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My View: Passage of time evokes pessimism

By Ben Perrone

It hadn’t happened in a while, but I recently woke thinking about time again. My time or what’s left of it.

Thoughts merged and for some reason I remembered a diptych painting done years ago titled “The Birth and Death of the Dag.” It was an homage to Dag Hammarskjöld, an early secretary-general of the United Nations whose ambition to build the United Nations into an active and important leader in world matters led to his “mysterious” death in the trees of an African jungle.

Ambition. I guess I was thinking of my own chances of completing large work, nowhere nearly as important as the Dag’s.

So I leapt out of bed, hardly, and lumbered down to the kitchen to record some rapidly dissolving images that early awakening brings when the mind is unhampered with daily minutia.

I get pessimistic more often as each day unfolds, haunted by the image of time, grains of sand so easily slipping away. I’ve been thinking of the thousands of those grains and wishing I could buy them back, rearrange their order, dump a few maybe.

It’s an existential experience to roll back the years on your computer when asked to scroll down to your date of birth. In a clash with pessimism, I would want to live another life just to see what happens.

I should be more than satisfied with having lived at this time in history and take what has been mine. After all, whoever reads this will have to agree that we were born at the pinnacle of easy living, certainly at a time that in this country life is and has gotten better for most of us. Not so for some, but we wouldn’t want to retreat to 1900 either.

If history is written by the victors, as they say, what is real? It is a funny concept that we even have a history; our personal actions and lives can be disputed and rewritten.

Almost everyone disputes facts with siblings or friends who shared the same experience. What motives lie within our recollections of the past as we build our history and shape within us, the image of who we are? Maybe this is why we now have “alternative facts.”

I’ll never be satisfied with my life. Not being important enough as an artist to move others to take chances on my ideas has left several of them to melt into the darkness of the cosmos, so to speak.

Now, the several years spent pushing mud uphill have worn away the crispness of my ambition. And like sand again, in an alliance with the gods, it wears down the body and mind and grinds away at my chances of success.

It’s important when looking at the stars or checking out the layers of time imbedded in this planet to see the folly of what we think is important.

None of those hopes and works that we think of as great will show up in those layers of time if there is anyone looking.

So there is some solace in not being important enough to change history and our lives, to make a small scratch on the pages of what we think of as history.

Bent out of shape by our mistaken ideas of improving our lives, our country, our families, we may look to the past, our rosy misconception of greatness.

We may have been great, if you think so, but it was at the expense of others’ suffering. Time and history push forward even if we don’t like it.

Ben Perrone, a painter, sculptor and installation artist, lives in Buffalo.
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