Time and time again

The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom (Hyperion, 2012, 240 pages)

The author of Tuesdays With Morrie has given us an allegory about time past, time present, and time future. It’s A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life combined, minus the holiday theme. Ala Dickens we encounter a man whose life is lived solely to feed his success. Ala Life, we encounter a person mired in the slough of despond who is looking to leave it all behind : it is becoming too painful to endure.

But there is a third character here, Father Time himself, a man who lived six thousand years. He was once a young man in love, the father of three children. Then the unthinkable happened. His wife died and it was a loss he could not endure. Seeking to flee,  he instead finds himself imprisoned in a dark cave by a “servant” of God. In that cave the man is forced to hear the pleas of millions of humans, pleas for “more time” — or, sadly, pleas for less.

I referred to this book as an “allegory,” and I think that is a fair assessment. The characters in The Time Keeper–and this is particularly true of Dor, the bereaved six thousand year old man–represent a spiritual truth about loss and redemption. Concrete exemplification of such truths is the hallmark of allegory; but the concreteness of the two contemporary characters–Sarah, the teenager; and Victor, the 82 year old captain of industry fighting a losing battle with cancer–is very hard-hitting.

Sarah is a teenager with a good mind but with low self-esteem and–like most teenagers (or adults, for that matter)–a desire to be noticed and loved. It’s almost an a priori truth  that teenagers can be cruel, narcissistic creatures; and in place of love Sarah finds only a boy who wants to use her. And worse: one who then broadcasts her affection for him on Facebook. She literally wants to die.

Victor wants to live so badly that he is willing to submit to cryogenics and hopefully return in some distant future so that he can continue to run his empire. He plans it all so carefully, down to the last business detail. Victor isn’t a man to be told “No.” Even in the face of death.

These are the two humans, of all humanity, that Dor is meant to help. He is released from the cave and finds them. If he can save them from their deaths-in-life, he might free himself from his own cruel fate.

There  is a significant message here. Most of us live our lives watching the clock, knowing that our day is dictated by the meetings we have to attend, the games we have to go to, the dinner engagement that is so important. In the process we lose the day and the opportunity to relish the very fact of our existence, which can cease at any time. Death doesn’t heed our day planners. We may be passing an opportunity to be with, hug–and yes, spend time with–a special someone who might not be there when our important affairs allow us the time.

The Time Keeper is one of those books that may end up with a cult following. I hope not. Books that do are pigeonholed. Everyone should read this, because all of us can benefit from understanding that this very second of our present will soon be in the past.

Copyright 2012 Isaac Morris

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