Freeze Frame

Thoughts on a runaway train.

Now might be time for some realignment, someone says, regarding some speculation as to whether the moment at hand is coextensive with the time since the last ice age, or something of another order entirely, and didn’t Kant observe something awhile back about the gravity of the gravitational calculations that led to the radical separation between the human observer and the Nature he observes, and here we are, full circle or full ellipse, inside the fullness that someone might stop and measure, in a time when the fate of man and nature are again joined––since the moment the steam engine made the muscle of man or his mule no longer a natural limit for what he might do, where he might do it, and with what relentlessness, or since the moment that the soil was first irradiated by the bomb, since the explosion of acceleration of speed, people, pathologies, pollutants, possible beginnings and ends and alternative trajectories of being, but where in this blur of runaway objects emitting time does a body jump off to look, and what are the odds of landing in earth soft enough to break the fall?

***

Inspired by an observation by philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, that “We are being exposed . . . to a catastrophe of meaning . . . Let us remain exposed and let us think about what is happening to us. Let us think that it is we who are arriving, or are leaving.” In After Fukushima: The Equivalence of Catastrophes, trans. Charlotte Mandel (New York: Fordham University Press, 2015).

Windows

The fractured sky.

Glaziers mark to frame the squinting eye, here is what a sky becomes when you wake to the way the moon was always there beside the sun and inside a kaleidoscope of parallel heavens: now blue, now crimson, now slate, now yellow, each breaking into the next, and yet––instead of falling, it holds.

***

Inspired by the stained-glass sky collages of photographer Alex Hyner, as described here.

Arrival, Departure

The visitor.

There is a visitor in the doorway, both inside and out, with no movement except turning the whole world, reminding anyone who cares to look, just how close it is––the possible entrance, the potential to end.

Who are you? Someone asks the visitor, and the visitor replies, I’ve been here the whole time.

Nonlinear Equations

Exercises in conversion.

Translate fragility. One part the substance that allows anything to exist and another part the accident of its coherence.

Translate explosion. The wavering world collapses.

Translate yourself. I am. I am not myself.

Calculate the distance between the essence of the thing and its appearance. Assume a rift between two sides of a coin. Now assume the rift collapses. Calculate the length of time between distortion and consistency.

If x is a mortal wound and y may alternately represent either the why of an object’s existence or its possible death, what is the circumference of xy^2? 

Show your work.

***

Inspiration: Timothy Morton’s “Magic Death” again, in Realist Magic: Objects Ontology, Causality. This post is not intended as an accurate representation of Morton’s ideas, which are worth reading in the philosopher’s own words. 

Bardo

Death and the high notes.

A matter if tuning: the singer to the frequency of glass, the virus to its host, death as the explosion of a vase. Contents of the vase move inside out, and no distinction remains. 

Before the glass shatters, it shudders. If you watch in slow motion, you’ll see it. To be moved deeply by what is well-tuned is to be on the verge of breaking into pieces until there is no longer a body to break.

***

Notes while reading Timothy Morton’s Realist Magic: Objects, Ontology, Causality

Window Mirrors

These growing beyonds.

An old problem: how to phrase 

the far-away steeples. 

How to abandon a conversation 

made of one part memory 

and the other projection?

Which time is it now, the world 

of memory or the procession 

of days marching to the iron-fisted clock? 

What grows beyond the window over there, 

and who has a mirror? 

Let’s shine it by the opening buds, a signal 

to ourselves and our aboves: 

Look, here.

***

The opening line references Marcel Proust’s recollection of the twin steeples of Martinville. 

Thunderbolt

Regrets near the tree of knowledge.

Dear algorithm, what I am looking for is not, unlike some requests, a complete unknown. I saw it once before it was gone. Now I am running–– numbers and lines across time. What time? The hour of this page is long.

I know what I asked, but perhaps I was mistaken. I wanted to see inside the tether of your spine and follow it through the central nervous system of the moment, out to the dendrite tips of the long buried and unborn, and back again. 

Give me back the dark, when the unseen bled rivers of color where we scratched the invisible surfaces, and it was ours too, the corrugated acres, permutations of possibility between the last light and the next sighting and I floated a wandering frame, slow as any becoming.

***

This morning, some curiosity about fractals led me to the work of Mehrdad Garousi, who creates fractal art using mixed medium of mathematics and technology. After reading about his process in “The Postmodern Beauty of Fractals” I found his video Let Me Go, which I discovered I could not view head-on without dizziness. I had to watch through my peripheral vision.

Memory Shards

In the land of exile.

Once upon a time, when the bodies of the residents of former villages were still warm, so many had lived in homes, among families. After the wars, there was more and more talk of melancholy retrospection, this chronic looking back, this impulse to exhume the buried once upon a time that had so abruptly gone.

The word nostalgia had been coined centuries earlier, to describe the pathological homesickness afflicting soldiers separated from family and village. One doctor wrote extensively to insist that the condition be treated seriously as “a pathological state” rather than “an imaginary malady.” He saw death of a broken heart in the land of exile as something more lethal than enemy fire.

Reading these words, I begin to wonder if I know anyone who isn’t separated from family, who has ever known a village. Surely, there must be someone, but what is the word to name this longing for a place you’ve never known?

***

The doctor mentioned above is Raoul Chenu in “De la Nostalgie” whose insights appear regularly in connection with this topic. I was intending to write about the work of French photographer Willy Ronis (1910-2009), who was born on this day, but his work in post-war France naturally led me here. The word I was wondering about is hireath, of Welsch origin and not entirely translatable, which a student presented to me once as “longing for a place that never was.”

Lovers in Time

A triptych.

In the land where time is a circle, I meet you again and again, always with a rush of recognition–– the lilting wave that beckons hello, stranger. It seems I have known you before, and each time I lose you, it is with the shocking pain of the first cut.

In the land where time is water, a tiny rivulet of this becoming will sometimes turn backstream, and any creatures, debris, soil, falling branches, or conversations will find themselves suddenly in the past.  In this world, we know even after our most recent reunion, of the loss that comes next, because we learned this when we lived in the land where time was a circle.

In another world, two times exist concurrently. One is mechanical, its form a massive pendulum of iron, back and forth. The other is of the body, bodies, the body of the living planet and its teeming forms. It squirms, wiggles . . .  makes its mind up as it goes along. Most reject one or the other form of time. But the worlds have a way of colliding. The collision tends to create a desperate state, because everybody knows that you can make a world in one or another time but not both. This is because each time is true, but the truths are not the same.

***

This morning, while waiting for the coffee to brew, I was delighted to discover Einstein’s Dreams, a slim novel by Alan Lightman, hiding in plain sight on a bookshelf. Although I do not remember buying this book, it is easy for me to imagine why I would have wanted to, upon learning that the premise is based on a series of dreams that the young scientist had before arriving at his theories of relativity.  I wrote today’s post while reading the opening twenty pages of the book, using three of the worlds Lightman describes. Italicized phrases are Lightman’s.

Aging Architecture

Bodies in time.

Like fabric in the hand, another remnant of memory is collected in an aftermath. We must have fed the flames that burned the bones of the old present when we danced its wild beat. 

Now it’s possible to wonder if the point of storing so much water in living flesh is to embody this reverberation after the music stops. Or to cool against the fire, but that doesn’t explain this tendency for conduction, not to mention what happens when lightning strikes. 

Probably the added volume simply makes us more suitable replacement frames, upon which these scraps of former seasons may be more elaborately draped.