The Time Keeper, Mitch Albom

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One day, her loneliness and kind heart encourage her to care for two sick travelers. They too have have been banished. To keep the illness from spreading to their own community, they have been sent away. This seems cruel but it is not addressed in the same manner that Nim’s cruelty to his subjects is ignored. Although  Dor entreats her to stay away from them, she cannot be cruel and soon she is infected with their illness and begins to die. Dor is devastated. He runs and runs 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, 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 he basically learns the error of his ways, until heaven meets earth. The way that happens is fanciful and very creative.

Dor has to contemplate what use it is to measure time, what problems the measurement ultimately created and he has to learn how to help those who are corrupted by their need to have more control over time.

Finally the day comes when heaven meets earth and the apparition appears again. Dor is instructed that he might free himself if he listens to the voices in the pool of water created by his tears and saves two lost souls, two humans who cannot deal with the time they have allotted or the circumstances within which they are living.

Victor is terminally ill, and wants to find a way to give himself more time, Sarah is an unhappy, lonely teenager who has deceived herself and is being bullied by social media. She wants to end her time.

Bringing both of these misguided souls together is how the problem is solved for Dor.Using an hourglass and the sands of time, each sees the folly of their ways, each learns that leaving the earth 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. The return has consequences too, however.

The book is inspirational. It passes on a feeling of peace and hope, an appreciation for simplicity and perhaps less frenzy in our lives.

(I was surprised that the book really does not condemn his cruelty but condemns Dor for his thinking, over thinking perhaps, but it is this thoughtfulness, this need to understand, that consumes him and for which he is judged.

 

Albom has created a fable about the first time it was every measured, about why it was measured, who measured it and the consequences for the measurer and those that live by the clock. He creates a fantasy about the problems created when we become preoccupied with schedules and the passage of time.

 

 

There are many messages in the book, messages which now follow.

 Dor learns that when time was measured, people became more and more discontented as they competed more and more for control over it or to include as much as they could within its confines.

When someone is able to be efficient, he desires more and more to fill the empty time he has created. He continues to want more and more and becomes greedy for more to do and less happy with what he has already accomplished.

I was left with many questions. Are Alli and Dor metaphors for Adam and Eve. One sinned and the other is banished too. Is the appartion the son of G-d in Christianity? Is it the representative of Jesus. Slavery existed in the days of the bible and Nim has slaves. Is he the pharaoh?Dor is essentially punished for thinking. Nim is not punished for being a cruel ruler. It would seem that time is not the biggest problem, although the need to control it and measure seems to be the need for power of others and the world. Was g-d interested in mindless obedience since Dor was punished essentially for thinking, or was it for his greed in wanting more, wanting to control and organize the events around him. Was that the sin; was it avarice, or the need for power? Nim seemed more dangerous. He wanted power over people. Did power over time give Dor power over people? Was the act of wanting something the actual enemy or sin? Is the whole story about having control and power. Victor wanted control over his time of death, so he arranged to freeze his body shortly before he dies. His money gives him the power to arrange this. He doesn’t tell his wife because she will disapprove. Sarah wanted control over her life because she has been humiliated. She had no power, had unrealistic dream. She chooses to end her life at the time she chooses. She doesn’t confide in her mother. Neither think about the pain their decisions will cause to others. Dor has created this problem for them by creating a measurement for time so that they are always waiting and watching for time to pass or for a particular moment.

There are many stereotypes and themes in the book. It is about  loss, loneliness, divorce, death, illness, abandonment, hunger for power, bullying, success, greed and failure.

The ultimate message 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. We need to live within the moment, not look for the moment coming, live in the moment we have, 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.

If time is endless, is it special any longer? If there is no concept of time, do we lose the fear of losing it, of it running out eventually? Do we nurture the obsession to prevent the end of time because we are preoccupied with its passage?

The book harkens back to a biblical time. “G-d limits our days to make each one precious”. In the book we are told that we lived but were not alive. We are too occupied with the act of living, rather than the act of enjoying the living.

 

 

 

“man wants to control his existence but no one owns time” “when you measure life, you aren’t living it.”

“with endless time, nothing is special. Without loss, sacrifice, we can’t appreciate what we have.” “g-d limits our days to make each one precious”.

“I lived but I was not alive”. What does that mean?

Who is the old man who imprisons Dor. Is he the son of g-d?

 

 

Dor is essentially punished for thinking. Nim is not punished for being a cruel ruler. It would seem that time is not the biggest problem, although the need to control it and measure it is also a need for power as Nim wants power to control others. Was g-d interested in mindless obedience since dor was punished essentially for thinking, or was it for greed in wanting more, was that the sin, avarice? Nim seemed more dangerous. He wanted power of people. Did power over time give dor power over people? Was the wanting of something the enemy of dor and nim? Is the whole story about having control and power. Victor wanted control over his time of death, by preventing it by freezing his body before he has died. He doesn’t tell his wife because she will disapprove. Sarah wanted control over her life and Ethan and chooses to end her life at a time she chooses. She doesn’t confide in her mother. Neither think about the pain their decisions will cause to others. Dor has created this problem for them by creating a measurement for time so that they are always waiting and watching for time to pass for a particular moment.)

 

Instead, he is imprisoned in a cave by someone who represents G-d, someone who had warned him years ago to stop tampering with the measurements. Why did he want to measure things? What purpose did it serve? He was told it would have devastating results. He is condemned to stay in the cave until heaven meets earth, which turns out to be thousands of years, although time has stopped for him and he has not aged, he has simply grown a bit unkempt, as his hair and beard have not been cut.

At that time, he is given a way out of the cave. He must listen to the cries of the people agonizing about time, choose two and try to effect a change in attitude, try to learn from them why he never should have sought measure it, to begin with and set himself free.
The three main problematic issues concerning the measurement of time are 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.

Dor wants to save his wife’s life, Sarah wants to take her life and Victor wants to extend his life. Each one is trapped by the idea of time. Each wants to have control of themselves or someone else, in some way. Time has done this to them because controlling time is power.

There are many messages in the book, messages of inspiration and faith. Paraphrased or quoted, here are some:

Once we counted time, we lost contentment.”

“What man does to be more efficient makes him want more, hunger for more, he becomes greedy and discontented.”

“man wants to control his existence but no one owns time” “when you measure life, you aren’t living it.”

“with endless time, nothing is special. Without loss, sacrifice, we can’t appreciate what we have.” “g-d limits our days to make each one precious”.

“I lived but I was not alive”. What does that mean?

Who is the old man who imprisons Dor. Is he the son of g-d?

 

 

Dor is essentially punished for thinking. Nim is not punished for being a cruel ruler. It would seem that time is not the biggest problem, although the need to control it and measure it is also a need for power as Nim wants power to control others. Was g-d interested in mindless obedience since dor was punished essentially for thinking, or was it for greed in wanting more, was that the sin, avarice? Nim seemed more dangerous. He wanted power of people. Did power over time give dor power over people? Was the wanting of something the enemy of dor and nim? Is the whole story about having control and power. Victor wanted control over his time of death, by preventing it by freezing his body before he has died. He doesn’t tell his wife because she will disapprove. Sarah wanted control over her life and Ethan and chooses to end her life at a time she chooses. She doesn’t confide in her mother. Neither think about the pain their decisions will cause to others. Dor has created this problem for them by creating a measurement for time so that they are always waiting and watching for time to pass for a particular moment.)

Dor created the measurement of time, and as a result, he is condemned to spend thousands of years in a cave, until heaven meets earth. At that time, he is given a way out of the cave. He must listen to the cries of the people agonizing about time, choose two and try to effect a change in attitude, try to learn from them why he never should have sought measure it, to begin with.
This book is so creative and inspirational. It leaves the reader with a spiritual feeling and a faith in the future and an appreciation for the moment. In ancient times, before time was a known quantity, three children play together…Nim, Alli and Dor.
Alli and Dor grow up and marry.  Nim grows up to be a king and he rules over his people, sometimes with cruelty, although that does not seem to matter in the book.
When Nim wants Dor to help him build a tower to heaven, so he can rule from there and defeat the gods, Dor refuses and he is banished. Leaving their three children behind with his parents, (like Adam and Eve?) Alli and Dor leave the home they love to settle in a desolate place. Alli is kind and very lonely. When a couple comes through, obviously ill with some disease, Dor begs her not to help them and to stay away. She cannot and soon she becomes ill and near death. He runs away, up the tower, into the heavens and beholds an apparition he saw when he was younger, an apparition that warned him about keeping time with his sticks which was like an early sundial. Because he has brought this time keeping upon the people, they are frenzied, controlled by schedules.
He is imprisoned in a cave for thousands of years by the G-d’s representative. He must stay until heaven meets earth and he becomes the image of Father Time.

Finally when the stalagmite meets the stalactite, heaven meets earth, the apparition appears again and tells him he can be free if he can figure out how to help two people.  He tells him to listen to the voices in the pool of tears. He hears Sarah and Victor.

Dor is essentially punished for thinking. Nim is not punished for being a cruel ruler. It would seem that time is not the biggest problem, although the need to control it and measure it is also a need for power as Nim wants power to control others. Was g-d interested in mindless obedience since dor was punished essentially for thinking, or was it for greed in wanting more, was that the sin, avarice? Nim seemed more dangerous. He wanted power of people. Did power over time give dor power over people? Was the wanting of something the enemy of dor and nim? Is the whole story about having control and power. Victor wanted control over his time of death, by preventing it by freezing his body before he has died. He doesn’t tell his wife because she will disapprove. Sarah wanted control over her life and Ethan and chooses to end her life at a time she chooses. She doesn’t confide in her mother. Neither think about the pain their decisions will cause to others. Dor has created this problem for them by creating a measurement for time so that they are always waiting and watching for time to pass for a particular moment.)

Dor wanted to stop time so alli wouldn’t die of the plague she contracted from the couple she helped.

Victor wants to extend time because he has terminal cancer and has run out of options.

Sarah wants to slow time so she can be with ethan but ethan posts insulting posts on facebook about her, and she no longer wants to live, she is so humiliated.

Each is trapped by their attachment to time.

Over a period of time he gets used to the modern day and takes a job working in a watch store. Victor wants a particular watch and he finds it for him. Sarah asks for a particular watch and he finds it for her. Both are obsessed with time in one way or another.

Paraphrased messages of the book:

once we counted time, we lost contentment.”

“What man does to be more efficient makes him want more, hunger for more, he becomes greedy and discontented.”

“man wants to control his existence but no one owns time” “when you measure life, you aren’t living it.”

“with endless time, nothing is special. Without loss, sacrifice, we can’t appreciate what we have.” “g-d limits our days to make each one precious”.

“I lived but I was not alive”. What does that mean?

Who is the old man who imprisons Dor. Is he the son of g-d?

However, isn’t there a difference between an 86 yr. old wanting to freeze his body and extend his life and choose the time on his own to have some control and a 17 year old who chooses to end her life in a car in a garage from carbon monoxide poisoning because of  cruelty and loneliness…she has been bullied by ethan and his friends. She is ridiculed. Victor is the boss and controls others, she is out of control totally. He is a winner, she feels she is a loser. He is being hurt by age and the cruelty of fate and disease, she is being hurt by people who should know better. 12/31/12 and it is when Victor and Sarah have chosen to end their lives.

How does dor stop them from their plans and return to his own time? With the hourglass and the sands of time forming a tunnel forward and backward in time.

The Mayan calendar says the world will end in 2012, since the calendar ends then.

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About omasvoice

Who am I? I am you. I am everyone out there who loves to read and discuss and voice an opinion!
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Books for Adults, Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

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