Sunday, May 16, 2010

Apocalypse present and past

Time and awareness

You can not repeat the past - or perhaps you can, if it were ever possible to duplicate every single instantaneous action and could remember, through an aesthete's memory (I am thinking of Huysmans here), every tiny detail recorded by one's senses in the past - to the level of concentration on specifics where one could close one's eyes and live again in a time that has passed into nothingness. Of course one can not travel into the past as if one were wading backwards in a river, as the river does not even exist, and one can never turn around in any case. One proceeds forward interminably, but even this motion is just an illusion, and the impetus and meaning of "forward" or "in front of one's self" loses it relation to other symbols (and thus of all determination) when one realizes there are no other directions possible, because one is not moving at all...and even if one were to move, then, the fact that motion was sent in one direction only would make all other movement relative, and thus meaningless. If I am moving through time and time is moving at the same pace, I might as well be standing still. What passes will pass, moments will not slip by me, things will not come into being before me and escape me because I am motionless, contained by the relative frame of reference within time. These are truisms and, as such, are momentously boring. One wishes to be able to travel back and forth through one's own experience and memories as a selective designator of meaning, picking one instance or event here, another there, and having the entire tableau of one's personal history pass on through its own immutable laws despite the self-created paradoxes that would of course result. The most ironic paradox is outside this, in the meaning of time itself, and one's memories...how one's ideas of the past are created through remembrances that are chosen out of all possible time instances or experiences. The mind is simply not capable of recording all of existence, all situations, all sensations, all details. The focus of one's consciousness is extremely small, and the memories that result from that consciousness are limited, colored by interpretation, and readily fading, pulsing back into nonexistence. If brought to a point of total recall (which is a logical absurdity) who could say what exactly transpired, who could say what events and sensations did or did not exist in the past? In seeking to enter the past in imagination, then, it is as legitimate to create a new past, self-willed, as it is strive to pierce the haze and shadows of retreating memories and determine what exactly happened, and when. How does it matter either way? If they are equally as important in the structure of one's planned future, the actions one moves towards in the ever-retreating "present", and they carry emotional resonance either way, then what is the difference? Neither of them exist outside of the mind.

The paradoxes of time mock every attempt at meaning we could ever strive to draw from our abstractions of the past, present, and future. The present, of course, does not exist. There is no "meeting place" between the past and the future in one's consciousness, there is no momentary "pausing", no matter how infinitely small, in the progress of the abstraction and concept of time to allow the consciousness to reflect, to come to light, to appear in being. Nothing can be pointed to, even in momentary consciousness, and defined as the "present" - this is just a category outside being. As well as being concepts in flux, rapidly altering meaning, each concept in itself (past, present and future) contains matter which is rapidly altering its own dimensions, and in some cases the matter escapes the boundaries of the concepts all together. When referring to this matter, this content, we point to the empty concepts (shells, boxes) left behind them and use them as symbols, but they are (of course) meaningless, it is only a language game with meaning derived from the positioning and interrelation of empty notions, the meaning appearing in the structure or grammar between and underneath the concepts - not in the relations between the subject (viewing or speaking) and the concepts or between the enclosed (formerly, and ostensibly) matter of the themes. Being and becoming are one, they are a constant process - the idea of the present is an illusion, as are the common or accepted notions of time itself. What we designate as "the past" are selected memories, held in "storage" and in immediate consciousness, what we delineate as the "future" is only probability, and is completely uncertain and precarious - it is utterly unknowable as one can not project one's mind into the nothingness of becoming, of that which does not exist and can not exist in any way outside of the projected desires of the past. The only thing one can know, then, are selected parts of what has happened, certain events external to the consciousness and inside of it, although these too are almost immediately "intrepreted", filtered, colored by the consciousness, reduced to particulars of elucidation and control, and then placed in their respective positions within the internal mythology, the self-myth of an inward-reflecting, solipsistic chain of being and meaning. Imagine an apocalypse of the understanding always on the horizon, hanging in possibility like a black cloud before one's stare - visible only through the imagination of course, the inner eye - and one will see the archetype of all possibility, which is the same as rack and ruin, pain and pessimistic degradation into fallen despair, or the bliss of all satisfied desires, surfeit and bloated in its infantile self-obsession, the same as an over-shooting, febrile optimism: they are one and the same, they reach the same end - nothingness. Because the future is entirely, categorically unknowable, being placed in faith outside of all possible experience, as it has not come into being and is therefore outside of all possible instances of our knowing (in absolute possibility), the instant death that lies in wait around the next corner or at the end of diplomatic frustration (negotiations with possibility, reality with desire) is the same as a projected death x years in the future, where x is completely dependent on one's temperament. Pessimistic? Choose what causes the most pain and ruin, or devastates that which is held dear - true or not - across the board. Optimist? Do the opposite. It's completely relative. It's a matter of personal choice in picking which sensations and interpretations one wants to feel, out of desire, and so it is a subject of aesthetics. The aesthete chooses optimism or pessimism in a random relation to his experiences. Why not shuttle through all possible interpretations, all sensations? Why not manipulate the future, all possibility and its impact on the imagination, as one manipulates the past?

There are those, of course, who would place x as twenty years, perhaps, giving themselves in all beneficent, bourgeois (the poison in my hands!) optimism the "benefit" (yes, even this is relative) of the doubt, as there are those who would place x at six months, eaten away by cancer, or even less, being eventual suicides pausing at the edge of cold self-certainty, self-knowledge in that final act. As I write this there are souls who can place x within their own lives, taking it from the orifice of an inopportune and inhumane (because outside of all humanity, being alien to it as an abstraction) existence - avatar of God or godlessness - but even they can not determine their entrance into nothingness with anything close to certainty. When is placed before all possibility, as one is when trying to think of the future, one surely can not, without a sort of self-willed looking away or leap of faith, believe (take something to be true without evidence) in any ceasing of consciousness at all, or even understand what such a thing could mean. How could a conscious mind even wrap the determining walls of a concept around something which negates its own existence? This is exactly the same conundrum, or logical impossibility, that comes into being when one tries to define "nothingness" by framing it as the absence of something else or bound by its opposite - that opposite in itself not being perfectly realized in the mind. One takes an object, for example, or the feeling of experience and then tries to withdraw every single characteristic or accident of sensation from it in order to reach something that resembles a pure concept (Descartes), but which is in fact the absence of everything. It is absurd to even speak of this, as these are in themselves errors in logic and language, lacunae in meaning that are allowed to come into being (but not in actuality, only being pointed to by other symbols, themselves being the absence of the same) only as abstractions, as ill-defined, shadowy half-concepts, passing in and out of nonexistence. One feels, at times, like one is saying something, but this is just an illusion.

So I stand in the eternal becoming between a past I can not remember clearly and a future I can not see in any way, but which I contrust solely on habit and faith, these patterns of unconscious custom being so deep and powerful that they resemble perception and comprehension. Where am I in all of this, then? In the here, now, now, now...the tight confines of my own consciousness, which seeks to reduce the one single unending day of all time, all existence, all possibility, to the world of the earthbound, the day and night, the 24 hours, the hour itself, all of these shadows and myths...for if there wasn't this, what would we be? Eternally unsleeping beings thrust into a universe much too large for our sensing and feeling, our interpretation. The horror of that angel existence would be too much for me to bear.

U. Amtey
30 December 2004
10:00 CST
NP: Desiderii Marginis - Strife