Tom Being Tom

Just me, talking about stuff.

The Time Keeper

time keeper

By on 11 Jan 2018

“We do not realize the sound the world makes—unless, of course, it comes to a stop. Then, when it starts, it sounds like an orchestra.”

I finished the first book of my 2018 Reading List. In pure math terms I’m about 2 ½ pages per day ahead of schedule. But that’s an illusion. I didn’t stick to my plan many of the days, but the book was remarkably easy to, no pun intended, catch up on time. Future tomes will not be so forgiving.

The first book was The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom. This is the second book I’ve read by Mitch, the first being some years ago. His books could be described as parables, I suppose, each one simple in their storytelling and each one designed to teach a moral or spiritual lesson. Having enjoyed the first one, this one had been on my list for some (ahem) time. It made the final cut this year for that reason, and for two other very important ones: his last name begins with the first letter of the alphabet, and I knew I could breeze through his tome with little effort. I was right.

The former was important because I decided, rather whimsically, to read my 2018 list in alphabetical order, by author’s last name, to avoid any personal bias. The latter is important because I knew this was, undoubtedly, the season of new year hangovers and NFL playoffs. If I was going to get off to a fast start, I would require something breezy.

It worked. Self-awareness pays off.

The book itself? Just okay. Nothing challenging or life-altering, I’d say. The basic premise is an origin story for Father Time, told in conjunction with the tales of two modern mortals. Father Time, an early man named Dor, is on a collision course with the mortals, a teenage girl and aging billionaire, who are dealing with their own demise. One seeks it; the other seeks to avoid it, at all cost. Dor eventually teaches them each a lesson about the value of time itself. Sarah has her whole life ahead of her and should live it. Victor has his whole life behind him and should embrace the end.

I can relate, in ways, to both of the main characters. Who hasn’t felt despair and wondered, if this is it, why remain? Unlike Sarah, though, I’ve never felt despair enough to end it. I’ve always had a certain philosophy that carried me through dark times: when life is hard, it’s time to change. When there’s nothing left, there is nothing left to lose. Rock bottom is a wonderful place to start anew. That thought has always lifted me from the murky depths. Still, I understand the pain she felt, the pain that led her to that day. Life hurts like heck.

Victor I relate to all the more. Not his billions, obviously. I am rich in many ways, but financially is not one of them. His desire to persist, however, is unassailably mine. My answer to the question “if you could live forever, would you,” is inexorably yes.

Father Time teaches Sarah and Victor the value of a single life, nothing less, nothing more. I wholeheartedly agree with Dor’s  lesson for Sarah and am gladdened for her evolution. For Victor, however, I find the reasoning to embrace finality unsatisfying. If the future is a living hell, then living in it, to me, is still better than no life at all. In fact, an essential lesson taught to Sarah seemed to be forgotten in the lesson to Victor, when his fate was revealed:

“Time is not something you give back. The very next moment may be an answer…to deny that is to deny the most important part of the future.”

“What’s that?”

“Hope.”

The things that Mitch sought to teach, and did teach, will be added to my cognitive base of data. As I evolve I will remember the words and lessons, and use them accordingly. Perhaps, in time, the lessons that Victor learned will become more important to me. Perhaps.

The bottom line is that The Time Keeper was a pleasant, quick read. I felt for Sarah. I pulled for Victor. The lesson was understood, and I was happy for the final fate of Dor. Isn’t that what we ask a book to do? Tug at our hearts, get us to think, teach us, and then end well. In that regard, Mitch Albom gave us a good enough read.

And, now, on to The Handmaid’s Tale. The future, hell or not, awaits.



28 comments on “The Time Keeper

  1. Tom, it seems that no matter what you are writing about, you offer the idea that we all have choices in how we think and live. Your personal underlying theme of hope runs beautifully through everything you write. I may never read this Albom book, but your review of it has me thinking about time and how I have approached it differently at different times in my life. I am anxious to read your views on Handmaids Tale; my mom gave me that book to read when I was 14. Thank you, as ever, for a thoughtful and thought provoking post. Happy Reading!!!!!

    1. Thank you, Susan!

      Yes, I firmly believe in personal choice, which is why, I think, I am so accepting of such a wide variety of beliefs. In fact, those who preach the concept of “one way” (e.g. “one god,” “one party,” “one country”) tend to get the most frustrated with me. The possibilities are multitudinous, as are the paths to the future. Since the future is so undetermined, we can guide so much of our own fates by the choices we make. The more one-dimensional we make our choices, though, the more limited our possible futures. I admit that I tend to look for the path with the most hope, in every circumstance, and that, too, frustrates many. 😊

      I don’t recommend this book for everybody, in the sense that all should rush out to read it. But if you’re looking for a touching, and occasionally insightful, parable that reads quickly — if you wish to kill some time, in other words 😉 — scoop it up. You’ll be just as well off, I think, with or without it.

      I am thrilled, however, that you found something insightful to carry with you in my review of the book! Above all, that makes the reading of it and writing about it a thoroughly worthwhile choice, for me. 🙂

        1. Sweet! Can’t wait to read more about her! About to crack that open again for a few pages. I’ll keep you updated on my findings, for sure!

  2. nice book review, I may have to give it a read. And as for “Rock bottom is a wonderful place to start anew” all I can say is I know what that is all about after last year.

    1. Extremely sorry to hear about your experience with 2017; I can certainly relate. Like I said to Susan, above, this is a light read and worthy only for those who want a quick and sometimes insightful parable, but I wouldn’t call it necessary reading. However, for some, it may be the absolute bee’s knees. Here’s to a better 2018, my new friend!

      1. Thanks man. If you go back in my archives it’s all there. I’ve been writing more positive stuff lately but I began this blog after being in the hospital for almost the entire month of July.

  3. ‘Zat your dog in the new photo? If so, he looks remarkably like Jesse. Great review, but for one line: “My answer to the question ‘if you could live forever, would you,’ is inexorably yes.” I see I haven’t adequately explained why such a fate would be the very definition of hell and for that, I hang my amateur philosopher’s head in shame.

    1. That is, indeed, Ludo! He’s a pure golden retriever. He stuck his head out as I was taking a FB profile pic last year (around this time; after Christmas, at any rate) and voila. One of my faves. I’ll probably change it again in a month or so. The many faces of Tom, eh?

      I really appreciate your feedback on the review, thanks! As I wrote that line, and a few others, I thought of you. Your descriptions of the possibilities inherent in immortality have affected me, no doubt. In fact, as I read through Victor’s fate (and Dor’s), and then watched an episode of season two of Dark Matter on a similar concept last night, I thought of the terribleness that could come from such a wish. Your philosophical inputs are always there, trust me. And, ultimately, they may change me.

      But I also have spent a lifetime assuring others (and myself) that every possible hell has within it a glimmer of hope, as well. A terrible future is only one possible fate; a glorious one is also always possible.

      I will probably never get to test my own theories on infinitude, or yours. But I would like to believe that while there is life, there is hope, that one can sustain one’s self longer, and that things can always get better. An endless life can, I think, mean endless hope.

      So, don’t hang that head! If we never see eye to eye on that one, we will, for eternity, learn from each other and the perspectives we don’t share, as well as the ones that we do. 😉

      1. Golden retriever, eh? I wonder if that’s what Jesse is mixed with. Humane society just called him a “shepherd mix”. Perhaps Douglas Adams can do a better job of illustrating what immortality might actually be like. From The Hitchhiker’s Guide Wikia page: “Bowerick Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged is an immortal being who became immortal after an accident with a few rubber bands, a liquid lunch, and a particle accelerator. After a period of total boredom, especially on Sunday afternoons, he decided to insult everyone in the entire universe in alphabetical order.”

        1. Hahaha! It does, in fact, help (infinitely) to have a purpose that would last an eternity. I’m still looking for my purpose for 2018. 😉

          Shepherd/Retriever would be a strong mix. I had a black shepherd/retriever in the aughts. Good dog.

          I’m trying to recall, though, from your pics… is Jesse short or long-haired?

        2. He’s pretty short-haired. And he’s rather small for a shepherd (a bit smaller than my last dog Bernadette, who was a pointer). I poked around on Google Images after I got him and photos of shepherd/lab mixes looked a lot like him. But Ludo looks even more like him.

  4. A book that doesn’t touch, tempt or teach, has failed.

    Regarding living forever, what of the following scenario, (one that appeals to me):
    Take your remaining days as a mortal.
    Take the remaining time of humanity (or its creations) and divide the latter by the former.

    Your remaining life time: 50 years (say) x 365 = 18250
    Humanity’s remaining time: 1,000,000 years
    (Is not “forever” really only until humanity, or its constructs, are kaput?)

    1M / 18250 = 55

    So, another “living forever” concept might be to wake up, for a day of your life, every 55 years. Spend the day (safely, wherever humanity has concentrated itself) wandering around, viewing the sights, marveling at the changes, and then return to sleep for another 55 years.

    1. I hadn’t considered that; what a concept! Oh man, but one day would never be enough to marvel on all the changes that humankind will have endured and discovered, about science and about itself. I would want more days! I can’t help but think, as a fellow numbers guy, that there is some sweet equation for each of us to find our bliss in that scenario. Barring true immortality, this would be a welcome alternative concept. Either way, I would endure, no?

      As I was reading the ultimate fate of Victor, though, I wondered if another underlying theme was “yes, you might want to be a part of the future, Tom (Victor), but does the future have any use for you at all?” The answer, unfortunately, was too immediately “no.”

      So, that concept will fester in me now as I seek not only to extend Tom into forever, but also to find some use for Tom in the ages to come. Just because immortality is impossible, and my uselessness is apparent, does not mean that hope is dead. On the contrary, new avenues of hope must arise. 😉

      Thank you for reading and for such an insightful response, AM! I agree, a book must touch, tempt, or teach. I suppose, that in creating this dialogue, The Time Keeper seems to be getting better, eh?

      1. > some sweet equation.
        I’ve read way too much SciFi in my lifetime; can’t remember where things come from. But I do recall one story, a murder mystery, oddly enough, which includes “stasis capsules”. Like a one-way time machine: remain in stasis for a million years, then popup, for as long as you like, before returning to stasis.
        The Larry Niven timeline also has something like this.
        Yes, some sweet spot of division, that would be nice.

        1. As I recall, Card’s Ender series also utilized the concept of “leap’s forward” and stasis, allowing Andrew Wiggin to guide humanity in its progression long after his initial lifetime. Now, this leads me to think of a different concept of time, and one’s longer impact on the future, from the Grendel comic. Hunter Rose created a concept that became a legacy that became, for all intents and purposes, the Devil of the future of mankind.

          Still, I prefer the immortality that keeps our own consciousness intact, every day, forevermore.

          Mine is the most impossible dream of all, eh? 😂

  5. To think that you said you’d never written a review (so please bear with me!) makes this piece of writing very precious. It was refreshing, stirring and captivating. And your philosophy of optimism and hope invigorating and, hopefully, contagious.

    The truth is said to be found in movement, in hope. But, we must know how to hope if we want to go higher and farther. Looking far into the past or the future does not always provide us with satisfactory answers. But, looking into ourselves does. And you, my dear friend, hold the hold the world record.

    BTW, that pic is just gorgeous.

    1. I was so hoping you’d like it, Bojana! I remember you telling me not to change the other one, so your opinion influenced my decision when choosing a post-Christmas replacement. This one, by the way, is from about a year ago. Quite a bit more frost in the scruff than 2013, eh?

      Thank you for the amazing feedback on the review. I had no idea how I was going to approach my thoughts on the book, so I just started writing about it. I didn’t want to write an objective review but a personal one. I wanted Tom, being Tom, reflected. Susan said, above, that hope comes through in so many things that I write. Your thoughts seem to concur, and elaborate, that. I am eternally grateful.

      Here’s to hope, my friend, and to eternal evolution. Prost, as you say. 😎🍻😎

      1. So much the better, opting for a personal approach, I mean. Isn’t it what we do when reading a book, identifying (or not), looking for similarities and differences, deducting the important/applicable. That’s how we learn about the world and ourselves, that’s how we grow not only intellectually, but also emotionally. The more knowledge we accumulate, the more we develop.
        And as we undergo development, we initiate a change in others. Who knows, maybe we can alter this world, at least a bit.

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