The thing is, you have to have faith in Time.
If time acts in its old familiar way, along those well-worn rails of reality, we can get a sort of trajectory going. We can say, well, if we’re standing now, according to what I know we should be roundabout here (planting an ‘x’ firmly on the temporal events map) by lunchtime.
It’s like snooker. Which I abhor, by the way, but snooker players are jolly good at trusting Time to deliver. They line up a shot; they anticipate how the little coloured balls will behave, and then they put precisely the correct amount of energy into a rolling ball which will collide with others and set off, in all probability, a chain of little reactions to their advantage.
Perhaps that’s why so many people watch snooker. 27.1 million people are said to have viewed the game in some form in England in 2011; 3.9 million watched the 2011 World Championship Final at The Crucible, Sheffield, in the same year. It’s an English sport based in large measure on accurate anticipation of what will happen. We are watching a series of world-class time lords knock balls across a green baize table.
“To enjoy one’s life,” writes Adam Philips, author of Flirtation (London 1994) ‘one needs a belief in Time as a promising medium to do things in’.
But I am no Time Lord.
Sainsbury’s Supermarket: and there I stand, a basket full of eatables, weighing up the odds on the queues at each checkout.
This superstore, whilst being my regular one, is very close to a naughty little rat run between the M4 and the M3. Consequently, at lunch all human life arrives to select its sandwiches, and at Rush Hour the world comes to pick up its ready meals. Were I a Time Lord, I would take note of how Time behaves at this consumer cathedral. But with monotonous regularity, I arrive when everyone else does.
There must be thirty checkouts at this place, which should theoretically increase the odds in my favour considerably. Time’s trajectories should lead to an even spread of customers, all filing in an orderly fashion through time and space to reach a state where the shopping is bagged and the bill paid, and dinner on its way.
I unfailingly choose the queue with a problem; the one with someone who is trying to pay with a Transylvanian leu, or has picked up a tub of coleslaw from which the bottom has become detached. I choose the queue with the child who flings himself on the floor for a post-aisle tantrum, or the little old lady who is counting her £20 bill out in individual pennies. I never, never anticipate successfully what is going to happen. My head is in the clouds the majority of the time, and the price for not attending to the exact science of anticipation is more time, and energy, and not inconsiderable stress.
Because you know the secret to successful anticipation? It’s spotting the patterns. Knowing enough about the world to predict what is going to happen next. As fight Club author Chuch Palahniuk put it: “What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher.”
Still; though I am no Time Lord, I have faith in Time. The patterns of my life have shown me it is possible to have pleasure in every day, and that Time himself lays a treasure trail to be followed. I am lucky. Not everyone’s patterns are as benign as mine.
I anticipate future events with pleasurable inaccuracy.
In the words of Dr Seuss: “Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball….”
“……will make you the winning-est winner of all.”
Written for Side View’s weekend challenge, anticipation, which you can find here