'Time! It's passing. Oh, God. Time!' mourned the legal adviser to Oz, transfixed by his wristwatch after his first and last joint. Who said nothing profound ever came of smoking the weed? Time was passing. It has passed. Twenty-five years after the dope, the hair, the music and the flowery rhetoric flowed tree, those of us who were young enough to inhabit the land of spiked milk and honeyed hash fudge are in our forties and fifties. Which is only to be expected, although, of course, it was the last thing that anyone did, in fact, expect. There's nothing more difficult to get a solid grip on (except perhaps the Anthropic Principle in quantum physics) than the passage of time between being young, and the discovery that, at best, you're halfway through your allocation It feels as if an error has been made - a decade skipped by some careless calendar designer. Try and make sense of it: 25 years ago I was 23. All right, that's not so difficult. Twenty-five years before that the date was 1945: the war had just ended, and I was two years short of being born. Twenty-five years from now it will be 2020 and I'll be 73 (maybe). Which is ridiculous - these are altogether different sorts of 25 years, surely? Why didn't anyone tell us about time passing, the way it accelerates, how it skitters along without so much as a pardon-me-do-you-know-you're-in-the-way? It would be a simple enough statement: you get three lots of 25 years and then you die. It's possible, of course, that someone might have mentioned it, but we had the music ('The Times They Are a-Changing'; 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction'; 'My g-g-Generation') turned up too high to hear.
LRB 6 July 1995 | PDF Download