When I was a kid, the mail came twice a day. It cost three cents for a letter and one cent for a post card. It was exciting and informative to get a letter and open up in the 'now' what was two or three days old. What was old became new even though it was old. The lag time between sending and delivering fell away as the words took shape in the reader's mind.
Yesterday, I received a small, neatly-penned note from my younger son who signed up for the Army National Guard and is in the process of taking basic training. The note said he was lonely and homesick in essence... and in my reader's 'now' I grieved that I could not somehow ease his mind and make things better.
But then I looked at the postmark: The letter was seven days old. What might have improved or gotten worse during that lapse of time, I had no way of knowing.
The whole small adventure seemed to underscore the 'now' mindset of email, of getting an almost-instantaneous response to an almost-instantaneous assertion. Fast-fast-fast. No more three-four-five-six-seven days, but the potential and expectation of three-four-five-six-seven minutes... or seconds even.
Something deeply troubling or profoundly moving or super-exciting could be transmitted in lickety-split time. And the speed seems to assure that whatever is said is closer to the truth -- the right-now truth that friends or enemies may want to transmit.
And yet ... there is always the lapse -- that period of time between what is said or thought or written and the receiving of that information. Be it a week or a nanosecond, what is transmitted seems true enough to qualify as what is happening now, but is it what's happening now? Well, sort of, sure ... but actually?
Here I am, speaking or writing 'the truth,' but is it any longer the truth? Does the anguish or excitement alluded to have the same truth as the truth that inspired the words?
I'm not trying to vitiate or dismiss the effort or deep feeling anyone might have when asserting one thing or another. But I do think the time-lapse is kind of interesting ... from truth to half-truth in something less than a nanoscond. What about now ... and now...and now...and now?
If living in the past is our lot in life, OK.
But it does make me wonder what it might be like to live in the present ... the present I can't help but live in no matter how hard I try.