A Checkered Past and Future


Carolyn Saxby
Carolyn Saxby


Thirty years ago a dream came to me, so strange and beautiful, I've never been able to forget it; so profound, it has taken on much meaning.

As the dream unfolds, I find myself in a dispassionate world where all the people are moving through life on conveyor belts. Conveyor belts for eating. Conveyor belts for working. Conveyor belts for brushing teeth. Because the human population has overrun the planet, these conveyor belts are now the only way everyone's needs can be met for our species to survive.

"So this is the future?" I gasp. Repulsed and frightened, I jump from my conveyor belt and run, hard as I can, until I find myself in a long, low, underground tunnel carved through bedrock. I suppose one could interpret this to be either a birth canal or a death tunnel. Or, I suppose, both.

What is curiously distinct about the tunnel in my dream is that the floor is an infinite black and white checkerboard. For a long time I pass through this checkerboard tunnel, wondering where it will take me. Then, just before I awaken, I realize I am traveling into the future, not from it, as I had thought. That conveyor-belt world from which I escaped had actually been many eons in the past. My dream is chiding me to consider the Past and Future as cyclic, interchangeable.

Certainly, this theory is not a new one. Neither is the checkerboard. As evidenced by ancient structures and artifacts, its pattern predates history. It wouldn't surprise me if the checkerboard were man's earliest design. Wouldn't I love to know the answer to that! What I do know, thanks to this bizarre dream, is that the black and white checkerboard has come to symbolize for me the going and coming of Time. And I always nod to it on New Year's Eve.


New York Times
The New York Times