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all kinds of time

skindeep's picture


listen to this while reading:


She flinches before he even raises his hand. Her body automatically becomes firmer, almost as if it were freezing over to build itself an armor, so that it wouldn’t have to feel the strikes anymore. And he’s only just walking towards her.


Yes, time reversal does happen.

And it happens because we anticipate, because we feel and we think and a lot of the time, we live immersed in the past. So that anything that happens is connected in our minds to similar things that have happened before.

So that change and surprise don’t in fact come by surprise.

So that we can, yet again, try to be safe.


‘Come on, stop it, this is important, you’re being tested on it in a few hours, stop it, get out.’ But the images stay right there. His hand and the belt and the wall against which she stood. ‘I’m sorry. Please stop, just this once, I’m sorry’. It had been a couple of days already, and the images refused to leave, so she dug deeper into some part of her and found enough calm to continue reading her book. Still, remnants of memories of that day and all the days before it lingered on the tip of her mind..


Yes, we live in multiple time zones at once.


And it happens because we carry the past forward with us. For most of us, the past is the present we’re living in, situations that have taken place, experiences that we’ve had, lessons we’ve learnt, they direct our behavior and the manner in which we think every single day. We mould ourselves every day, and we do it based on the past.

Time is fluid, and it moves around us, through us and within us, silently shaping our thoughts and emotions like a sculptor that only works in the depths of night. Slipping by unnoticed.

Still, when I look at myself, I don’t look at my history as history, I look at each event as a happening, as something that molded me, as something that had an effect on me. And when I meet people, I don’t view their childhood as their history, just as a part of them. It seems like, in our minds, the past, present and the future are just words, words that have lingered in our minds, words we forget to give precedence to because we include them in the tangled mess of our thoughts.

Because our body lives in the present while our mind wanders through different depths of the past, often visiting the future.

Time is important, because it gives you a sense of who you are in relation to your surroundings and situations. It gives us something to measure change by. And it does so not despise but because of its fluidity. Time can be left up for interpretation, can be used as a standard for deadlines and schedules, can be used as a personal string, a string of events and occurrences that we decide we want to remember. Time makes memory possible.


So obviously, a lot of artists, authors, musicians and directors make use of time as a medium as a device to better portray their message. Because when a movie is made as a series of flashbacks and a book is written as a photo album, with the dots only being connected at the end, it gives the reader or the viewer a different perspective, it involves them in a more interactive way. Because the play with time interacts directly with the mind.

In Alice in Wonderland, the play with time almost gives the book its rhythm, its pace. It interweaves slowly, entangling itself into our unconscious mind. As Alice jumps from one adventure to another, and the scene changes, so does the scene in our mind, and while a lot of people believe that this makes it hard for them to fully come to terms with what’s happening, in reality, one can come to terms with it because of the play with time. Because the play keeps your mind active, and doesn’t give you enough time or space to ask questions or to ponder. It takes you directly into the mind of a child, in which, more often than not, actions come before coherent thought.

This is one aspect that I think the movie by Tim Burton lacks. His movie is linear, almost flat, and so it doesn’t speak to the audience, doesn’t invite them into the story or the plot. This is not to say that a linear story is a poorly written one, but in the context of Alice in Wonderland, you expect something different. You want to get involved, you want to be shocked and surprised and you want to feel with the characters. And that doesn’t happen because you aren’t nestled into the plot, you aren’t intertwined with the story, it hasn’t interacted with your mind. Maybe the movie would have been more appealing had it managed to engage you more.

Time helps you remember, helps you define, helps you accept change, and yet, remains strangely constant. Like a chameleon, blending in with everything and watching it all go by, but never, revealing its true color.











Anne Dalke's picture

More, more, more...


as I said last month, the use of a soundtrack adds a distinctive dimension to your papers; the "rap beat" that you chose to accompany this particular essay adds to it an inevitable time-marching-forward quality (which, however, runs strangely counter -- doesn't it? -- to the argument of the essay, about the "loopiness" of time?).

You've chosen a fascinating topic, and your way of writing about it, by interspersing your argument with experiential episodes that make your reader feel time's reversal, is quite powerful.

What I'd like to hear-and-see more of is a research dimension, a way of thinking-with the work of others to flesh out your ideas. Easily accessible on Serendip, for instance, is the archive of a symposium on time that was held on campus a number of years ago. None of the speakers focused on the representation of time in literary texts, but their descriptions of the various ways in which time might be perceived might be useful to your thinking about that topic.

The penultimate talk, on time and the brain, for example, suggested that time as a sequence -- and the sense of causality resulting from that sequence, as well as the ability to reverse it, to "backdate" -- are characteristic of conscious processing, but not of the nervous system of the whole; unconsciously, time "may look more like" a continuous unstable present. So it would be interesting to think some more together about how this latter sense of time is portrayed in texts that attempt to represent the unconscious, such as the "time-traveling" of Woolf's Orlando or of Borges'  "The Secret Miracle."

...or of course, of Alice in Wonderland. The small bits you add @ the end of your piece, about the jumpiness of Carroll's version of this story, and the flatness of Burton's, seem not-at-all connected to your theme of the time's reversibility -- so I also found myself wanting you to think-and-say much more, @ that point, about the relevance of what you say, generally, to the particular texts we've been studying ...