Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Where did the time go?
My father always said that time was slipping away from him. This prediction was a forgone conclusion that was as true for him, as it is for all the rest of us. He was not talking about life’s inevitable end, but of the experience it self. I’m now middle aged and I’m beginning to understand what he was on about. What he meant was, as the length of his Days, Weeks, Months and years passed him by in comparison to the full measured length of his life, these segments became shorter and shorter. This type of experiential perspective can only be attained along the way in the fullness of life’s journey. I’m not convinced yet that this is a common experience shared among all people. But I too have watched summers float on seemingly like ages onto themselves. In comparison they now have been reduced to the twelve calendar weeks that mark their passing like a gym teachers stopwatch. Taking this thought further I would ask, would living five hundred or a thousand years further skew this perspective? And would then those punctuations on our calendars then become meaningless?
If space and time are inextricably linked as is described in modern cosmology and space is expanding at an ever-increasing rate then is time also expanding? We can easily measure the three dimensions in which we live. We are all familiar with how this works. Time however to our current understanding is a linear construction moving forever forward in one direction. If space-time is in fact one entity, then should we not be able to measure some manifestation of this expansion in time? Currently, time can only be measured in the same manner in which it always has been. If however due to some human sensory limitations we can only experience time in this one way then we may never know.
For the sake of argument I’ve begun to image time as sphere expanding outward in all directions from the big bang onward. Contained in the surface of this theoretical sphere are the infinite points representing infinite lines of temporal movement. And there within the volume of the sphere are held frozen each elapsed moment from the beginning onward. Assuming we are on the leading edge of this growing sphere the future has not yet been created. It however would be equally possible then that we exist now in someone else’s past. If these things were found to be true, it would prove what many throughout time had suspected, that time like any other dimension can be traversed. Perhaps scenarios like these have already taken place in places where the fabric of time may be worn thinner than in others, allowing for some a kind of extra sensory perception to occur. My hope is that if these moments are there frozen than we one day could float there for a while and bask in a golden moment. Or maybe even just hold it still for a while as we experience it again. If you future people happen to be reading this obscure little blog and this question were answered would you please let us know? I expect a knock on my door right about now.
Monday, March 15, 2010
On these cold winter days as I sit observing the sun’s warming rays creep across the room through my window, I am sometimes reminded of my pet fly. Many years ago when I was a young art student, I was allowed the temporary use of studio space by the university. Though the shared space was small, it had the benefit of exceptional natural light that streamed through the north facing windows. I was participating in an open study course work that allowed anytime access. I preferred to work early in the morning through afternoon to take full advantage of the light. Each day before I would set myself to work I would load up on hot tea with honey as my preferred caffeine kick. As the semester rolled on the Styrofoam cups containing the dregs of tea bags, backwash and honey began to accumulate, obscuring the paint stand. After taking heat for the mess one morning I set to work cleaning it up. What I discovered that morning was to me both fascinating and unusual. On top of one of the cup lids sat the soggy discarded tea bag upon which a housefly had taken for its retirement cottage. I thought it odd that the fly did not fly when approached. I was able to pick up the cup and closely examine it and still it did not budge. I proceeded to gently prod at it with a pencil tip and its only response was to slowly walk to the opposite corner. As the day wore on I periodically checked on the status of my little friend and he each time I found him more determined than ever to stay despite my periodic eviction notices.
After a long weekend I returned to the studio and was surprised to find my new friend in good health and spirit. As the days turned to weeks I sustained my teacup lodger by pouring the remainders of my tea onto the old teabag that began to resemble an old sodden futon pad on which he lounged. From it he would extend his mouthparts and drink and then perhaps take a short walk on the make shift patio. This experience in interspecies cooperation ended just as the new spring was about to arrive. I had hoped he was just wintering there and would fly off as the longest-lived housefly in history. This was not to be on a day in mid. March I found him still standing as ever. He did not come to feed that day he apparently had died in his sleep. I sometimes wonder what he took away from the experience and what strange bit of wiring made him stay in the first place.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Are You a Pack Rat?
I’ve often been accused of being a “pack rat”, a person who hoards what others would consider dispensable. I admit I have a hard time saying no to free stuff. And I have been known to hold on to “mementos”. I would classify these things as objects I have assigned emotional significance to for their ability to conjure other places and times. The question is whether this is to a degree healthy and if so when does behaviors of mere collecting cross the line into the realm of obsessive. I have been enamored by pieces of art as possessing singular qualities and of antiques as time travelers. These statements for most may seem rational. Where however is the dividing line between things possessing value and those possessing none. For most a bottom line dollar value usually will act as the benchmark. These benchmarks however are created by an items rarity and desirability to collectors. So that means if you’re a collector of stamps and the perforation marks on a particular set are on the top verses the bottom, it could mean a significant difference in monetary value. These things are far more easily distinguished as valuable by long standing traditions. It is the other things I have the most trouble with. The everyday stuff that creates the backgrounds of our lives that in the end is discarded, overshadowed by the new.
The persistence of memory
Many of my earliest memories of childhood are populated with imagery consisting of long lazy weekends tagging along with my parents as they ran errands or of visiting and or being visited by relatives and friends. That’s not to say these events happened often but rather they seemed significant enough to form a lasting picture in the landscape of my thoughts. Though this set of memories is fixed as my history, I can’t help but think logically that it may merely be an artifact.
Examining my past with dispassionate clarity I find I have done a good deal of editing. Edited from these memories are the long lonely days affixed before the Sears Silver tone television, and the cruel sibling rivalries that often linger into adulthood. It would not however be fitting to include these for they don’t truly define how we felt or what we aspired to be; rather these memories are hollow and lacking of the emotional wherewithal to stand the rigors time.
In contrast, through the lens of time those memories that are most prominently imprinted are the sweetest. Like the subtle flavors in wine they are condensed from a few years of ordinary experience into a vintage akin to a golden age.
The experience of the lonely and desperate hours of today will likely undergo the same editing process. This will ensure that any future retrospective will primarily reflect those images that speak of the finer moments. It’s unlikely I will recall in a future time any emotional laden memories associated with my daily train ride to and from my office. The images of my lonely journey through the wastelands of Philadelphia will surely fade to a solitary factoid, as will the memories of those embarrassing episodes of drunkenness. So this will not be a modern discourse on dysfunction or self loathing, but rather about the bricks and mortar of self-identity. For we truly the are the sum of our experience.
The Old school house
There had been a for sale sign posted upon a rusted fence for as long as I could remember. Through all those years this patch of trees remained a static part of the background until the day the logging trucks arrived. It’s hard to find clusters of such stature near populated areas anymore so; it was a sad thing to see the culling of the old trees. For several weeks the sound of the saws and trucks filled the air as the thinning continued. On one particular afternoon work had seemed to come to a stop. As the scene came closer to view there was something different. As the loggers reached the center of the grove they made an unusual discovery. Hidden within a grove of trees there stood an old school house encircled for generations behind a veil of oak and chestnut. Those who passed along the road that bordered the fifty-acre site could not see nor did they have knowledge of this hidden jewel. Its whitewashed clapboards and reaching spire stood in stark contrast to the deep brown earth and swaths of green that framed it
Work had come to in abrupt end as the workers stood confused and took pause about their discovery. The question was asked, “Was this some historic site that should not be desecrated? Or should it be felled like the trees before it?” Shortly there after for fear or reverence work continued all around the sublime structure but the old structure stood intact, untouched by the machines of destruction. The trees eventually were all removed and still the schoolhouse stood naked upon a mound within a field of stumps and debris.
There was talk among folks you’d meet, amongst even the oldest of them, of whom none could recall this old building.
Being a student of history, I became fascinated with this buildings mysterious sudden appearance. I wanted to explore the grounds and wander within to perhaps discover how it came to be what I saw as kind of time traveler. However a construction fence was soon erected which made a casual visit impossible so I made a point of driving by regularly as to admire it from a distance. In my minds eye I wandered the grounds and imagined the children playing before the school bell rang and doing their arithmetic on slate tablets. These images although not real were as close as I would get in any sense to the reality of this place.
Soon the trees were replaced with new houses. In the midst of the construction the old school held on tenuously out of step and out of time. It however was a forgone conclusion that it would in eventuality be razed. So each time I passed I would look to see if it had survived for another day. One day it was gone as if had never been there and along with it the memory of the playing children and woods that protected them.
Soon the whole of America may be from sea to sea a vast network of neatly manicured cul-de-sacs. Is it perhaps due to the fact that we have taken said transformation as a forgone conclusion as I did with the disappearance of the little white schoolhouse?
In the few years since, still I have yet to meet anyone who had seen it before the trees came down. As the memory fades its image becomes more abstract and ghost like soon I will doubt it ever existed at all