In this advanced copy of Albom’s latest book, he once again takes a simple theme, something we all think about, and he creates an inspirational, extremely creative avenue to explore it. The book is about time and how it affects our lives from moment to moment. We are all, each and every one of us, preoccupied with its measurement. What would life be like without the constraints of time? The book encourages us to think about how simple life would be if we were just enjoying the moment we were in, without thinking of all our other responsibilities in the next moment, the next appointment, the next day, the next problem.
Three children are playing in a carefree manner, running through the fields. They are Nim, Alli and Dor. Dor is consumed with the need to measure, to watch and to investigate how things occur. Alli is a sweet and gentle girl who becomes his wife. Nim likes power and control and he becomes a powerful king who is sometimes a cruel ruler.
Dor creates the forerunner to the sun dial. He is warned not to tamper with measurements by an apparition, but he ignores the warning. Later, when Dor refuses to help Nim build a tower to heaven, so he might defeat the gods and rule from above, Nim banishes him from his kingdom. Leaving his children behind with his parents, he and his wife Alli move away, dejected and lonely, they resettle elsewhere.
When Alli falls gravely ill, Dor runs frantically to the tower that Nim is building, his stairway to heaven, and he climbs it, seeking to reach the top and force the gods to stop time and help his beloved continue to live. When he reaches the top, he is imprisoned in a cave by the same apparition that warned him, years ago, to stop experimenting with his measuring. This apparition is G-d’s representative. He tells Dor he must stay in the cave until heaven neets earth, until he basically learns the error of his ways, until he learns why he should not have inflicted the knowledge of time upon innocent victims. The three main problematic issues concerning the measurement of time seem to be these: wanting to extend time, wanting to slow time and wanting to stop time. Dor wanted to stop time, Sarah wanted to slow time and Victor wanted to extend it. The need to control it is the source of the problem. It is the need for a power that is not in the control of mortal man.
Finally the day comes when heaven meets earth and the apparition reappears. Dor is instructed that he might free himself from the cave if he listens to the unending pleadings of the voices in the pool that was created by his tears, and chooses two to save, two humans who cannot deal with the time they have allotted or the circumstances within which they are living.
Dor hears two voices above all others. Victor, 86, is terminally ill, and wants to find a way to give himself more time, Sarah, 17, is an unhappy, lonely teenager who has deceived herself and is being bullied by social media. She wants to end her time. Dor, himself, wanted to stop time, and the lesson he must learn, from his next trial, is why what he did was wrong.
Using an hourglass and the sands of time, each is led to see the folly of their ways. Each learns that leaving the world, on their own terms, leaves those left behind to suffer. They realize that time is not in their control, should not be controlled and perhaps should not be given so much attention. They discover the drastic consequences of their own behavior and alter their paths. In that way, they also set Dor free and he returns to his own time to be with Alli in her last moments. Although 6 thousand years have passed, he is unaffected by its passage and is able to return to face whatever fate awaits him.
Albom has created a fable about time, about who measured it, about why and how it was measured, and about the consequences for the measurer and those that eventually must live by the tools that measure it. He creates a fantasy about the problems created when we become preoccupied with schedules and the passage of time. He creates the legend of Father Time.
For me, the ultimate message of this little tale is that although we live by time, and we want to control it, we do not own it, we have no power over it and we are helpless in the face of it. Time is the real prison for all of us. We need to live within the moment we have and not worry about the moment we don’t have, the moment that has passed or the moment that is to come. If we try too hard to control everything we do, we are consumed with the effort and lose sight of the actual living and of the enjoyment life provides.
In the end, I was left with some questions. For instance, were the characters symbols of ancient bible characters? Was Nim the pharaoh in Egypt? Was the apparition the son of son G-d? Were Alli and Dor metaphors for Adam and Eve? Was the Mayan calendar the symbol of the end of days for Father Time? Why was Dor’s wish to learn about measurement of time more of a crime than Nim’s wish for power over the people? Weren't both really desirous of the same thing, control? Why was Alli’s act of kindness punished and not rewarded?
Like the other books I have read by Mitch Albom, this book moved me with its simple premise and message.