Perception and reality are not the same. What we experience and how we experience it are often related, but circumstances describing our unique mental calibration of the moment in which we're experiencing something can change perception. Sometimes an afternoon can drag on for painful, tedious eons. Sometimes entire weeks speed by and vanish in frenzied smoke. It all depends on what we're doing and how we feel when we are doing it.I used to regard subjective perceptions of time as little more than a human curio. But in my middle years as it's become achingly apparent that every single moment matters, I've begun to regard these curious clues of temporal perception as creative opportunities, as vital material. Let's call the experience The Pretzel Phenomenon.
Have you ever dropped one? A pretzel? This phenomenon only obtains for certain classes of pretzels. A big beer pretzel, or a long, thick pretzel rod does not exhibit The Pretzel Phenomenon, and as far as I'm concerned, salty-snack philosophers have not adequately explained why. A conventional, traditionally shaped, thin pretzel causes some sort of temporal rift that I cannot explain. Lack of explanation, however, does not mean it cannot be described. Here goes.
Everyone has dropped something in the kitchen now and again. Drop an apple on the floor and it's likely to accrue a small bruise. You can wash it off and it's fine. If it's over-ripe, and thus makes an unpalatable mess, you can cut away the squishy part with a knife. A piece of bread leaves a few crumbs, and water sloshed over the side of an overly full glass scatters droplets or, at worst, leaves a small puddle. But a pretzel? If you're holding a pretzel and for some reason it slips your grasp, time seems to slow down. You know you'll never grab it as it tumbles through space – – that's simply the cosmic reality. You also know, without a doubt, watching it as it descends towards the hard floor four feet down, that there is no such thing as good fortune in the case of a pretzel caught in gravitational thrall. It's going to hit with lethal force. It's going to shatter into a million pieces, and there's no amount of predictability or useful past precedent that will offer clues about where those pieces will skitter.
The Pretzel Phenomenon (okay, yes, that's MY term) compels me because it seems to afford a narrow, slightly superhuman opportunity to recalibrate ordinary experience and perception. In the split-second timing of it's decent, I'm aware of the pretzel's elegant tumble through space, the subtle refractions of light through the crystals of salt on its surface, the faint, darkening shadow on the floor as it approaches it's final explosive end, and, of course, my exasperation inevitably in having to crawl around and find all the pieces that have gone flying.
I am no longer annoyed by this rare event, at least not very much. In The Pretzel Phenomenon I have come to recognize a singular, predictable event in the universe where my perception and my experience transform, and I can see things before they happen. I know the trajectory, and I know the outcome: the pretzel will never be caught, and it will always shatter at the floor. I will perceive it in slo-mo like a National Geographic cameraman filming a gazelle evading a cheetah. This only works if a person actually loses his or her grip on a pretzel; a person cannot simply drop one to observe the phenomenon. It happens…when it happens. But for me, the recognition, even discovery of htis phenomenon is a personal ephiphany. I can capture the moment in my mind for endless mnemonic excavation of aesthetic and metaphysical meaning. That statement alone makes The Pretzel Phenomenon something more than the sum of it's parts.
And oh, yes: when it hits the floor, there will be many, many parts.
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