Thursday, December 16, 2004

one two three four five

The idea of time had intrigued & troubled me from before I knew that time could be an idea. Now I know that time is of great concern to artists, poets & composers, not only physicists & cosmologists. My enrollment at Bloomfield College in the Sixties would have been a total waste if not for the elderly professor I studied with there who had himself studied at Union Seminary with Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich. Time was an important topic in his Introduction to the New Testament course, particularly the concept of "kairos" - historical processes creating the "right" time for something important to occur, a fulfillment of those processes. So one could wonder about the meaning of time. For Tillich, our time is an "eternal now," which makes time practical, mystical, & inescapable while one is alive.

I was touching on the subject of time with my therapist, Dr. K, today. She is one of the most thoughtful people I've ever known, & superbly educated. She's a Capricorn, a different type of personality from mine; solid, practical, who proceeds steadily from one goal to the next. She's also a Russian Jew, not particularly devout but aware & appreciative of her heritage, as one would be when brought up under Soviet Communism & now becoming an American. Thousands of years ago, the Hebrews developed & brought into human consciousness the concept of time by which you & I were raised, & take for granted; historical, nonrepetitive, noncyclical time. Our comprehension of time is one of the Torah's major themes: There was an "In the beginning." The Creator/Spirit embraces all of time, but for us time does not rewind or reset to zero & start over again; time is also a judgment, an end of opportunity. Justice cannot wait. We didn't go into this in detail, but I learned something new about Dr. K: time is one of her interests, it was the subject of her doctorate. She didn't say what the exact title was. She did show me a little demonstration. Dr. K asked me to count with my fingers. I made a fist, extended my thumb for "one," then my index finger for "two," middle finger for "three," & at "five" my fist was gone & my hand was open with all five fingers extended. Then she counted the way she was taught as a child; she made a fist, extended her pinky for "one" then put it back in the fist; extended her ring finger for "two" then put that back. At "five" only her thumb was up as if she were hitch-hiking. For her it was number five, for me it was one more one. But is linear, historical time ultimately real? Unfortunately, we had to move on to other matters.

How each of us experiences time - the quantitative & qualitative together - is not presently measurable although we are in mathematical agreement & thereby able to set our watches & be somewhere at a specific moment. But I am certain that many of the people I have met who suffer from various forms of psychosis are not experiencing time as I do; they are living in worlds with dream qualities. I wonder if they are experiencing (& not always nightmarishly) what we sometimes try to capture & express in art: relativity & simultaneity, past memory & forward projection, gathering & unraveling, & the essence of an "eternal now."

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"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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