Compulsory Joy in the Command Economy of Time
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.