THE man swings his axe into the stump and as he raises it for another blow the belated "chunk" of iron striking wood comes to my ear. He's not far off, perhaps a fifth of a mile; a distance I could walk in about three minutes. The sound comes to me a second after the sight, and if he were 186,000 miles away, the light reflected from his image would also take one second to get to me. He's three minutes away if I walk, one second away if I hear him, and about a millionth of a light-second away if I were riding a photon.

All of it, however, is in the past. The wall between now and then may be thin and transparent, but it is harder than diamond, more lasting than bronze. The events of a second ago can no more be influenced, touched or changed than if they had occurred one thousand years before I was born.

But, thought and imagination make nothing of this impediment, and in my silent inward mind the man chopping wood is right here and now, all the time.

February 3, 1997