the noticed that they were not making their way through branches but through coats. And the next moment they all came tumbling out of a wardrobe door inthe the empty room, and they were no longer Kings and Queens in their hunting array but just Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in their old clothes. It was the same day and the same hour of the day on which they had all gone into the wardrobe to hide.” – C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Old English faery tales tell the opposite scenario, a young maiden is carried off into the land of faery, and lives there a while. Upon returning to her home, she finds her mother and father long dead and years passed, even though for her the span had been but a few short months. This common motif in narrative is an interesting feature. Stories take us on a journey, and while the world around us might tick by to the solar clock, our soul can travel through an age long quest and return to the planet, so to speak, changed and transformed – and surprised the world is still as it is. The doorway story simply captures that with a metaphor of traveling between two worlds.
Ever notice that intense emotion heightens a feeling of time?! An epic day such as a family wedding seems to fly by in a blur, yet each moment seems burned in the memory. A car-crash or fearful experience seems to slow time down immensely. Watching the kettle boil, slows time down. A day at work or being busy and distracted, speeds time up. For children, time is counted in sleeps until a big day. For adults, each year is remarked upon “Is it Christmas again? how time flies by!?!” And the older you get, the faster time seems to fly by.
I once fasted for 21 days. The experience was a fascinating experiment of observing time passing. The act of not eating brought on aches and pains, fatigue and boredom. Mostly it helped me detox, rest and consider life deeply. Time truly slowed down to a point that half an hour meditation yielded more than a day of busy activity. I distinctly felt that I was traveling. I felt my soul time in relation to solar time had shifted, that I was journeying through inner experiences at a more intense pace than normal. The only other time I’d experienced this was to go on a journey through a good story.
If youth equates to a more vital soul time – children experience days and weeks very profoundly – and old age equates to less vital soul time – adults remark on years and even decades passing in a flash – they what does this tell us about story? Einstein’s theory of relativity states that the speed of the individual traveling will affect their experience of time. Rather than time being a constant by which we measure reality, time shifts relative to the speed of the traveler.
I don’t believe the secret to immortality lies in story telling or story reading – but I do know that reading stories, takes the reader on a journey through inner experiences, and speeds up time again relative to the solar clock, returning them to a vitality of experience akin to being a child.