Monday, April 28, 2014

Compulsory Joy in the Command Economy of Time

The subject of chronopathology seems to have touched a nerve in a few readers, which means that it failed to do so in the rest. Perhaps because it seems like a remote or abstract idea, when it is really as experience-near as experience itself. Because what is experience? Right: conscious awareness of the passage of time, which appears as the perpetual changing of phenomena.

We've discussed in the past how time is all we have, and yet, we never really have it, do we, because it's like Lileks' Uncooperative Rope: this rope travels "through your hands, and you grasp a knot" -- the knot being one of those little moments of temporal density, which only happen all the time.

But they're slipknots, so when they happen, it's as if the rope temporarily slows down. But then it's like when you're livestreaming something and it's slow to load but then hurries to catch up with itself. Similarly, it's as if time can slow down for a moment, but then scurries to return to itself, right through your blistered fingers.

You never know when or which one of these temporal knots will "stick" and become part of the more enduring fabric of your life. I have no patience for people who essentially try to force a moment to become an enduring knot. My wife tells me that her father once turned a European vacation into a pedagogical death march.

Think, for example, of the people who have those huge vulgar weddings, desperate to make the wedding more than it is. It's already plenty, so you can really only make it less than it is.

I guess it's the same reason I detest posed photographs rather than spontaneous ones. At least with the spontaneous ones you have a chance to catch a temporal knot. But you can't force one. At best you can tie a pseudo-knot of someone. Sometimes a whole life can be a stream of pseudo-knots. It's probably that way for celebrities and politicians.

I suppose this oncefamous book on pseudo-events goes to the subject. I've never read it, but it's more relevant than ever, since end-stage journalism has spread to the whole body politic.

Just the other day I was talking with the wife about the things we do to render time qualitative instead of just quantitative. I was thinking in particular of how the Church places mere duration within a higher sacred time, marking the latter with various festivals and celebrations. You could say that salvation history attempts the same vis-a-vis profane history.

But again, it's difficult to manufacture a temporal knot, as they usually sneak up on one unawares. I was reminded of this just yesterday at our baseball practice. It was just a perfect day on our absurdly beautiful field -- way too beautiful for kids, since they don't notice. I had the impulse to tell a kid, "you know, you're going to remember this moment for the rest of your life." But who knows? Maybe he will, but not likely, even though it was a perfect moment to which nothing could be added. Besides, he would have looked at me like I was crazy.

I've noticed that some parents will forcibly remove their kid from a situation in which they are experiencing the spontaneous flow of temporal density, in order to drag them to some attempt at manufactured density. This usually results from a guilt-ridden effort to manufacture "quality time" in order to make up for the absence of quantity time -- like a grim determination to Have Joy on command.

But what if you're already happy? Then being forced to do something else can only make one less happy, no matter how elaborately contrived the pseudoknot.

But in reality, how little is needed to access Life. It seems to me that -- and I discussed this in the Encirclopedia Raccoonica -- people try to make up for a loss of sensitivity by piling on the sensations. But the latter can never make up for the former, because the gross can never replace the subtle. Ten or a hundred or a thousand porno films do not add up to a single moment of actual transphysical intimacy.

What worries me about our pornified culture is that young people may confuse its images with human sexuality and end up knowing nothing of the latter. The gross can completely eclipse the subtle if we don't hone the facility to deepen it.

But perhaps this is just an extension of children raised in daycare who know nothing of real maternal intimacy, which cannot be doled out at the mother's convenience without becoming something else -- something based upon the mother's pleasure (which objectifies the child) as opposed to the child's spontaneous need for, and entitlement to, this constant background of maternal presence.

You can't magically conjure those momentary knots of intimacy. For one thing, they have a rhythm all their own, which you can disrupt but not compel. You cannot fundamentally reject the present and then call it back at your will, expecting it to do your bidding. You can only pretend to do so.

Remember the film Ordinary People? There's a great scene where they're trying to capture the perfect photograph of the family, a Happy Moment:

I definitely remember beautiful moments like that in my ordinary childhood. Maybe that's why I'm so repulsed by them.

41 Comments:

Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Aye, many of those knots are accompanied by grace which is another thing that cannot be forced...but they can be appreciated.

4/28/2014 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I guess it's the same reason I detest posed photographs rather than spontaneous ones.

It drives me nuts when the kids notice there's a camera. As soon as they do, the stop doing whatever it was that was worth taking a picture of. Not sure I'd go so far as to say I detest posed photos; done right, they are an art form in themselves. But mostly, they serve as a catalog that person x was in place y at time z.

4/28/2014 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Time oughtta be lived, abundantly, rather than micromanaged, which can't be done anyhow as you pointed out, Bob.

4/28/2014 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I would agree that we should distinguish the artful from the hamhanded and artless. But then the artful has the same subtlety mentioned in the post.

4/28/2014 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

What worries me about our pornified culture is that young people may confuse its images with human sexuality and end up knowing nothing of the latter.

Increasingly, it seems to be the norm rather than the exception, and the catalog of dysfunctions that come about a result seem to grow by the day.

4/28/2014 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Heh - re. the scene from Ordinary People, I can't help suspecting the Carney family photoshoot was just as delightful a moment of family bonding time.

4/28/2014 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"You cannot fundamentally reject the present and then call it back at your will, expecting it to do your bidding. You can only pretend to do so."

'Oh sure ya can, on Instagram, and then you can Tweet it, here let me show you, I got a genuine moment right here from, well,a day or two ago, hold on, it's here somewhere, I've just gotta...-brrringgg - hold on, just let me this, hello? How are you, great to talk to you, sure, lunch, tomorrow, mkay, bye. Now where's that pic I tweeted, no, nope, oh here it it's, now you see... now where'd he go? Some people, just have no patience, they gotta learn to live in the moment....'

Yep.

4/28/2014 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I developed a temporal knot in my throat once. I was five and it lasted about five seconds. Yet, it's been there ever since.

"I looked down at my plate. There was my hotdog half finished. I see it. The cross section of the hotdog within the bite and the white bun pinched with its two stripes of brown crust running along the top. I don’t remember the mustard. I looked at my Dad’s plate and he had already finished his three hotdogs. I remember thinking I wanted to be able to do that."

4/28/2014 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

You just never know what moment will lodge in your memory. You certainly can't plan it.

4/28/2014 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

And it may already be lodged in there and you won't notice it until the smoke settles.

Unless I'm misunderstanding this kind of knot -- do we need to witness it as it happens?

4/28/2014 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Alan Baldwin M.S. said...

And more and more of my time, I feel compelled to simply try to love now; and thus fill the tragic gap of every moment.

4/28/2014 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

It's not wrong but it almost is -- to notice it when it happens.

I think if the kid that Bob was going to say that to does remember it all his life it will be partly because no one pointed it out to him. The poignancy should all be on the older people -- that's why grandparents are so useful and beloved. They (we) become a kind of living repository.

My wife has been trying to get rid of a crappy old rocking chair that her mother had. She tried to give it a church daycare. They didn't want it. She happened to mention it to our son, asking if he wanted it, and the big, dumb lug started crying. So now I have to carry it up to him. I was really surprised that he felt so much attachment to it.

4/28/2014 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Rick:

We have to register it in some sense, but the slightest thing can be retained by the eternal etch-a-sketch, while the the supposedly weighty stuff can go right down the memory hole.

4/28/2014 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

In 8th grade my history teacher started the year by saying, "At the end of this year, you won't remember this conversation..."

I don't remember anything else he said that day, or even very much about the class, but that statement is seared into my memory. It was too much like a challenge, I think.

4/28/2014 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

I'm with you on the posed shots. Mary Tyler Moore is perfect in that scene. (cringe) Been there.

There's a country song for this thread:

http://tinyurl.com/m3xdctj

Of course, there's a country song for everything.

4/28/2014 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

I can' wait until I have time to wait for something to happen.

Anyhoo, I find the most meaningful memories are those captured in spontaneous, candid selfies. They're how I know I'm real.

But seriously, oops, out of time...

4/28/2014 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

It's why I'm a terrible photographic chronicler of life events. I just want to live them in the moment and learn what the moment brings to me.

I wonder sometimes if our graven images do us more harm than we know. We look back on our youth and pine for, or pay for, lost beauty and vigor instead of just being who we are at age 30, 40, 50. We lose today trying to make it look like yesterday, and likely pawn much of our future selves in the process.

4/28/2014 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Griffin said...

What worries me about our pornified culture is that young people may confuse its images with human sexuality and end up knowing nothing of the latter.

What worries me more is that I have no idea how to even begin to communicate that idea to another person, especially a young person, who does not already understand it. Hell, I didn't understand it at all until I got married, and I had a leg up because I was willing to take these things on authority to a large extent, which is a rarity among us young 'uns.

I didn't know what they meant or why it was so important to save myself for marriage, but in retrospect, their insistence on its importance is one of the greatest gifts my parents and other people in authority over me gave me as I was growing up.

Not to be too graphic, but porn is like vivisected sex. Nothing material has been taken away, all of the parts are right there in front of you, but the organism has disappeared somewhere along the way, and now you just have a table full of pieces of meat. Of course our deconstructionist culture looks at the table and tells us, "This is what sex really is!"

But it seems like unless someone already understands this, it's like there is no way to get the concept into their heads until it is too late. And even then, it's a toss-up whether they will grasp it. Even the most decent, church-going people seem to struggle with this, and it pains me to think of everything they are robbing themselves of by buying into this false image of sex.

Sorry for the ramble, but this hit my wavelength today...

4/28/2014 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

Just yes to this post and everyone's comments. And a big yes, to what Dr. Bob said in the comments yesterday about Mrs. G. That is exactly what I'm experiencing.

Something similar to pseudo-events are what Mark Steyn called "simulacrum." Kinda sorta. That's what came to mind.

The only time I can experience slow-time or no-time is when I pray the Rosary. You would think, that since I know that, I would pray it more often.

4/28/2014 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger James Sheives said...

As I got older (I'm 53 now) I noticed time seemed to fly by faster. Months seemed like weeks. I forget know where I read it, but this phenomena is related to the number of memories (knots) created. When I was younger, I was always out doing something (even if that something was mostly partying!). Now I don't get out as much, the rope doesn't slow down as often as it used to, and therefore time seems to go by faster.

4/29/2014 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I seem to recall that some years back, possibly in the late 90s or early 00s even, some group did a study about changes in perception of time as people age. It involved having test subjects essentially count out a given length of time, or maybe it was to ask periodically how much time had elapsed (or if they were smart, it would have been both). From this they were able to determine that our perception of time actually does change as the brain ages. Not just because of accumulated memory, but because of how it functions. I don't remember for certain, but think that at some point it slows back down again.

That said, I remember well the point in childhood when I realized that everything passes. My family was living in England, and we were planning a month-long trip back "home" to visit family. The anticipation built for months, and the trip was great fun... and then suddenly it was over and that was that. I lost much of my sense of anticipation after that; not so much for little day-to-day stuff, but for big events, because no matter how amazing something was bound to be, in a way it seemed it was already history. It's not that I don't look forward to things, but that I don't get excited the way a lot of people seem to. Fast or slow, the rope slips by, and there's nothing to be done about it.

4/29/2014 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I did have a lovely dream once, though, where I was in a boat on a lake that was fed by a waterfall. The water was the water of life, and I needed to use it to make a net. When I came close, time stopped for a little while, so I could pass my arm across the fall and cut it like a fabric, then gather it up in my boat. When I had finished, time sped up again, but the net stayed.

4/29/2014 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe it has to do with entropy and quantum entanglement, although I doubt it. Then again, this guy Stanaloae says that time is the distance between man and God. Perhaps the prehension of Cosmic Unity that occurs as we approach the Great Attractor is accompanied by a collapse of the spacetime continuum, so that everything is more bunched together, both in time and space.

Well, not bunched together. It's just that, due to quantum entanglement and nonlocality, space and time are overcome.

In any event, this would cause time to increasingly fly until we achieve absolute vertical liftoff, at which time it would cease altogether, even though events would paradoxically continue happening. Staniloae claims there is a light eternity and a dark eternity. In the latter, nothing happens. It is absolute, unceasing boredom -- like the last minute of the schoolday, only forever.

But I have no time this morning, so all you get is a quick comment instead of a slowpost.

4/29/2014 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. quantam entanglement, it's an interesting concept. The example given was a cup of coffee; interesting to see how it would apply to living organisms in general, and people in particular. Puts quite a spin on what it means to be in relationship...

4/29/2014 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Gagdad, your quick comment has turned this into a long morning.

4/29/2014 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"Re. quantam entanglement, it's an interesting concept. The example given was a cup of coffee; interesting to see how it would apply to living organisms in general, and people in particular. Puts quite a spin on what it means to be in relationship..."

Chemical bonds tend to be a better analogy as to the relationships between people.

Or are the relationships between people a better analogy to the relationships between atoms?

4/29/2014 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

"I wonder sometimes if our graven images do us more harm than we know. We look back on our youth and pine for, or pay for, lost beauty and vigor instead of just being who we are at age 30, 40, 50. We lose today trying to make it look like yesterday, and likely pawn much of our future selves in the process."

If there's one thing that I don't like, it's pictures of me.

That being said, I'm *always* about 30. Youth and old age are really the aberrations. Took me awhile to figure that one out.

4/29/2014 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm a bit surprised that the Deepak(acrapster) hasn't coined the phrase quatum entaglement already.
He really loves the word "quantum" since it makes him appear intelligent. At least to himself and his ackolytes.

4/29/2014 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Yes, I know I misspelled quantum the first time I used it but in my defense I'm not trying to appear intelligent.

4/29/2014 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Now, if I was trying to appear intelligent that may very well produce a quantum entanglement of epic proportions.

4/29/2014 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger katzxy said...

Two photos that capture the moment:
http://colectivofuturo.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Henri_CartierBresson__Hyres_France.jpeg
and
http://www.luccamuseum.com/sites/default/files/styles/flexslider_full/public/PAR43607%281%29.jpg?itok=UX8dMPJT

Both by Henri Cartier-Bresson

4/29/2014 08:40:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

No time again. It seems that my past and future are getting more entangled, leaving no quantum of space for the now. This is not how Deepak said it would be.

4/30/2014 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Ugh. I'm getting dangerously low on timelessness. How am I going to find enough time to do what I need to do, without the timelessness to do what I don't need to do?

Guess I'll have to rustle up some Josef Pieper.

Quantum flux capacitor... fluxing....

4/30/2014 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Hope you're staying dry Julie!

4/30/2014 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Thanks, Van :) We're way down near the tip of South Florida, and all the bad weather seems to be missing us this time around.

4/30/2014 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

"Yes, I know I misspelled quantum the first time I used it but in my defense I'm not trying to appear intelligent."

Speeling doesn't appear have a direct correlation to intelligence anyway.

I'm tired.

4/30/2014 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

So, is Time an old bald cheater or not?

Have we answered that one?

4/30/2014 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I guess that depends on what you look forward to, and what you leave behind...

4/30/2014 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

OT:

Sergeant York
TCM
7 May
3:15pm EST

Set yer DVRs

4/30/2014 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

That's okay, Julie. We took the rain hit here in Charleston. I drove in it all day today.

4/30/2014 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

A day late, but this thread brought to mind a time I caught my now grown daughter, as a very small child, sitting in a patch of clover, speaking to fairies and building them houses with the flowers and leaves. She was completely engrossed and transported, and I stayed out of sight. Years later, I mentioned it to her. Her face registered surprise, and she asked me how I knew? It was a knot we both grasped, for different reasons.

5/01/2014 08:31:00 PM  

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