SWIDGERS and Time
“I believe in one thing – that only a life lived for others is a life worth living.”
What and who are Swidgers?
You know those random moments in life that can change everything forever? Now imagine if there was someone who knew what they were and had even been put in the Universe to help them along. Well, those Cosmic Beings are Swidgers. They are human in appearance but have a special energy running through their bodies which gives them an instinctive sense of danger ahead and as a result find a way to very slightly alter your Timepaths with a ‘a switch or sway, a shove or a nudge’. Hence the name Swidgers. And one such is young William, the hero of the SWIDGER Time Fantasy Adventure book series.
William in the story is about to come of age, but as he approaches this stage of his young life he discovers that he has a distinct gift, for occasionally, Swidgers have granted to them unusual abilities by the Cosmos. And the person who has been sent to help him develop this gift is a lady who goes by the name of Granny.
Oh Granny! She’ll make you laugh out loud because Granny does what she likes, says what she likes, eats what she likes, is often very, very silly, and doesn’t give a fig what people think of her. Oh, but she’s as smart as a whip as well. Now put William and Granny together and you have a unique, loving and unbreakable bond.
Swidgers are essentially Time Beings who know that even just a split second can save you from disaster. They tripped you up before you crossed the road and so missed that skidding car! Or they got in your way as the roof tile fell and as a result it smashed into the pavement and not your head. That’s the work of a Swidger. Keeping an eye on you… helping you avoid that terrible accident ahead…
As the series develops, Time itself plays a bigger part and in a way becomes almost a character in the drama. You see, in the Swidger Universe, ‘Time’ is a sentient energy, able to make choices and even allow, for a short period anyway, alternate realities to exist. Essentially though the SWIDGER Time Adventure book series is an entertaining yarn. Come along for the ride – enjoy the fun, the perils and the mystery… and see how sometimes in life it really is the smallest moments that can make the biggest difference!
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will never find another.”
“A story without a moral is like a meal without a sweet dish.”
The Theme of SWIDGERS
People often say of someone ‘Oh, she touched so many lives’. Well, in a way, Swidgers are this idea, only in fantasy form. And from it comes the main premise of the books: The smallest good can put right the greatest wrong. At the core of the story is the idea that what Swidgers are really doing with their interventions in human lives is setting right our messed up world where Time, Life and the Universe have been put, to borrow a phrase, ‘out of joint’. The Miltonian Fall of Man as seen in Paradise Lost was presented as a moral lapse but here in the Swidger way of seeing things, it is a disjointing of Life, Time and the Universe that was made by a Malevolent Energy at the moment of Creation.
And the emphasis throughout this Time Tale is on the small and apparently insignificant incidents of life. The famous ‘Butterfly Effect’ that is explored in so many Time Tales. Events can seem small, isolated and unconnected to anything significant, but in the great scheme of things they’re not. Like in a game of chess, the move of one pawn can later be seen as essential to the whole game. And what William has is the ability to see the chess game, or a person’s Timepath, as a kind of Oneness where all the pieces move as if at the same moment. That is William’s special gift, where connectivity is all.
If the theme of SWIDGERS could be expressed as simply as possible it would be: Don’t blame life’s ills on a mythical moral lapse, but instead discover how you, with that smallest good, can help put right the biggest of wrongs.
“You can’t tell any kind of a story without having some kind of a theme, something to say between the lines.”
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Swidgers and Time: The Back Story
As Granny is taking William from the hospital following his accident early in Book One, she sees on the notice board various posters about flu jabs and measles. William tells us that Granny seemed drawn to one particular image that featured a young man on stage holding a skull. Hamlet, of course. Granny then says quietly to herself, “The Time is out of joint…” William tells the reader, ‘I had no idea what that meant, yet the day would come when I did. And never would I see the Universe in the same way again.’
Granny repeats those words, ‘The Time is out of joint’. A famous prince, she explains, once said that phrase in an old story and he cursed the world that he’d been born into and that it was he who had been given the duty to set it right. “But,” she adds, as Swidgers “we don’t curse what we do, we relish it!”
Typical of that young prince, Hamlet did believe it was all about himself – “Oh curs’d spite, / That ever I was born to set it right.” Yet suppose Time really is ‘out of joint’. Suppose as well that at the moment of Creation, Time and the Universe were put out of kilter by a life-hating Energy. This Force was happy enough with supernovas and shooting stars, but gave a big thumbs down to Life – ‘Just the fireworks,’ it said. The Cosmos though did want Life, but, out of spite, on the day all worlds were born, that malevolent Force fractured Time and the Universe, putting them, as Hamlet famously said, ‘out of joint’. And we only have to look at the mess around us to see the misery that has resulted.
Yet the Cosmos fought back with Beings tasked with putting Life, Time and the Universe once again in alignment. Swidgers. And unlike that self-absorbed prince, Swidgers don’t curse their role, the do indeed, as Granny says, relish it! With their tiny adjustments to our Timepaths, Swidgers aren’t then just saving us from mishaps, they’re slowly putting right our messed up world. Small changes, and only one at a time, but, as the saying goes, ‘Every Little Helps’.
“Show enough back story to allow the reader to glean and make assumptions about what remains behind the curtain, yet continues to influence the character’s worldview, attitudes, decisions, and actions.”
“A child’s own story is a dream, but a good story is a dream that is true for more than one child.”
Margaret Wise Brown
Time – Echo’s Story on the Beach in Dungeness
Echo’s tale that Granny persuades him to tell late one night under the stars on the shingly beach of Dungeness explore, like a fable, the role of Swidgers in the Universe:
“‘One night, long ago, after a dog-weary day, perhaps on an evening such as this, the Universe was fast asleep. Dreaming. And what was its fantasy? It was dreaming it had become a real Universe. Oh, such happy thoughts. But then the Universe was shaken from its sleep. Something disturbing had frightened it. The Universe slowly began to open its eyes. ‘Oh my,’ it said, suddenly seeing the deep blackness of the night, ‘it was only meant to be a dream.’ The Universe then shuddered for that night sky was now as real as real can be. And cold. And lonely. And lost. Oh, if only it could go back to its dream, thought the Universe, it had been such a happy dream where all was good and pure and in its place. So that’s what the Universe tried to do. Remember its dream. But somehow it was always just out of reach. But, William Arthur, our Universe never gave up. It’s still hoping, one day, to dream its dream again. If Time will allow. And when it does, all will be well once more.
‘You see, that is what we are, young Swidger,’ Echo whispers to William, ‘the hope of a dream in a world, a sad world, that awoke too soon.’”
Echo’s tale is a Creation Tale of sorts, not quite in the same vein or style as Milton, but a Creation Story nevertheless. It takes a while for William to fully appreciate the importance of this fable in the Swidger philosophy, but when he does finally see the bigger picture and his true and essential place in it, well, that is the moment William becomes fully mature.
“If there were only one truth, you couldn’t paint a hundred canvases on the same theme.”
“Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution – more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on: story told us what to hang on to.”
Lisa Cron in WIRED FOR STORY
William, The Swidger’s ‘Hopeful Monster’
Swidgers know what they have to do, they somehow feel it inside. With a sway and shove or a dodge and nudge, Swidgers make adjustments to human Timelines, saving us from accidents and dangers that lie ahead. However, once a Timeline has been changed, Swidgers don’t hang about to see what happens, they move on, rarely knowing what the accident might have been or how the life of whoever it was has been changed. A Swidger then is like the ant who knows where each blob of mud must go, but never sees the hill.
Yet in the Swidger universe, as in ours, there are such people as ‘Hopeful Monsters’. This term was coined by the German-born American geneticist Richard Benendict Goldschmidt (1878 -1958) and refers to marco-evolotion and macro-mutation. The idea is that that evolution has, for whatever, made a sudden jump. A gene mutates and so some people grow up to be exceptionally tall, weirdly hairier, or with an unexpected extra toe or finger. Freaks of nature perhaps, but such changes can sometimes bring advantages for humans. And for Swidgers it’s no different. The Cosmos knows that every so often a little something special is needed. And one such Hopeful Monster is the Swidger hero of our story, young William.
Exactly what William’s special gift or gifts could be would be to give away too much of the plot. After all, Swidgers is a mystery story. However, let’s just say the words ‘Time Loop’ and ‘Traveller’ to give you a clue.
“Biologists seem inclined to think that because they have not themselves seen a ‘large’ mutation, such a thing cannot be possible. But such a mutation need only be an event of the most extraordinary rarity to provide the world with the important material for evolution.”
Richard Benendict Goldschmidt (1878 -1958)
“If you’re going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all.”
William – Time Being
Swidgers, human in form but with an Energy running through them, alter Timepaths with ‘a sway, a switch, a shove or nudge’, yet never knowing the good they have done. But William is different and his Mentor Granny understands this and so, as part of William’s preparation for what is to come, she takes him to look at a sculpture of two chickens in the shape on a single egg. But William doesn’t see this at first:
It looked like a brown egg. Split down the middle.
‘A big brown egg,’ I replied, ‘split down the middle.’
‘Yes, yes, but what’s it doing?’
I tried again. The egg was divided into two halves and had bits of metal sticking out, representing, I guessed, bits of shell.
‘Hatching,’ I suggested.
This wasn’t going to be easy. I mean, it was only a big brown egg about to hatch.
‘Look beyond what you think it is and see what it could be.’
I didn’t really understand art, but, I thought, I’ll give it another go. And suddenly I did see it. Yes, yes, it wasn’t just a breaking egg. You see, the shells weren’t quite smooth, they had engravings on them with shapes like feathers. Yes, now I looked properly, I saw the breaking egg could be: two chickens, one on top of the other. And those cracked bits of shell at the edges, they could be, if I wanted to see them that way, ruffled feathers. I told Granny this and she did a quick spin on her heels.
‘Oh very good, very good, very good. And what is it these chickens are doing?’
Hmmm? What to say? The chickens, well, now I saw them as chickens, were doing exactly was what I’d seen Gertrude and Pistol doing at Echo’s. Only this was The Royal Academy of Art so, I thought, I’d better use the word that we’d been taught to say at school.
‘They’re, er, copulating,’ I mumbled.
‘Copulating!’ shouted Granny, attracting the attention of a group of bemused Chinese tourists and two elderly English ladies, ‘They’re not copulating – they’re at it! At it!’
Yes, they certainly were.
‘The curve of the lady chicken’s beak. That’s a smile that’s never turned away a stranger! Oh, but look at the fella on top. See where his eyes are, wandering off, already on the lookout for his next conquest. Not ones for loyalty, aren’t cockerels. As Mother used to say, ‘All sail and no anchor.’ So then, my budding Leonardo, what it you see now? Egg or chickens?’
‘Both,’ I replied, ‘And something else.’
The elderly ladies began to move closer.
‘Go on,’ said Granny, encouragingly.
‘Well, it’s what people say: ‘Which came first, the chicken of the egg?’ But here what the chickens are doing will lead to the egg. So perhaps it doesn’t matter which came first because chicken and egg are ultimately one and the same thing?’’
‘Hells, bells and buckets of frogs! And you’ve worked that out for yourself? Well done, my brush of many colours! That is what art does: makes you see this as that, and that as this. Similtanasity. Yes I agree, it sounds more like a cure for haemorrhoids, but it’s given you that new idea. And that is what will make you into a poet. The Third-Eyer thinker you will need to be.’
One of the elderly ladies now tapped Granny on the shoulder.
‘Excuse me,’ she enquired, ‘are you here every day? You’re so much better than the Audio Guide.’
Understanding causality is essential to knowing how Time and the Universe work together to stop, as it were, ‘everything happening at once’. But William and Granny are Time Beings and as Swidgers they see everything differently. To Swidgers, Causality is less like a snooker ball hitting another and so causing it to move, it is more like that sculpture of the chicken and the egg, that is a Oneness without a starting or end point. And it’s that Swidger understanding of Time that in Book Two allows William to move thorough Time itself.
Swidgers were created by the Cosmos to put right Life, the Universe and Time. Swidgers are then Moral Beings as well as Time Beings. Part of their nature therefore restricts what they are able to do, and in practice this means that neither William nor Granny can lie, nor can they act violently against a human being or another Swidger. This of course has ramifications in the plot, but both Granny and William finds ways around their limitation, always in an inventive way, often dramatic and sometimes even comic.
“‘It’s against reason,’ said Filby.
‘What reason?’ said the Time Traveller.
H.G. Wells, THE TIME MACHINE
“There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.”
What is Time in the Swidger World?
There’s a theory going around in speculative science that the Universe is basically made up of four Energies, namely Space (which is apparently still expanding, but into what nobody knows), Stuff (we’re ‘stuff’ and so are the stars and the moon and custard), Pure Energy (including all that Dark Energy out there that no one really understands) and, perhaps oddly, Time itself. Yes, some people think Time is an Energy.
All theories around the creation of the Universe raise questions such as, ‘Where did all this stuff come from?’ and ‘What was there before there was nothing?’ The Swidgers answer to this is that the Universe originated from an Energy that existed without Space or Time and therefore the questions of where or before are irrelevant, as there was no where or before. In the Swidger view, when the Universe came about there was a divide in this Energy into Time, Space and Pure Energy. And somewhere in the mix was that Dark Force Power which, at the beginning of Creation, chose against Life and just wanted the stars, the comets and the asteroids. But in the Swidger way of seeing things, the Cosmos overruled this Dark Force, but out of spite that Malevolent Energy shoved Time and Life and the Universe out of sync, resulting in our imperfect world.
But what of Time itself? Did it or indeed does it still have any say in the matter? Well, Time is ‘out of joint’ with Life and can’t do anything about that, but occasionally Time, a sentient entity of sorts in Swidger thinking, allows options to be created. Maybe a Time Loop here and there. Or, in certain circumstances, a Split Identity as a result of a fracture in Space and Time. And even, in the rarest instances, Travellers in Time. You see, Time in the Swidger Universe is an Energy, just like Life itself. It is not ‘alive’ in the same way bunny rabbits are alive, but it has an awareness of sorts.
In Book Two, THE TIME THEY SAVED TOMORROW, Time allows a Time Divide as a result of a seemingly insignificant moment of chance created by a Swidger, and as a result, two distinct Timepaths are created with Split Identities. This, speculates Granny, could only have been possible with Time’s compliance and indeed, to some degree, instigation. Later, it is revealed that there is a more concerning Time Divide that has created a strange Time Loop of unexpected duration. To say anymore would be to give away too much of the plot, but the point is Time in the Swidger Universe is a thinking Energy.
That said, Time’s constant is that it is morally and ethically neutral. There are occasions when Time must choose between those options it itself has helped create, but these are never good/bad choices as such, but rather practical decisions concerning the many Paradoxes of Time. But again, to say too much would be to give away too much of the story.
Time in Swidger philosophy is not just an Energy such as radiation or heat or light, but an aware and conscious Sentient Entity. Occasionally Time allows certain options to exist and develop and as a result it must occasionally decide between them, However, it favours no one side, no one person, no one philosophy or creed. Its decisions are always based on its own logical perspective. And one can never be sure what exactly that is.
“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
“The sun was already declining and each of the trees held a premonition of night.”
The Philosophy of Time – ‘What is Time?’
Neither William nor Granny are grand philosophers but in Book Two of the Swidger series, THE DAY THEY SAVED TOMORROW, William comes across a long handwritten letter entitled ‘What is Time?’ Who wrote this letter and why it was written would be to give away too much of the plot, but it turns out the letter’s essential purpose is to encourage William to understand Time, and ultimately, in a uniquely Swidger way, make Time a part of himself in order to travel through it.
The writer of the letter never reveals his name but he does say that Kurt Gödel, the Austrian philosopher and logistician, was once his Mentor, and that Kurt Gödel, one of the leading mathematicians of the twentieth century, was also secretly a Swidger.
Kurt Gödel famously presented Albert Einstein on his seventieth birthday with equations based on Einstein’s own theories that showed, at least mathematically, that it was possible to travel in time. The anonymous handwritten letter that William discovers goes on to say that it was this same Kurt Gödel who helped the author understand the Energies of Time and Space, as William himself must do now.
The letter that has come into William’s possession then goes on to explain that while he was a student at The University of Vienna in the 1920s, Kurt Gödel read, as all good students of philosophy in those days would have done, the philosophical works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. G.W.F. Hegel. The letter makes clear that Hegel was not himself a Swidger, yet for whatever reason he always strived for a Swidger’s understanding of Time. Or at least the nearest a human being could achieve. The letter does not go into too many details about Hegel’s thinking, except to say that what interested Kurt Gödel about Hegel was the struggle in thought and mind Hegel went through in trying to understand Time and Space. Or, to use the word Hegel used in his philosophical writings, the dialectic. The concept of the dialectic goes back to Plato, but in Hegel’s work it is more about opposing ideas (thesis and antithesis) and how, when these contradictory concepts are brought into contact and conflict with each other, one can create a new and higher level of truth (synthesis).
G.W.F. Hegel had a great mind, yet full understanding of Time and Space always eluded him. It was as if, as the letter says, Hegel wanted to be able to think like a Swidger, yet such understanding was simply out of his reach. Close, as they say, but no cigar. The reason the mysterious author of the letter tells William all this is that the writer knows William must face his own struggle, and perhaps Hegel’s method of ‘negation’, as he called it, when thinking of Time and Space may help someone so young.
Hegel’s human limitations prevented him going as far as he wanted in his perception of Time and Space. But William is a Swidger, not a human being. Even so, understanding Hegel’s struggle may oddly help. In Hegel’s philosophy, to get to any full appreciation of what ‘Time’ is, one must ‘negate’ and eradicate the space of a point in time in favour either of the next Now or the Past Now. And for Swidger William in our story that is a Past Now. According to Hegel, the flux of Nows will then flow and follow from that first negation. This will take one into an existent abstraction and in doing so one becomes part of The Absolute Presence of Time itself.
For a Swidger Time is the Soul of Nature. And for William to Travel in Time he must find that Soul. For all Hegel’s striving, complete understanding remained out of reach. That said, the writer of the letter believes that having a sense of the struggle Hegel went through may indeed help William on his journey as a Swidger to find his true potential as a Time Being. Find the Soul of Nature. And once Time is understood, William will be a Swidger capable of Time Travel.
“The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum.”
“The state of man’s mind, or the elementary phase of mind he so far possesses, conforms precisely to the state of the world as he so far views it.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel on Time and Space
Rene Descartes said much the same thing as G.W.F. Hegel but Descartes put it more succinctly when he said, “We do not describe the world we see, we see the world we can describe.” And that’s precisely the problem when looking at Hegel’s concept of Time because the ideas explored are outside of human temporal existence and subjectively sensual understanding. And that means there are no scientific experiments of even arguments that lead to provable conclusions about Hegel’s thinking on Time and Space and what can be discussed can only be done through metaphor and abstruse language. That’s why, of course, it’s notoriously difficult or next to impossible to offer a summary or précis of his thoughts on Time, for, as he himself observed, and as Descartes did before him, philosophers are always working within their own human limitations. Hegel’s philosophy is speculative philosophy of the metaphysical kind. And that’s the right word for it for meta means that which is beyond.
Hegel’s endeavour to understand Time is done essentially through illustration and metaphor, but such things are in themselves concessions to the limitation of the representing mind of a human being, for ‘Time’ is beyond the boundary of our human temporal existence and experience. However, putting Hegel’s concept of Time in as few words as possible, you might say that Time is an Otherness outside of ourselves and the Space we live in. We may get some sort of intuition of its true nature but it is only ever a subjective understanding through our inadequate human senses. Yes, our thoughts may spiritually make contact with the extended world of Eternal Time but that world is ultimately unseeable and unknowable.
When Hegel spoke of Time (Die Zeit) he was not thinking of it as a point in time, a second, a hour, a year, but rather Time itself, almost in the abstract. In Hegel’s thinking there was not even a ‘Now’ in Time, as in the idea of eternity being an infinite succession of Nows. No, when thinking of Time, Hegel was philosophising on the very Being of Time. As for Time Past, Time Present and Time Future, these points of time are for Hegel ‘moments of becoming’, which pass into the singularity of The Eternal Now. The Present is only the Present because the Past is ‘not’, and the Present itself ultimately cannot be, because the Future ‘is’ and will be. For Hegel, the Future always exists, but for those living, the Future is an as yet unfilled form of sensibility. Yet its existence is still real.
In Hegel’s philosophy, to have a true perception of Time, one must ‘negate’ one’s thinking of The Now as we understand it and see The Now instead as something outside a mere point of existing. If we do this then the flux of Nows will then flow and this will take us to the abstraction which is The Absolute Presence of Time itself.
Of course, all this may sound incredibly airy-fairy, if not indeed highfalutin gobbledygook, but that’s speculative philosophy for you. That said, there are those who claim that through such experiences as transcendental meditation what Hegel sought is actually possible. Connecting with the Cosmos. Touching Time, the very Soul of Nature.
G.W.F. Hegel’s thoughts on Time and Space can be found in The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, published in 1830, notably in Philosophy of Nature (Part Two) and Philosophy of Mind [Geist] (Part Three) and also The Phenomenology of Spirit published in 1807 and Lectures on Philosophy of Religion (Volume Three), published posthumously in 1832.
Swidgers are cosmic creatures, and yet in some ways Swidgers are very human too. One writer of Time Fantasy and Science Fiction who more than any other wrote about the connection between the Cosmos and Humanity was of course Carl Sagan. And here are a few of his thoughts on the Cosmos, Human Imagination, Creativity, Books, Science and Time…
“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.”
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”
“One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.”
“The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.”
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star-stuff.”
“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility
of all the human beings involved?”
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”
“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”
“Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors.”
“We judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.”
“The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”
“You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes emptiness bearable is each other.”
“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.”
“The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that into it, but the way those atoms are put together.”
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”