Viscosity

It was as I got older that I started to fell life becoming more viscous. I can’t pinpoint when exactly, but I had started to notice that depending on the phase of life, the passage of time seems to have different levels of viscosity. Early on, you have no impact on the flow: you must swim with the current and be battered by it, knocked back and forth. As a young man, what I did had little effect on what was around me, with events glancing off me and rolling over me as water does off a proverbial duck’s back. But then I started to develop my own momentum, pull of gravity, friction, call it what you will: things started to respond to what I did, and I started being able to influence the streams and currents around me. Suddenly moving a hand, or having a thought, or just altering direction makes a difference and pulls people and events around you into your circle of orbit.

This spatiotemporal viscosity brought with it the same problems as the physical kind, of course. Movement was more difficult, tedious, energy-sapping, and of course there were times when I wished that my movements wouldn’t cause more than the bare ripple they used to. I became more embedded: and that brought more responsibility. I was beginning to stir the mixture, if you like, which indirectly made me a chef in the great culinary experiment around me, and hence a participant.

As children, my sister, for example, would never have listened to me speak about anything important without a noticeable measure of disdain, and would certainly never have asked for advice on anything that impacted her life. Which initially made her outpouring shortly after her separation from her partner all the more surprising. Perhaps it was simply the ructions in her life that had caused her to tumble out of her stable orbit, but in hindsight it may have been my increasingly viscous, established existence which found her sitting on my sofa one day presenting me with a vacuum she was expecting me to fill, a question she was expecting me to answer. It had something to do with prestige and financial reward, some sort of point about why it seemed that recognition and money somehow didn’t go together in so many situations, and was obviously something she had been thinking about for a long time. But somehow she seemed to have reached an impasse, a point at which she could not get beyond a simple oscillation between two opposed positions, and was looking for something to jolt her out of the rut she was in and onto a new trajectory.

I approached making any comment with a certain sense of trepidation, suddenly sensing that what I was about to say would quite possibly have an impact on her thinking, perhaps even on her life in general, and very possibly on how we interacted as a family. I wasn’t going to be distracted from telling her my opinion on the matter (as it turned out, it was a point I had made my own mind up on some time ago), but as I saw her listening and absorbing what I was saying, gently leaning back and moving from a hunched, intense listening posture into a more relaxed form that allowed her to take on board what I was saying and ignite some internal fire, the power of my words became clearer to me. I wasn’t expecting my sister to agree with me, or suddenly align herself with my general way of thinking (this would have been hopelessly unrealistic, and maybe also not worth wishing for), but I could see that my slow, treacle-heavy spinning world had touched hers, that the liquids had mingled right at the periphery, generating new colours, forms, shapes, and subtly altering the balance of her mental system.

Months later, many well-rehearsed arguments later, when the new path she was on was becoming a wide, asphalted road, as opposed to the overgrown track she had started on, we were once again in the usual constellation of sibling discord whose general lines at once identified us clearly as brother and sister, but nevertheless revealed the naked truth that even in families each person has their own character, which ultimately defines how they choose to portray themselves, and are perceived by others.

I had, however, perturbed the system, even if ever so gently. Just as I had played referee between mind and body, the viscosity of my time and space had made me a participant, an observer whose reaching out had made a difference and influenced the characters and plot around them.

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