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Hockenheimring photo

On Sunday morning, at eight central in middle Tennessee, I watch the Grand Prix. This season is the 70th anniversary of the FIA Formula One World Championship, which feels like enough of a reason to watch the races this year, but I think the only reason I watch them every Sunday, sometimes every other Sunday with the year's schedule, is because no other sport captures our particular reality like Formula One.

Not to say I've always watched Formula One, because no one has ever always done anything, despite what some sports fans note about the persistence of their fandom, but ever since I started watching the sport I've realized that Formula One, like our particular reality, is a shorter amount of time measured against a longer amount of time.

A shorter amount of time measured against a longer amount of time repeated again and again, the same as when we were children and my brother and I would pass any amount of time we had on our hands by racing on a slot car racetrack set of the Hockenheimring, a model we had of the four-and-a-half kilometer auto racing circuit located in Hockenheim, Germany. The slot cars we raced were 1/32 of the size of real Formula One race cars, which I've since learned is a common scale in the world of slot car racing and similar to model railroading with 1/32 alongside its other common scales of 1/24 and 1/64, but what I didn't know then was that around the same time my brother and I would always be racing on the homonymous circuit in our childhood bedroom, the Hockenheimring itself regularly held the German Grand Prix.

I can't recall if my father and mother had bought the racetrack set for my brother in Germany, before I was born and when they lived about one-hundred-and-fifty kilometers away from Hockenheim, or if they bought it for both of us after they immigrated to America and after I was born in Los Angeles. If the instructions that came with the racetrack set were in German, my brother wouldn't have been able to read in German by then, and if they weren't, I would have just started reading in English myself. The pictures and the symbols on the racetrack set were easy enough to interpret though, the rules self-explanatory enough too, if we wanted to recreate a race in Hockenheim.

Most Formula One drivers would have already started racing in their age-appropriately-scaled motor vehicles around the same time my brother and I were merely playing with slot cars on our not-very-similitude of the Hockenheimring, which must be why I am watching the Grand Prix on Sunday rather than racing in the Grand Prix. The drivers would have already spent most of their lives, even before becoming Formula One drivers, of which there are only twenty such positions available in the world, rehearsing a shorter amount of time measured against a longer amount of time. I am realizing now that the 1/32 scale I remember might also just be because I was 1/2 the size I am today, which is to say that even as large as they were in my childhood hands, those slot cars might have only been 1/64 of the size of the actual Formula One cars.

Whatever the reality at the time, after my brother and I would finish setting up the racetrack, the cars would then be fitted into slots running along the track and powered by an electrical current running through the slots and controlled from a pair of handheld devices, each one outfitted with a single trigger to signal the cars to go. It really is something to be able to hold an infinitive in one's hand, but then I suppose most of learning a new language, not to mention most of one's childhood and one's life before one begins to question one's being, is lived in the infinitive.

The Hockenheimring isn't a part of this year's Formula One season. Maybe the German Grand Prix will be held in Hockenheim again in the future, but considering that the Formula One World Championship runs across a lot of Europe and, unlike some world championships, also features some of its contests around the world, maybe it won't. The races themselves will continue to be a matter of seconds measured against months, so when I think of this racing season starting in July and ending in December, with the season itself being measured against seventy years of championships, what is a year or two without the German Grand Prix.

When my brother and I were done racing on the Hockenheimring, my mother would tell us to clean up the set, deconstructing the race track and putting it back in its box, whether or not it was covered in German, and likely being told to do so in Farsi. My brother would have spoken Farsi better than me at that age and would have still spoken some German better than me too, though I always responded to guten morgen in the morning and good night in German too, even if I didn't have enough of the language down to say too much between good morning and good night. This would have been around the same time I moved from the bunk-bedded room I'd shared with my brother and into my own room, when I was still afraid of the dark and when there was still a dark to be afraid of.

On Sonntag morgen, as a child who may have been just as afraid of the light, I would have to go to church. I didn't understand a lot of what they said, when they spoke in tongues or the Farsi the morning service was in, but I suppose it was something to do on Sunday. I no longer have to go to church like I had to when I was child, which must be why I am not in heaven and am only in the proverbial heaven while watching the Grand Prix on a Sunday, but the device I watch the Grand Prix on once again has the race cars at about 1/32 and sometimes 1/64 of their actual size. I am realizing now that this might be the only time I see drivers not holding onto their blue light devices while they're driving. It makes me wonder what would really happen to a shorter amount of time measured against a longer amount of time if there weren't some blue lights to simultaneously recreate the times, the blue light measured in nanometers the same as the rest of the visible light spectrum, the same with the lights of Formula One.

On Sunday morning, after I finish watching the Grand Prix, I'll go way out of my way to perform a good deed that no one is around to see, not even God, since he must still be tied up in the tail end of the second service of the morning, having so many more places to be at and all at the same time because of the ones streaming the services at home, so I figure we're at least even on this Sunday, even if I'm not one of the ones always hymning away the time until the end of the world with the word.

* * *

As I'm falling asleep, too close to two, I can still feel the blue light on my eyes. I open them, only to see the video hasn't loaded, unsure of what it is about the signal here and why it would take so long to load, so I close my eyes again until I hear the applause then open them again to the video starting on the origins of graphic communication tens of thousands of years ago in caves.

Not to be confused with the development of the first writing system, the speaker in the video reminds the audience, because there were only thirty-two symbols used in this particular form of communication mostly made up of geometric signs, but still, the signs were painted in caves all across Europe and, even as significant as the signs were in caves, the writing systems used today wouldn't have been developed without there first being a fundamental form of graphic communication. The speaker draws a line from those symbols to the pictographic systems that preceded the development of writing, the type of graphic communication where a bird is still a bird, which is to say, the pictograph of bird represents the actual bird, rather than in a writing system, where the letters b and i and r and d represent the bird, which is also to say, the cave is the cave, but the cave is not.

As I'm falling asleep with the video I think that all I seem to be developing with my hands is some carpal tunnel syndrome, either from holding this device too much or from typing too much. I wonder if any of the cave painters ever suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome.

I remember reading about the blue light of this device being bad for me and I remember reading about that on this device, but then I suppose the blue light is not as bad for me as it is for the ones who have to unearth the materials to make the batteries for all these devices. I don't know if I should search for the answers to this device on this device or not. The searches on these devices never seem to lead to answers, only frequently asked questions, and the last thing I need to know is what everyone else needed to know.

When I try to search for more about the batteries that power the blue light, all I see is the batteries always being talked about in terms of their lifespans. It isn't the most profound realization but is still strange to see things thought of as living things while seeing the living things making the things thought of as not much more than things. Maybe that makes it easier to make a living off of the things and still be able to sleep at night.

Not that I'm better than them. I'm not even better than I am. If all I do is shine a blue light on things, I don't know if that comes with any particular brightness. I still see myself seeing myself in this device as much as everyone else seeing themselves into this device, but with all the blue light there is to be seen, I doubt anyone is as afraid of the dark anymore, even if it doesn't get as dark as it used to. The perceived brightness seems to me more blinding than a little bit of darkness.

The speaker in the video says the cave painters sometimes took their fires so far down into the caves that the symbols they painted wouldn't be found for tens of thousands of years, but after all that time, there they still are. The timelessness of the cave being the cave. I figure all that will be left of us some tens of thousands of years from now is all that was left in the caves some tens of thousands of years ago.

Maybe I have gotten too far away from the cave, because the only connection I have left with the cave is in this battery in this device in my hand, living through its little lifespan of shining its blue light in the dark. I know I'm not living in the timelessness of the cave, nor am I living in the moment, only in a momentary timelessness. I know when this battery has died then I'll have died too, but why am I so worried if no one knew who I was, or that I even was, whether before or after I've died, if no one knew who I was before I was born, whether tens of thousands of years ago or thirty years ago.

As I'm falling asleep the video will play on without me, or rather what I believe to still be me, whether I'm afraid of the dark or am awake or not. I've always had to consider the uncertainty of my dreams in light of the certainty of me waking up, but if one of them were to disappear, would the other still be here and which one of the two would there be and would I be too. Maybe nothing separates me from the cave, if writing is a longer amount of time measured against a shorter amount of time, but if that much is true, all I really have left of the cave is the word cave.

There will have only have been the light and nothing left of me in the cave.


image: Aaron Burch