Like a hand waving
“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train that I wanted to be on.”
— Jonathan Safran Foer
This has to be one of the most evocative analogies I’ve ever known. It captures perfectly the wistful experience of watching years roll away, just far enough from us to be out of reach.
It also symbolizes the strange affinity I feel for history; looking on from the outside yet somehow connecting to those within, wishing I knew what it was like to see things from the inside.
Trains are well suited as symbols with which to illustrate the elusive nature of time; just look at Einstein’s use of trains in explaining his theory of relativity. There’s something about a moving train that throws our perceptions of reality slightly askew. If we stare at a train passing, we may begin to feel as if we are the ones moving.
And of course, in one sense, we are moving. We simply have the illusion that we are standing still in comparison, as time passes in front of our eyes.
The passage of time really does seem like a long train with countless cars we can’t enter. We can see people waving at us from a distance that grows ever greater, until they all but vanish from our sight, but we can only join them in our imagination.
Do you connect with Foer’s analogy? Have you ever wanted to be on the inside of that passing train, even briefly?
One year ago today: