Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Standing Under Time
Time, as something we fall through like a haze of cottonwood fluzz, does not exist. 'Time' is a convenient name that we ascribe to an ontological experience. To say even that this experience “shapes” us gives the name a certain agency that is questionable, if not dangerous. But language such as I have used is not very interesting. It lacks context. Time as the flow of water will do nicely, since it is the metaphor Heraclitus offers us.
The Nightingale’s Stone is an important book for me because it describes occasions wherein I “stood under” Being and Time through heartbreak. It is often all too easy to describe past experiences of Love as illusions. This is nonsense. The fever and confustication that Love causes makes nearly everyone an unreliable narrator—if you believe in absolute truth—because none of our narratives can be trusted. That river, Time? Too much of it passes under the bridge we are standing on.
If you pick up the book, you will notice that my conversations with Anton take place in the present. Or at least what passes for it in words, which means I used the present tense. My description of what brought me there was all in past tense. The reason was simple: the subject of narrative concerns what was. The act of narration concerns what is. Like all simple things, I have not figured it out.
All writers must face Time. I do not mean narrative time, or nonlinear vs. linear time, but the words I choose to describe those times. If I am alone, which I am as I write this, and there was a time when I was not alone, how do I accurately treat that experience?
What if the place where I was coupled—and single—is the same place? What if it is a moving place? The place ‘moves through Time,’ but it obviously moves in space because it is a Washington State Ferry. This adds a further dimension: that of iteration, because the Washington State Ferries lack bow and stern. They simply have “ends.” They go back and forth. It is interesting that in English, one begins with the return, but from where?
“Back and forth” seems to call for the present tense. There is an implied immediacy, and since the present is actually timeless, going back and forth in present tense reflects how some ontological truth that lies beneath our fragile conceptual framework of space, time and causality. If I describe my lover’s infidelity in present tense, it throws the reader into the immanence of that sorrow.
That is one facet you may choose. Another facet is that my lover is long gone—an interesting temporal collision. His last lies, and what I had to return to him liberated me. I was miserable, but am now grateful for it. Have you noticed that Time often hinges on that conjunction ‘but?’
Or should I mix times? Should I add a future tense? Thinking back to when I had some inkling of how happy I would be when he was no longer in my life? Would I do this all again? Or would the ferry be something truly different, if only for this chronological epiphany? How would Heraclitus describe the Puget Sound?
Rules? Useless in this case. I have to write it out and then read it out loud, for the ear is often the best judge of how the heart philosophizes.