Kathy Coogan

We measure life in segments of time.  When we’re babies, we’re counted in days, then weeks then months.  We graduate to years and if we’re lucky decades.  Some even reach the century mark and they get to tell us how they made it that far.  Far.  Our descriptive language changes from time-related words to place-related ones.  We think of a century as a far away place at which most never arrive.

Time mystifies me.  Sometimes it flies, sometimes it crawls. But it must be a constant if Einstein uses it as a measurement in his equation.  I can quote Mr. Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC2, but please don’t ask me to explain it.  I’ll admit that I once thought that the E in the equation referred to Albert himself, assigned by him as an act of pure ego.  I learned that I was wrong about his need for celebrity and that this equation has to do with energy equaling mass something, something and speed of light squared.  

But that’s as far as my knowledge of physics goes.  If you think that the speed of light is fast you’d be amazed at how fast information speeds out of my brain.  So I choose not to measure life with time, that ephemeral thing, but to measure life as a distance traveled, moving away from or toward.  

Far - we use it to define progress in a practical way: “She’s come so far from that irresponsible, wild child who drove us nuts.”  Far – we use it to explain when someone’s life is irretrievable: “She’s too far gone on the heroin.”  Far - we calculate effort and measure determination in steps taken:  “How far will he go to woo her?”

Distance I understand.  Distance can be seen and paced in footsteps, a physical thing.  Distance contains geography and geology and topography, those touchy-feely sciences that I can wrap my leaky brain around. 

Far is distant. I automatically squint my eyes to see it.  When you say, “That boy will go far,” you pay a compliment, meaning he will move away from us ordinary mortals.  He’ll be over there while we are here.  We see images of place like squares on a Monopoly board.

“So far, so good,” we say, referring to a destination at which we arrive merely bruised but not battered. I imagine monsters and fallen trees and pits of fire that have been avoided - physical things in a path that haven’t prevented our arrival.  More images of place.

“You can only get so far without an education,” we say implying that moving up the ladder takes us from here, uneducated, to there, promoted.

Sydney Carton exchanges his identity for Charles Darnay in a gesture of such generosity that it removes him far from common, selfish man.   “It is a far, far better thing I do…”

We search far and wide, plumbing our psyches, our souls and our spirits for inspiration, solutions and comprehension.  Opportunity is so near and yet so far, when we miss it.

And now at this time – this time – this place-related phrase feels appropriate.  It describes with an inherent optimism that, though time is slipping or speeding by, I have not yet reached my destination.  It allows me to see goals ahead and a horizon to be approached.  This phrase implies that there is more, that this life is not a fait accompli. This is what I have done and this is who I am – so far.