A man lit three candles on a certain day each year. Each candle held symbolic significance. One was for the time that had passed before he was alive. One was for the time passing while he was alive. And one was for the time that would pass after he had died. Each year the man would stare until the candles had burned out. Was the man really watching time go by in any symbolic sense?
He thought so. He thought that each flicker of the flame was a moment of time that had passed or one that would pass. At the moment of abstraction, when the man was imagining his life and his existence as a metaphor of the three candles, he was free. Not free from rules of conduct and social constraints, but free to imagine.