Sunday, 12 March 2017

#59: TIME AFTER TIME










Actually nothing comes after time except more time so the phrase is redundant or merely repetitive (squared?). Time is infinite, in the same way as space is. Time never started and will never finish, we believe. Of course we can't prove this, but so far, so good.
'Time after time' is about events: time-related (but not the main event today). As in 'The first time ever I saw your face'  or 'The Last Time'







The UK's greatest writer and performer of alt-Country music, Hank Wangford (a.k.a. Dr Sam Hutt)
has a song which contains the line "beyond the horizon is another horizon, beyond the sea is another sea" which chimes in with this idea (rings a bell?), in quite a graphic way: but the only way it continues indefinitely is because the world is spherical. Perhaps time is also circular, which would help to explain Dr Who's time-travelling, Back to the Future and some fortune-telling: just stand in the same place slightly above the ground  and the earth and time, will spin beneath you. This would help to explain re-incarnation, déjâ-vu, and some psychic phenomena, which I don't really believe in, but have the nagging feeling that they might come back and bite me sometime for my cynicism.

Speaking as a psychologist who knows nothing about these things, I can't help noticing that there's a kind of person who is irresistibly drawn to this kind of thing, and often to conspiracy theories, witchcraft and tales of the unexpected. Possibly they do not have very much in their lives which is particularly mysterious or dramatic, so they are bound to look for it elsewhere. Often they are victims of illusory correlations, where kinds of events seem to occur together, and what is illusory about them is that they are therefore seen as being connected causally: in other words, one causing another, or vice versa, or both of them being caused by something else entirely.

The figure seen running away from the 'grassy knoll'  in Dallas when President Kennedy was assassinated may have been the fabled 'second gunman', or equally could have been an ordinary member of the public getting the hell out of a dangerous situation with bullets flying around. It just depends what you want to believe. I incline towards the first, simply because of so much evidence, not any kind of correlation. Likewise, the 'disappearance' of so many key witnesses to all the events of that day, through untimely deaths, mysterious accidents and abduction by aliens may well be beyond coincidence. Perhaps the only positive aspect of 9/11 was the grist it gave to the conspiracy theorists' mill, just as the Kennedy 'conspiracy' was finally running out of steam and newsworthiness.

If in doubt as to whether you might fall in this category, ask yourself this: which is more likely: that Princess Diana was murdered by MI5 on the orders of the Duke of Edinburgh because she would bring disgrace on the Monarchy by carrying Dodi Fayed's half-Muslim child OR crazed paparazzi on motor bikes caused a half-drunk French chauffeur to crash. My drama-queen genes go for MI5, but rationality plumps for the paps.  But what if it was a suicide pact, having bribed the driver with the promise of settling his gambling debts?  Make up your own explanation: candidates may write on both sides of the paper.

What has this to do with Time? Nothing except that it is the coincidence in time (and usually place) which is the source of the link between otherwise unrelated events, sometimes. I wish I was clever enough to write a proper treatise on Time, like Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time. Sadly I have to report that my history of reading the book was very brief indeed, a comatose state interceding around p.23, and that was after starting again twice. It was the same with Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which I understood as saying that unwelcome relatives tend to take up more time than other visitors by staying longer, though the clock says otherwise, so it's just subjective.

It is not just books on time which over-extend our abilities. My friend Professor Gill Perry's estimable art history treatise, Playing at Home: The House in contemporary art, languishes by my bed after many months, craving attention, beyond p.19.  This is my alibi: I spend most of my days with words, so that by 11pm my language processing mechanism is calling "Time!" on that activity, and starts to withdraw its labour.  Plus I'm getting old, another time-related factor, and my eyelid muscles can no longer fight the laws of gravity, when Time's wingėd chariot hovers and beckons like a rogue minicab driver.

It is interesting to me that however much you don't want to think about it, Time is ticking away in the background, your life-clock's batteries slowly releasing their charge. "He not busy being born is busy dying", like the man said.  It's not a bad analogy if you allow that some people's batteries seem to be rechargeable. Having felt not too far from death 4 years ago, I am now convinced that I will live till at least 92, courtesy of the fresh charge I've experienced through writing: an autoblography, two plays, and this blog (+ facebook items and the odd tweet, not to mention a novel written some years ago which will be an ebook, sooner or later).  Of course it's all in your head, a matter of attitude and motivation. However, I do feel younger and healthier than I did 10 years ago.

Time laughs up its sleeve at these human confections: it ignores our segmentation of it into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries.  It probably thinks the Calendar is nonsense, too, as different systems of months and years operate in different religions and different periods of history. As for the most logical unit of day/night, tell it to the North Norwegians managing with 4 hours of daylight at some times of year, or shift-workers trudging home to bed at daybreak. As traffic jams build up on the roads around retail parks on Saturdays and even Sundays, it is clear we are making ourselves independent of the clock and the calendar. Time stops for no-one; it hums away in the background, while we scrabble around trying to fit our activities into arbitrary slots we have imposed on our time; "I must get this finished by tonight". Why? Because I have a deadline. So? Because the Editor wants it to go to press tomorrow.  Ahh I see, this is the crux of it: segmenting time into socially-agreed units is what enables us to dovetail with other people, and conduct social life without ambiguity or uncertainty. It permits social life and labour. It's the social glue. But Time is oblivious to these constructs, it just carries on doing its thing, just out of sight. So are some people who are habitually late to meet you....

Only the time of our life's end is unpredictable and largely out of our control, so better have the time of your life while you can.




















Are you telling me that you didn't read Time's Arrow, by Martin Amis, which caused a stir in 1991, when it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize? It was written backwards, not as above,but the plot started in 'the present' and worked backwards towards the past, Thus, concentration camp victims were seen boarding trains away from the camps to regain their normal lives. It was extremely cleverly done (though for what purpose other than novelty?), but then the author is very clever. Having had the privileges of wealth and a famous literary father (Kingsley A.), he could hardly escape the boost this would give his own writing career, but the personality he projects in interviews is as a rather smug and self-satisfied (but slightly nervous) rich boy and clever dick, which takes the gloss off his undoubted abilities. He probably blames his father, and may be right to. But he had choices, as an adult, and does not always make good ones. Who does?


























The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once. Albert Einstein

Lost time is never found again. Benjamin Franklin


Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana     Groucho Marx







Apart from the 'We are the World'-type charity singles (that spring from a whole lot of goodwill, and a helping of B-listers desperate for good PR), has there ever been such a collection of stars come together for a single song? What an incredible line-up to pay tribute to Dylan at his 30th anniversary concert in Madison Square Garden in October 1992.  I  was there, having arranged, at short notice, a three-lecture 'tour'  from Rhode Island to North Carolina to New York in order to go to the concert. This supergroup's rendition of Dylan's My Back Pages was one of the high-spots:  The Booker T and the MGs house band, Roger McGuinn, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Dylan himself, evidently loving every minute of it. My back pages too: Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.










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