time present and time past
are both perhaps present in time future,
and time future contained in time past.
if all time is eternally present
all time is unredeemable.
- t. s. eliot (burnt norton, 1935)
so here's the idea - that time isn't real in the first place; that it's an semi-arbitrary abstraction - first of the mind (moment to moment), next of societal standardization (of agricultural utility, of use in keeping records, etc.) and at last of material ends ('i'm on the clock'; 'time is money').
but if time isn't real, only effectively a mentally synthesized, socially engineered and societally manipulated organization of matter, then how can we understand reality or grasp at possibility? how else might we organize all that there is?
what if the past isn't actually a continuum that effectively culminates in the present?
if we aren't moving towards, maybe we aren't in motion at all. maybe our minds are simply organizing temporally homogenous data into a continuum and simultaneously facilitating the illusion of a progress toward some "moments" and away from others. maybe.*
assumptions of progress are over-believed, if not over-trusted, noted eliot's contemporary, himself a german jew between the wars:
"the current amazement that the things we are experiencing are 'still' possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. this amazement is not the beginning of knowledge - unless that knowledge is that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable."
- walter benjamin (theses on the philosophy of history)
what if we can't organize the past around the present with certainty, can't safely assume that we've made any progress in terms of knowing or discovering what is?
in contrast to eliot's claim that "all time is unredeemable," benjamin's elaborations go on to frame the search for cohesion and meaning into an infinitely inquisitive hopefulness. he resolves to possibility instead of resolution, claiming for each generation a "weak messianic power," proclaiming them as the possible carriers of the redemptive moment, from which we will understand all others, by which we can know a less than arbitrary significance of present, past and future...
there is now effectively room for God; and the moment that He Is redeems all other moments. any thoughts?
|the city poses one of several well-articulated implications|
about the relationship between time and reality.
- 'where is this all going?'
*organizing by moments or events is also problematic, as you might have guessed. these seem very likely to be a trick of the mind. do we learn to think in terms of moments and objects in the same way we learn object permanence? not sure...