Tag Archives: Newtonian Time Telescope

Here We Go Through the Newtonian Time Telescope™!

I know–many of you will now be angry with me because my title sucked you in and subsequently failed to deliver the goods (or will fail to deliver, as we shall see). My brain is in a dither. If I could possibly explain my failure at actually producing my Time Telescope technology as I outlined in an earlier proposal, would you forgive me? Would you buy my excuses? I have one after another: illness, children, Christmas, Christmas trees, driving in the mountains where there’s snow, too many hot drinks with brandy or rum, and too much generalized merry-making to want to bend time through the spherical mirror inside my scope.

That leaves me with more confessions to make. Although I envisioned the brand name Newtonian Time Telescope™ and even found the name to ring poetically in my ears, while the ampersand and semicolon necessary for cute html insignia sent pleasure signals to the dopamine-producing regions of my brain, the truth is I can’t imagine how one could time-travel through a telescope. Presumably, one would have to move faster than the speed of light in order to travel through time. Yet, a telescope simply collects light and, in the case of the Newtonian telescope, reflects this light to the eyepiece using its secondary mirror. This leaves me with a bewildering sense of 17 C steam-punk, in which impossible technology is rendered possible using steam power to produce some kind of Galilean kinematic system. But wouldn’t the steam fog up the mirrors?

So, although I would like to pretend I’ve been hiding away in my basement hammering out this time telescope, my final confession is this: I have no basement, not even a crawl space. I have no place to hide away from the world. I’ve long considered moving to a cave I know of, but the musky smell of wild animals inside it puts me off a little. When Virginia Woolf wrote in her ridiculously long sentences about a woman needing a room of her own in order to accomplish awesome feats of intellectual stupendousness, she failed to mention the part about houses with missing basements or the fact that caves often come furnished with wild animals. Where did she think a woman was to obtain this “Room of One’s Own”? And, then after finding such a place, did Ms. Woolf perceive that a woman might do nothing more intellectually stimulating than stare at the wall in the silent room reserved for her little lone self?

Back to the Newtonian Time Telescope™ and my proposal to the Royal Society of None, I have to admit that my excitement over the idea was perhaps slightly premature. I thought that earlier today, anyway. I thought, what have you gotten yourself into now, Jill? Why did you want to force Newtonian physics into encompassing this sort of nonsense? I don’t know. I can’t make sense of the world; that’s why. And when I write about it, I realize the words are just phonemes that represent stuff like time machines. They’re not real. They’re not really real.


The Ultimate Essai

A few years ago, I read an article in a home-school journal on writing as a subject. According to the author, who taught at the university level at the same time that she homeschooled her children, the only important writing skill to pass on to students was the ubiquitous five-paragraph essay. In this theory of hers, poetry was unimportant because “children could just learn it on their own.” Creative writing of any sort was relegated to the child hobbyist. Only the didactic, robotic five-paragraph essay would rescue a seaworthy child and carry her through the heaving waters of college.

The article infuriated me and, as I usually do, I wrote a rebuttal letter in my head that I never sent. In the last several days, I’ve pondered what it means to write memoir and, in so doing, I recalled that little piece of editorial oddness. I asked myself the typical ranting, blood-letting questions [in which my mind bleeds out from lecherous frustration]: did that home-school teacher/professor not study history? Did she not understand rhetoric? Did she not understand that poems, in their more traditional English usage, could be called essays? If Alexander Pope had time-traveled to the oughts through a Newtonian Time Telescope, he might have had a thing or two to explain to this so-called educator.

First of all, he might have explained that poetry has a long and beautiful history. Poetry takes many forms and involves the use of complex thought and movement, all wrapped up in smart rhetoric and carefully meted rhythm. Next, he might have whipped out a copy or two of his poetic essays: Essay on Man or Essay on Criticism. When the educator inevitably shook her head at him, she might have cried, “But the author asserts opinions! And these opinions aren’t in five paragraphs! I can’t even count how many stanzas there are. And what do you call that rhyme scheme?” After the expected faint of the modern woman, Pope might have thought her unworthy, but, still, he might have given her a rundown of heroic couplets, because, after all, the author of them must have been heroic, himself.

“But who are you–you hunchbacked toad?!” the professor might have spluttered.

And it really might have been been Pope who shot through the Newtonian Time Telescope, but what if–instead–an aged Montaigne had approached a young Galileo and said, “Say there, Sonny, would you transport me to the late 17th C with your totally awesome quantum kinematics?” And then, perhaps, it might have been Montaigne who flew through time and space via the Newtonian Time Telescope [once he’d landed in Newton’s cave and introduced himself].

I’m certain Montaigne would have immediately set pen to paper and ascribed his personal feelings, musings, and ideas on 21st C life. Then he would have pronounced them essays. And why do I think he would have done such a preposterous thing? Montaigne invented the term. Back in his day, the 16th C, he called his attempts to understand the world essays [which, in his language, meant exactly that–essai, attempt].

What is my point in all this, aside from discovering how many times I can use the brand name Newtonian Time Telescope™ in as short of space as possible? Isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway–compression? In our modern education system, we’ve compressed the definition of essay into a tight, five-paragraph box that doesn’t simply contain condensed language, but condensed or compressed ideas. The landscape of ideas should involve expansion, feeling, rhetoric, and maybe even rhyme. When we insist that our children stop writing their essays in heroic couplets, as they are wont to do, we are limiting their thinking powers [all right, I did this when I was in the 8th grade, but only once, and the teacher completely ignored my rhymed lines. Or maybe she didn’t notice–and so much for my hard work].

This was meant to be an article on the nature of memoir, which, to me, resembles the original essence of essai. How Alexander Pope worked his little hunchbacked frame into it, I’ve no idea, but probably it was through the Newtonian Time Telescope. The Galilean Quantum Kinetic machine was pretty much the opposite of de rigueur by Pope’s time [so sue me. I couldn’t think of a stylish antonym].

Good memoirs are connected thoughts–essays–of a unique person’s experiences. In a well-written memoir, the reader sees the world anew through the eyes of the memoirist, through a narrative that stirs the heart and awakens the mind. And for that, I love memoirs, am, in fact, addicted to them. I have no desire to write them for publication because this blog is already the chronicling of my mind. This is it. This is my memoir, world! I’m holding to the Montaignesque tradition with my little corner of the internet. I’ll leave the five paragraph jobs for yawning professors.