Friday, May 20, 2011

The Temporal Liberation Army

A few weeks into the first semester at Santa Cruz, the dorms lost power for a few hours during the middle of the night. The power-outage didn't cause any serious damage, but it screwed up everyone's alarm clocks -- so people slept in and missed breakfast (or lunch in some cases) and others were late or missed class that day.

That evening at dinner in the dining hall, Major Tom scrambled onto one of the round tables and announced that The Temporal Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the blackout as part of its fight against the tyranny of linear time. He then read their manifesto. Tom made a rather striking figure. Six foot something, the hair that he hadn't cut through his four years at Berkley High ran down the back of his green army officer's jacket. Obviously this was someone I would have to get to know.

Although the hair and the Berkley origins might given Tom the initial aspect of a hippie, that was only the result of laziness and not ideological affinity. He was much more a David Bowie style new waver, hence the Major Tom.

But as far as linear time, UC Santa Cruz as a liberated zone. It really was an island in time.
The town itself seemed stuck in the late 60s and most of the students had Summer of Love envy. While at other schools the logical progression through your studies puts you on a path out through the working world, UCSC does not provide that forward momentum or even linear path.

I, for instance, added majors until my student aid ran out. The humor magazine I'd help found, the Pigsty ran a classified ad my last Semester: "Graduating Senior will swap transcripts with any Junior or Sophomore. Contact Roger."

At Santa Cruz, I learned that time itself is a construct. The concept bears an almost mathematical relationship to a culture's God concept. For Monotheists, time is linear. Time begins with God's creation of the world and proceeds in a straight -- perhaps predetermined -- line to the ending event like the second coming. But for Polytheists, the interaction of the many gods creates circular time. In Hinduism for instance, the Gods of creation, preservation and destruction in rotation that creates the circle. And the Dualist Zoroastrians believed in a linear time imbedded in eternality.

Perhaps the Zoroastrians come closest to Santa Cruz -- but there it seems we had eternality imbedded within linear time (at least for as long as we could ignore looming gradation).

Later I would know other kinds of time. The election cycles and quarterly results. The most disconcerting and disorienting time experience is as a parent of a disabled child. While the rest of the world is moving forward and even his sister is progressing as we all expect a child is not. He is not and worry is that he will never. Yet he is not totally frozen in time either -- so I am hefting a normal sized thirteen year old, clearly going through those thirteen year old changes and becoming more interested in the TV programs with the cute teenage girls -- onto the changing table to change his diaper. And you worry about ten or twenty years down the road.

So that is why my happiest dreams are about being back in Santa Cruz, an island of time, with all thoughts of the future suppressed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Proctor Bill

The happiest person I ever met, was Proctor Bill -- the College V night proctor. Probably in his seventies, his job was to walk the hallways from mid-night until dawn. He had retired and sold the gas station he's owned. And after his wife died, he could no longer sleep at night in the bed they had shared for decade. So he made his incurable insomnia into a career choice.

He loved anyone who also stayed up late, and we all loved him. He was more a friendly zombie than any kind of authority figure. He was also a constant source of wise perspective. He said that we really weren't as wild as we thought, the kids who had been their in early seventies used to have nude jello slip and slides at their parties. Of course the nude jello slip and slide became a party fixture after that.  (Although Proctor Bill gave us the idea for the slip and slide, the idea of creating a hot tub for apr├Ęs-slip and slide by sealing-up a cement stairwell and filling it with hot water was all ours.)

I remember one night -- well after mid-night of course -- and we were all sitting in long dorm hall-way. He shuffled by and asked us how we were doing -- we were depressed. He asked each one of us our reasons. It was all the usual college student post adolescent crap: an unrequited crush, a late paper, self-important angst.

After taking it all in, he said, "You should just be like me, a happy idiot" and he skipped down the length of the hallway.