1.02.2012

What's Your Time?

New Years Even, 7:40 pm, I'm standing at the ocean's edge which simultaneously marks the edge of this silly city. The ocean seethes as it will — it may be infinite and seem eternal but we see it fluctuate with the moon and the weather.  We see its mode of temporality, how it distributes time: waves are a kind of metronome, keeping a cosmic beat.

Out in the middle of the ocean are several barges headed for the East. They move so steadily, so defiantly, so mercilessly — like the ocean, in a way. But in much more manageable, human terms. Where the ocean relentlessly verges on the sublime — precisely because it's relentless — barges I can think.  I can grasp weeks and tons.

Above, planets and stars wink from past centuries.

Large rocks budge, a tiny bit, over centuries. To us, they just sit there, enduring. But slowly, they are eroding and moving.  I wonder if, to them, time flies.

Dunes line one perimeter of the beach, coming and going with the winds but over months, years, decades.

There are people scattered about the beach, huddled around bonfires. They seem as though they're in for the long haul, relatively speaking — until the early morning.  The barges are in for a longer haul; the dune and rocks, an even longer haul; the ocean, well, it seems to exceed the haul.

These bonfire people enjoy a time so different from the time of the commute when everyone moves with such purpose and speed.  They'll kill you if you get in their way.

Make your way through a city any day and see all the micro temporalities — the strollers, the sitters, the sleepers, the coffee drinkers, the runners, the cars, the freeway.  Cities are assemblages of so many different times, most accelerated but still with great, with endless, variation.

I can see Bergson's duration so clearly: time is not outside of us, an abstraction that moves steadily and geometrically around its circle.  No, time is itself a dimension — I see it, know it at this moment: all these different temporalities, all these different durations, are time happening right now — a now that is all these different times, all these different nows, these nows that are different speeds and distributions of before and later.

Deleuze asks us to look at a moving image of, say, a man walking a dog by a river in the mountains. See all the different times: the time of the man, of the dog, of the river, of the mountains. All images have multiple times.

My friend, the poet Lohren Green, takes time to think, to write — it's as if he has bovine digestion, moving ideas through four stomachs.  Me, I've always been fast: I write fast, think fast, digest food fast. When writing Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze was the slow one, Guattari already having moved on to the next connection, the next node. Neither speed is better or worse: they simply (or not) mark our respective temporal tendencies.  

Time is all the times of all the different things, each thing happening in its time, enduring as it endures.  Time is not a neutral abstraction.  Time is an infinitely variegated becoming.  This world and everything in it is in motion, happening, changing. This world and everything in it — including everything invisible such as moods — happens, changes, transforms, always and already.

In Burroughs The Place of Dead Roads, Kim Carsons advises would-be gunfighters, "Always take your time." It's not necessarily about being the fastest; go faster than your speed and you'll shoot your foot or fumble all together.  Of course, if the other guy's time is faster than your time, you're done for. But then you were done for before the shoot out even began.

So the question is: What's your time?

8 comments:

Linz said...

This calls to mind David Eagleman's excellent book on neuroscience, "Incognito." He talks about how everything we perceive with our senses, including time, is so mediated by our brains that it doesn't even make sense to call it "perceiving." "Creating" is more like it. Time is not some singular thing that exists out there - it is created by our perception of it, and it's clear that this perception is influenced by lots of internal and external factors, and is not uniform among different people.

It's dizzying, and wonderful.

Daniel Coffeen said...

Ah, nice to see you here once again. Knowing nothing about this book — I love its title — I am suspicious of these claims that run everything through the brain and think perception is creative. It is, mind you, but it adds to, repeats, negotiates the world. The world enters me — my eyes, my liver, my huge nose, my skin, my moods, my desires. And I metabolize them as I will — within their respective limits.

drwatson said...

I have just a compliment to add.

"I can see Bergson's duration so clearly: time is not outside of us, an abstraction that moves steadily and geometrically around its circle. No, time is itself a dimension — I see it, know it at this moment: all these different temporalities, all these different durations, are time happening right now — a now that is all these different times, all these different nows, these nows that are different speeds and distributions of before and later."

I think this is one of the most beautiful paragraphs I've read on this blog. It stopped me in my tracks and I read it two more times before I went on.

Man, you always impress me - I know what I read it going to be thoughtful and all that - but this was really special. Thanks.

Daniel Coffeen said...

You're very kind, Dr. I will say I felt great writing this, admittedly a tad lit, as it were.

what the Tee Vee taught said...

One: That Albert Hofmann ebbed around town for 102 years, that's just fucking marvelous — hat tip in the direction of Switzerland.

Two: Having enjoyed the fruits of his work, just yesterday ("put tape over the stove's clock... we're going in!"), I say trying to put any words to this question seems hilariously silly — and yet, two days ago, this would have seemed a worthwhile venture, a question to ponder... now, just silly — which is, of course, lovely.

Enjoy

Daniel Coffeen said...

Ah, WTTVT, good to hear you're out and about stirring up this and that. But I will say: it's not a matter of putting it into words. It's matter of making words move with it, whatever it is. And that, as you note, is always a delight.

what the Tee Vee taught said...

Yes yes, agreed. I very much enjoy holding up "unnameable" and "ineffable" and taking several peeks.

You suggest: we don't necessarily domesticate its unwieldiness. We don't necessarily categorize it, move into the realm of the known...

Not necessarily.

Yet, that is a default move, a not-terribly-well-considered move... at least for me and those I move with — and perhaps this is why, in the particularly frames of a day or two ago, the question you proposed seemed so silly to me, to that specific me, who had recently been company to many words (both out my mouth and into my ears) which did attempt to categorize... to know... and it was such a dismal failure.

Good stuff.

Nathan said...

This is some fucking great writing. Thanks!