Listening Post: About time

Persistence of Time. Salvador Dali.

In 1922, science fiction writer Ray Cummings explained half of reality, saying, “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.” Later the physicist John Wheeler finished the job, adding “Space is what prevents everything from happening to me.”

Too bad then, that so many of us have been busily annihilating this tidy structure by transferring our allegiance to an alternate reality where the rules don’t apply–the non-sequential, omnipresent  world of cyberspace. Within this notional universe, everything that ever happened is still happening, and everything that happened anywhere, is happening everywhere.

This was not so stressful when the great cloud of information was kept at arm’s length, in a big clunky machine under your desk,  plugged into the wall. But now we take this pocket universe with us wherever we go, one tap away from taking us with it. We commune with it on street corners, in bed, on the road, in the restaurant, while walking the dog. Can’t let an hour go by without checking in.

In the linear world our bodies inhabit, this is clearly obsession at work, a derangement of natural priority. But in the digital world our minds increasingly inhabit, it is disconnection that seems the unnatural state. We could straddle both these universes, but only if we had twice as much time.


8 Comments on “Listening Post: About time”

  1. Bob Falesch says:

    What a beautiful, provocative post.

    Despite the fact there was some digital hocus-pocus getting this to display on my non-portable system and its 24-inch monitor and that a binary copy of this will sit forever somewhere in your IP cloud and then, if somebody’s web bots are crawling just right, forever in the wayback machine or Google’s cache, posts like this *do* consume me, and if it’s obsession at work or a derangement of my natural priorities to be reading this blog, I proclaim: I will make room, …or, um, time, space, or sumthin’, for it.

    And how I worship this painting, and a few others of Dali as well. What a great choice to flow your post around this glorious surreal masterpiece.

    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.
    What might have been is an abstraction
    Remaining a perpetual possibility
    Only in a world of speculation.
    What might have been and what has been
    Point to one end, which is always present.

    There must have been something in the air. Not long after Cummings’ sci-fi, T.S. Eliot got the idea for Burnt Norton. I don’t feel I understand all of Eliot’s great late poem, but somehow, it comforts me and seems to always set things right.

  2. Pete Klein says:

    I don’t see a problem if one has the good sense to opt not to be connected when not at home.
    If the phone rings at home, I have caller ID and don’t pick up unless I know the caller and then only if I want to talk to them.
    I simply refuse to ever buy anything made by Apple.
    Cell phone. I have one but leave it on my desk unless I leave the area and intend to us it to make a call to someone.
    I am connected but I control the connection.

  3. Jim Benvenuto says:

    Much to chew on in this piece! Stress is the price we pay to know everything that’s going on in the world with such unrelenting detail. I (for one) am beginning to believe it’s not a deal with which I’m willing to live.

  4. Ken Hall says:

    How did those of us who grew up in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s manage to do so without the benefit of instantaneous (nearly) communication connections to our friends so as to keep them appraised about all of the Earth shaking activities in which we were involved as we did them? It is a mystery to me!

    Sign me up on Pete’s team!

  5. Nancy Child says:

    My sentiments exactly. I totally ditto your words. Keep sharing, you’re a gem.

  6. Lynn Klein says:

    I love the way your mind can put such a huge concept (time/space continuum) into finite form (a few words). You have hit on the obsession of our time..maybe this decade will be known as the “time of no-time”. As for me, I use the technology, revel in the ease of finding what I want to know, but it is not my primary focus…I much prefer, soil, sunshine, trees and animals…the sun on my face and wind at my back.

    I think this piece of captured thought is a keeper!

  7. Joe Baldwin says:

    I can’t help but think how spot on this piece is, as I read it on my tiny smart phone screen, propped up in a dark bed, at 5 o’something in the morning.

  8. Pat Luppens says:

    I still have th big clunky thing under my desk where it belongs (not on my arm). And when it breaks, as all things do, I can fix it. These i/smart/widgie things are unnecessary to our well being; bad for concentration (kids text in church I’m told) but also serve to enslave third world country people into terrible working conditions for long shifts. Also making very rich people and corporations richer while sending jobs away. Anyway, that’s what I think.

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