Time

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No, it’s not Latin, at least not directly. It is Old Germanic and related to tide, much as it helps us, as we cannot actually define time without running around in circles biting our tails (Ouroboros or a frisky dog, depending how seriously you want to take the notion). We can devise tools, sometimes very precise ones, to measure it, but as to what it is, well, no one really knows for sure. Is it finite or infinite? Does it flow, jump, stay or renew itself? Is the future coming to you or are you moving towards the future? Is the past unchangeable? Can time be traveled other than in memory?

We know we try to manipulate the time continuum (is it a continuum all by itself or does space gather there as well?). St Augustine thought that we have all the tools we need for time: we simultaneously grasp the past in memory, the present by attention, and the future by expectation.

Remember that old Greek myth of Khronos (personification of time) eating his children and them remaining alive and unharmed (gods, therefore immortal, and bound by prophecy – which is therefore stronger than time?) in the vastness of their father’s reach. We seem to be in time, but are we time as well? Is time sequential or, like we can in memory, escape into possibility?

Time can also struggle along even if we seem to have lost a limb of it. An amnesiac still has a present and a future, someone with short memory loss will remember his childhood and can plan for the future, an infant seems to live in an eternal past-present, with nary a thought for the future.

So many questions, for something we take so much for granted and that seems such a simple concept.

A few things seem to be outside of time. An example would be the strong feelings humans can experience. We feel those, they relate to an extant object (person, country etc.), and yet they transcend time. It is as if that relationship makes and marks its own time, limited and yet wider than the usual continuum. When we feel strongly we can work, dream, eat, raise children and follow our pathway in our time, and yet a small part of us counts a different set of seconds, one that is not ours but belongs to that object and that connects us to that object when distance alone might not make it.

And should that clock falter, our very essence is at risk.

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Worlds

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You’d think one world is enough, and ours is complex enough as it is. And maybe there is this one world only (you know, inhabited etc.), although it doesn’t make sense. But within this world of ours I think of many worlds to which we belong, to which we give different names and that intersect in ways that make us aware of each other. To give one example, I met my husband because the world of religious observance (going to church) of one friend intersected with the immigrant world (getting those of one language to come together and eat, drink and be merry) of another friend. My husband’s landlady belonged to the first world (she went to the same church as my first friend), I came to eat, drink and be merry with my second friend. These friends knew each other and decided that my husband and I really should get together. So those worlds intersected. The consequence is my present 🙂

The food we eat (vegetarians, Paleo, allergies, intolerances, ethics, food miles, religion), what we do (art, crafts, gardening, library, trekking, history, travel, pubs, museums), the work we do (government, NGO, community, science, corporation, academia), the way we think and what we believe in (politics, religion, activism, culture) create worlds and we move from one world to the other, changing subtly on the threshold of each, meeting different people, behaving in specific ways that are recognizable to our group and belonging to each one of those worlds with different parts of ourselves.

We tend to judge people not only by the number of worlds they belong to, but also in regards to the actual belonging. The number of worlds is an indicator of wellbeing, for example. A workaholic would belong to maybe two worlds (the work and the home) while participation in society (how many worlds you belong to) is a common question in health and social services.

Actual belonging is harder to define but makes up the bulk of first dates, getting to know each other sessions and team building exercises. People seem to define themselves by the worlds they belong to eg I am a Christian/engineer/Liberal/cornet player/vegan/refugee/Cuban etc. etc. and that narrowing down is what starts the conversation, the selection and determines much of the communication afterwards.

Belonging to these worlds comes usually with the sense of security people crave. We therefore gift those worlds loyalty and personalize them, sometimes to extremes. They become “the way” and we resist changes. Sometimes it even becomes difficult to move between those worlds and we are shocked when we come in contact with unknown worlds (changing jobs, travelling to other countries, joining a club). We are at our most alert (for good or bad 😛 ) when we are in between worlds.

These worlds are human creations, of course. We live in complex societies and there are too many of us for one world only to be feasible. But we are, as a species, adaptable, with a reasonable tolerance for stress and with a brain that thrives on challenges, so we move between those creations of ours with ease, grace even.

Now, what about our big world? What about planet Earth?

Stranger

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I was talking to a friend about love. He was not in a good space for other reasons, but the conversation veered naturally towards this subject.

Both of us are people who love intensely and yet the discussion quickly outlined almost opposite perspectives. You would have thought we were discussing different things altogether. What it boiled down to (for me) was the difference between yourself and a stranger. People both. Same blood, same organs, same facial expressions, living in the same world. And still, a world apart in everything that matters.

I cannot differentiate between love and myself. I do not see the border. For him, love seemed always an intrusion, not unwelcome but not of yourself, separate.

Love brings me understanding (can I understand without love? Can I love without understanding? Unlikely…). Love brings him uncertainty and frustration because of that.

Love is my normality. I feel as if everything is just right in the world. Not better than they should be, just right, the way they are supposed to be, therefore normal. For him, love is the ultimate adventure, everything that normal isn’t. A state out of calm, unsettled.

Both of us are possessive people. Both of us like control, perhaps too much so. We like analyzing ourselves and others and making assumptions (see above 😛 ).

Do either of us grok love? (Darling R.A. Heinlein, English was poorer before your Martian!)

Should we try to persuade each other that love is not what we think it is? Should we try to call ourselves naïve or cynical? Should we encourage ourselves to find a middle ground?

A teacher of mine gave me a definition that has stayed with me ever since. She told me that there is no point trying to differentiate between types of love (parental, filial, romantic, religious), that all of us have not one heart, but rather a tree full of hearts, with some of them bigger and some of them falling to the ground dessicated. It was an acceptance of love in all its many shapes, and I stand by it. There is a Japanese concept (Anime?) of a tree of hearts but I am not sure if it tries to describe the same things. Alexander McCall Smith also says that the heart has many chambers (can’t find the quote just now). And I tried to take Tolkien’s “One ring” rhyme and substitute love for ring. It sounded just as uncomfortable.

Maybe the Western concept of the love singularity merits a revision. Incidentally, Eurythmics have a song called “Love is a stranger” that seems to sum this concept up. On the other hand my darling Heinlein, quoted above, also stated that the more you love, the more you can love, and, given enough time, you can love everyone that is good and kind.

Who to believe? Where to turn?

Love?

WHAT IS IT?