“Boy, that rabbit hole sure is deep.”

It hit me yesterday afternoon.  McCloud asked a very simple question about whether time had to be linear- “But is that necessary?”  And he provided the answer, so obvious that I missed it, so in my face that I failed to see it.  He was sitting on a circle.  A circle!  A circle with no beginning and no end.  It just goes and goes.  In a circle!  Now, I may sound psychotic, and perhaps rightly so, but I honesty think that McCloud was literally “sitting on the answer.”

“Of course it’s not necessary,” he doesn’t say, “And here I am, sitting on a circle of time, proving it to you.”

So many things come from this- I don’t even know where to begin.


First, how often in life are we simply “sitting on the answer?”  Every time we have a question, we look around at all the pretty pictures, all the commentary, trying to read between the lines, trying to make nothing into something, doing anything but looking at ourselves.  It reminds me of a story that I heard often (forgive me for not knowing its origin).  An old man is sitting on the street, on an old wood box, begging for money.  His whole life, he had dragged this box around, using it to sit on and beg for money.  Always asking other people for money.  One day, a traveller comes passing by, and the old man asked for money.  The traveller said, “Well, what’s in the box?”  The old man said, “Nothing… is just a box.”  “Open it,” the traveller said.  “You’ve never looked inside.”  “What’s the point,” the old man said.  “Just open it,” the traveller said.  The old man gets off the box and pried open the lid.  Inside, the box was full of gold.


Second, and I bring this up because I get the sense that McCloud is one of those people that think and comprehend on a level that I may never reach, so I don’t think that I am reading too much into this, is that he was hinting at the concept of “wheel of time” or “eternal return.”  While most of the western world views time in a linear fashion, many ancient religions and philosophies (not the Abrahamic religions) viewed time as circular.  It is often symbolized as a snake eating its own tail; this symbol is called the “Ouroboros.”

The differences between these two concepts of time are enormous and the implications of which perception one chooses to live by are even greater.  It was explained to me with marching dominoes (and I’m sure you can find the same story elsewhere).

Which one do you prefer?


Last, I was talking to my yogi last night about time.  Yes, I have a yogi.  And yes, I discuss Scott McCloud comics with my yogi.  Awesome.  Anyway, he was looking at the comic and simply said “the pictures are all markers (as in, the big moments in life).”  And it hit me again.  A slap in the face.  Yes, there is a reason he didn’t connect the pictures.  Yes, there is a reason he left the circle broken.  Because they are all markers.  Marriage, love, sex, babies, jobs, war,  age, etc… they are the only way we, as humans, have the ability to know that time has passed.  And because we get older, and because we have these markers to act as our time guide, of course and no wonder our lives seem linear.  Everyone gets so caught up in the marker, and we miss the bigger picture…. the circle.  But, what if we removed the markers?  What happens…

Where is the linearity now?  Furthermore, and just to add insult to our obvious blindness, how does the small circle fit into this?  Ah, what an insult it is.  It says (rather mockingly)…   “You know time is circular.  You see it everyday.  You watch the sun rise and set.  You do the same routines everyday.  You complete a circle everyday.  You get up and say, “Well, here’s to another day.”  You say, “ I wish this day could only end.” You say, “There’s always tomorrow.””  Why?  Because we know, time comes back around.  We recognize circular time external to us, but view our lives as external from circular time.  Much like the way we view ourselves separate from “nature,” even though we are nature.  We live in a perception, not reality.  It seems to me that it all boils down to a bunch of circles within circles. Rather recursive if you ask me.

On that note, “Wax on, wax off”… the wise man said.  Doesn’t that sound like another circle?



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4 Responses to “Boy, that rabbit hole sure is deep.”

  1. akiru84 says:

    I don’t know if I agree with circular time. Yes the sun rises again tomorrow and it’s a new day. But tomorrow is different than today right? I feel that the circular time you mentioned might be an illusion that arose from our limited interpretation of natural phenomenon.
    I realized that there are religious worldview out there the builds on the idea of cycle of time (Hinduism for example), but I suppose that is a philosophical standpoint, one that is up for interpretation.
    Great food for thought though.

  2. jakegrohs says:

    Adam. )@#UY$*(H@IURH@OHO. wow. pretty crazy, awesome, intense kind of connections you made in your post. I think your concepts of linear time and circular time, which you link to belief traditions (West/East perhaps), make me wonder if it is linked to more individualist/collectivist societies. For example, me, in my own life, it is hard to think of time as anything but linear. Sure there are similarities between today and tomorrow, but they are distinctly different. Also, I’ve about to welcome my first child into the world. That is a marker I will pass and will never pass again (not the first at least). However, when I step out of my own self-centered skin (change my frame, mayhaps?) I see how circular time is. In the 20,000 ft view, how different is my story from my father’s? Or his? At that level, it looks incredibly circular, and the “linear” path through each pass of the circle is really no more different than the beautiful nuances between this year’s tulips and next year’s. At the same time, ceding any sense of individuality (or of totally circular time) in my worldview, seems like it might not totally honor the unique beauty in each pass. Can we hold both in our head at the same time? Is that even helpful? Worthwhile? Sacrilegious? What do you think?

  3. Dr. C. says:

    Beautiful post. Heartfelt and deeply insightful.

    And now–heh–

    What if it’s both?

  4. Jordan Jacobson says:

    I can’t even begin to explain how much I LOVED this post. SO many connections and so many various points of conversation that it left me thinking of I don’t even know where to begin. All I can say is, I agree and I disagree. Of course, we all know that each day passes and it is circular in that nature, but it’s also linear in that they are distinctly different. So, as Dr. C said, what if it is both? It doesn’t have to be either or does it? I guess that’s another question that McCloud is asking, not only is it necessary to be linear, but is it necessary to be ONLY linear? I also loved the connection you made between eastern and western culture because it defintiely broadened my horizons on my views of this subject-I hadn’t even thought of that. Great ideas, loved it!

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