A New Way to Think About Life

The title of this post promises a lot — suffice it to say, the following won’t solve all of your problems, but it might offer a new and constructive way to think about some of them: the Cosmic Timekeeper theory. I’ve included this sketch because I tried to make this woman look world-weary and wise.

As a procrastinator, I’ve often confronted the following scenario that is no doubt familiar to many of you: something is due at noon, and it is 5 AM and I haven’t come close to starting it, let alone finishing it. You could panic. Or you could keep the following scenario in mind:

It is 3 PM, long after the deadline has passed, and so has a tremendous opportunity. You are full of regret. And so you cry out to the great Cosmic Timekeeper,

“Oh man, if only I could travel back in time to actually get the assignment done! Man. I am super-bummed.”

Then the Cosmic Timekeeper emerges from a vaporous cloud, and he says, “I’ll grant you your wish — but I’ll only transport you to 5 AM.”

“That would be rad! Whoa, thanks so much!”

“Aha! But there’s a catch. You will not know that I, the Cosmic Timekeeper, sent you back in time. You will be full of despair and tiredness, and once again you’ll fail to complete the assignment! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

“No I won’t!”

“Yes you will!”

“No I won’t!”

Etc. So the next time 5 AM rolls around, just remember: the Cosmic Timekeeper has sent you back in time. Will you use it wisely, or will you be the victim of his cruel prank?

This logic extends further. Say you’ve been the victim of a terrible heartbreak — you’ve been dumped by a woman who is tremendously funny and warm, and she’s also quite striking in an unconventional way. You imagined her wandering around your future cavernous apartment with an Indian headdress, serving mixed drinks for the assembled crowd while making brilliant wisecracks. You are totally devastated.

Here’s the thing: once again, the Cosmic Timekeeper has come to the rescue.

In fact, you’re 45 years old, married to the heartbreaker with two precocious and very sweet little kids. The marriage, however, is dissolving. Her tremendous qualities have, as you knew all along, a dark undercurrent: she can be cutting, and she’s drawn to the hard stuff. She has a tough exterior, but she compartmentalizes and blocks you out. She’s easy to love, but tough to live with and tough to fully trust. And having scraped and fought for her so assiduously, there’s been a built-in asymmetry in the relationship almost from the start, reinforcing whatever insecurities you might have about her caginess and fundamental inaccessibility.

You’re a wreck, basically, and you’re very worried about these amazing kids — you worry that a divorce will damage them in a deep and profound way. This is not a pleasant scenario.

So you turn, as always, to the Cosmic Timekeeper, who says, “Yeah, I can take you back to the point before this relationship will cause you grievous harm. But you’re not going to like it.”

“Honestly, I can deal with some minor unpleasantness.”

“Are you sure?”


“You’re going to cling for dear life. You won’t have the guts to cut loose, so she’ll have to do it, which will sting and you’ll fight it.”

“Dude. Give me some credit.”

“Here goes, fool.”

There you are.

This will strike you as Panglossian — surely this is the best of all possible worlds. There is a difference. At 5 AM, you still have seven hours. You can do it. At 11 AM, the window has closed. Even the Cosmic Timekeeper would find sending you there to be a cruel trick. This framework applies to moments when sloggy depression can blind you to the fact that, yes you can.

To students: power through, finish the paper. In my student days, I’d eat chocolate-covered coffee beans, which were disgusting, and I’d take periodic cold showers. Others drink coffee. It’s distinctly possible that (a) you’ll make it happen and (b) it’ll be an excellent, excellent paper. Inspiration strikes in the wee hours. To the lovelorn: think about it — I mean, come on?

The Cosmic Timekeeper is on your side.