photo from the internet

Pushing the envelope. photo from the internet

The overall life expectancy for people in the United States is about 80 years old. Relative to whole world, that’s actually not too bad. The best you can realistically hope for is only 85. That’s the overall life expectancy in Japan. Did two atomic bombs not go off in Japan? Unreal. They’re obviously doing something right.

When I measure these numbers against the total number of hours I’ve spent trawling the various streaming services that I pay for, looking for a way to kill time at night, it paints a grim picture indeed.

Albert Einstein wrote, “People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Sounds good to me. I believe in physics, and I like to think that time can’t be spent, wasted, or killed. Such concepts don’t apply to the infinite. Joseph Campbell is quoted thus, “Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time.” Even so, there’s a good chance you’ll take your spot in eternity before you see all the great films, as just one example.


What can I say? I tried.

Nevermind why, but I have heard enough old ladies natter on about nothing to fill three lifetimes. From the outset, Grey Gardens (1975) is not a movie for me. It is a documentary by Albert and David Maysles about mother and daughter, Edith and “Little Edie” Beale. They are an aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and they languish in a decrepit mansion in East Hampton. They talk constantly. It is all but incoherent. That they are nuts and saying stuff is more important than what they are saying. Kind of like the movie Slacker (1991), I guess. I can only guess because after trying twice, I still haven’t made it to the end of that movie.

Salesman (1968) and Gimme Shelter (1970) are two documentaries by the Maysles that deserve their reputations for being mesmerizing, intimate, and hard core. I appreciate the Maysles’ documentary approach: point the camera at the crazies and keep it rolling. That’s how it seems anyway, because that how it’s supposed to seem. They make choices like any other artists and they lead the audience with those choices. Where the Maysles are leading in Grey Gardens may be forever beyond me. I wasn’t picking up on it in the first 42 minutes of tight close ups, claustrophobic interiors and incessant squawking, and as with Slacker, I had to turn off, defeated. I don’t have any plans for a rematch.

It’s not my intention to pick on old ladies. My ears are just not well tuned to the sound of the human voice. I think that’s it. There are exceptions, but the ladies in Grey Gardens are the rule. I was ready to like the movie, but I didn’t. That wouldn’t bother me so much except that I don’t think my reasoning is very sound, pun intended.

Shut up, already. Edith and “Little Edie” Beale in Grey Gardens

Silence is golden. Edith and “Little Edie” Beale in Grey Gardens

I ended up watching an episode of Seinfeld. Now, those are voices I do not get tired of hearing. I watched the episode with Rob Schneider in it. He plays a guy named Bob, who is deaf. It’s hard not to see him as Deuce Bigalow. I remember Schneider on SNL. Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999) wasn’t my first exposure to him, but it was one of my last.

The actors in Seinfeld aren’t associated with anything more readily than that show, Dunston Checks In (1996) notwithstanding. So, Rob Schneider feels like an interloper in the episode. I half-expected him to start hamming it up in a post-Deuce kind of way. Elaine ends up with one of Bob’s hearing aids in her ear at a magic show. When an emergency alarm sounds, her ear is hurt and she falls out of her seat.

Rob Schneider as Bob Groosberg on Seinfeld

Rob Schneider as Bob Grossberg on Seinfeld

A synchronicity. Like me moments before, Elaine is having a bad time with a harsh sound that prefigures a truncated cultural experience. Synchronicity is a concept attributed the Carl Jung. He didn’t have the PR of Freud, and certainly not that of Einstein. Nobody had PR like Einstein, but we’ll leave that for now. Jung defines synchronicity as “meaningful coincidence” and a “simultaneity” of events with “no evidence of causal connection.” He lays it all out in The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche, Volume 8 in his Collected Works.

Meaning is like pornography. Different people identify it different ways but everybody knows it when they see it. That being the case, Jung offers the upshot to be that “space is relative to the psyche. The same applies to the temporal determination of the psyche and the psychic relativity of time.”

Developed between 1905 and 1915, Einstein’s theory of relativity was on the scene by the time Jung was describing synchronicity. As far as I understand it, one assertion of the theory of relativity is that time and space are the same thing: spacetime, and spacetime is flexible. Also, an experience of the same event by two observers in different places will be observed as having happened at different times. This seems to suggest that your perception of time is yours alone. It suggests a lot of things really, and I understand very little of it.

Which brings us back to Einstein’s PR. That this guy’s face ended up all over posters, t-shirts, and coffee cups is an amazing public relations coup. He was a theoretical physicist and his face is as ubiquitous as bong water in freshmen dorm rooms. Maybe kids are mistaking him for Jerry Garcia.

Relativity, brah.

Relativity, brah.

Taken all together, it’s looking good for “wasting time” to be an impossibility, or at least just a matter of one’s point of view. Time isn’t wasted unless you see it that way. If you see it that way too often, consider moving to Japan and throwing yourself headlong into the culture. With any luck at all you might get a little of the time back. It will be up to you.