A Successful Repetition
I was chewing on a page in an old book last weekend that’s stayed with me. The words don’t flow, but the concept is profound. Consider:
“What is a repetition? A repetition is the re-enactment of past experience toward the end of isolating the time segment which has lapsed in order that it, the lapsed time, can be savored of itself and without the usual adulteration of events that clog time like peanuts in brittle…. Nothing of consequence would have happened because [something] was exactly as it was before. There remained only time itself, like a yard of smooth peanut brittle.” – Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
This concept of what Percy calls a repetition interests me. In a generally accept it as fact because I’ve experienced it myself sort of way. Something of a time warp, it places you and an object of focus together at two moments in time, sometimes decades between. It’s visiting the neighborhood you grew up in twenty years later and seeing things are largely the same, but knowing there’s been millions of changes in the world in between previous and present time. The reaction of walking into a room and saying “wow, this place hasn’t changed at all.” Cleaning out the attic and coming across some object of affection from thirty years ago that immediately reconnects you to that moment as if the previous you reached through the object and pulled you in.
This isn’t a same time next year phenomenon, that’s too short a time span. No, better to have a couple of decades elapse and then boom! It hits you. Serendipity plays a part – there are many places I envision as they were, and going back to them now only highlights the changes. No, this is the realization that smacks you in the forehead as you look at something and fly back in time to that previous you that experienced it then. A bridge between times if you will.
I’m working through this theory as a couple of catbirds mock me with their cries. Nothing is the same of course!, they cry. We change both physically and mentally, and even an object of focus has changed at some molecular level. More brittle perhaps. But, I counter, on the whole the same. The same in relation to the rate of transformation in the world.
The catbirds grow louder. Bear with me I want to tell them (I’ve learned they pretend not to care what I say). Think about a moment when you’ve seen an old friend you haven’t seen in decades, at a funeral or wedding. You’ve both changed in countless ways, but in that moment of reconnection nothing has changed. It’s as if you were resuming the conversation you ended on way back when. And that moment of reconnection becomes a successful repetition. Time evaporates, things are as they were, and will be forever… or at least until the next successful repetition.