Saturday, August 30, 2014

Inside and outside time

In Elizabeth Graver's novel Awake, one passage seems to identify the characters' sense of time as a product of their own lives.
"This should feel wrong," I said, "but it doesn't, quite. It feels normal."
He raised my hand, laced with his, to his mouth. "There's inside of time and outside of time, inside our lives and outside." He kissed my knuckles. "Outside, our hands have always been touching."
Similarly, P. D. Ouspensky wrote:
The whole of time lies within man himself. Time is the inner obstacle to a direct sensation of one thing or another, and it is nothing else. The building of the future, the serving of the future, are but symbols, symbols of man's attitude towards himself, towards his own present.
Writing of commercial fads, Joel Best acknowledged that, whatever the myth of progress toward the future may be, we do not always make such progress.
Whether we envision change in terms of an arrow or climbing a set of steps, our notion of progress suggests that it is irreversible, that it involves moving in one direction--forward or, if you prefer, upward, never backward. One moves toward the future, and away from the past. Assuming that the current institutional fad represents this sort of onward-ever-onward progress is part of the illusion of diffusion.
God, in one of Arthur Miller's works, takes a fatalistic approach toward the future:
You can never change the future. The past, yes, but not the future....The past is always changing--nobody remembers anything. But the future can no more be turned away than the light flowing off the moon.
Prisoners in Nazi concentration camps also had fatalistic assumptions in their expectations, as Primo Levi reported from firsthand experience:
Do you know how one says 'never' in camp slang? 'Morgen frueh', tomorrow morning.
And the past? When was that? Thomas Moore:
I will be writing in my studio and hear my daughter in the next room talking and singing to her large rabbit doll as she wraps a diaper around his soft velvet thighs. To her, the entire past is 'yesterday.' 'Yesterday I went to New York and stayed at a hotel,' she will say, referring to a trip the family took months ago.

Quotes from:

Elizabeth Graver. Awake. USA: Harcourt, 2004. p. 180.
P. D. Ouspensky. A New Model of the Universe: Principles of the psychological method in its application to problems of science, religion, and art. Translated by R. R. Merton. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, Inc., 1997. (Originally published New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1931.) p. 144.
Joel Best. Flavor of the Month: Why Smart People Fall for Fads. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006. p. 132.
Arthur Miller, speaking in the voice of God, Creation of the World and Other Business. Quoted in Art Greer. The Sacred Cows are Dying: Exploding the Myths We Try to Live By. New York: Hawthorne Books, Inc., 1978. p. 76.
Primo Levi. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity. Translated from the Italian Se questo e un uomo (1958) by Stuart Woolf. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. p. 133.
Thomas Moore. The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. p. 52.

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