Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some Other Time


The conversation at lunch today brought your focus on the common theme of the passage of time in any kind of creative activity.  This was brought home to you from the way an artist who specializes in landscapes done in oil discussed her time spent before the board or canvas, or canvas over board, attempting to get down a moment in time before the light changed, casting the painter’s equivalent of a differing point of view over the work.

You’ve spent some time conflating the writer of narrative with the actor, the photographer, and the musician, but until today, you’d not articulated your sense of how the painter is also doing her work in relationship to time.  The fact of you having medicated yourself with antihistamines against a cold that had its own agenda with time made the sense of timing all the more vivid.

As a general rule, you are either engaged, which is to say “in” something you are composing, reading, or listening to, or “out,” outside a work, trying to figure a way in.  The tidal nature of the antihistamine and the cold, engaging in, do you dare use the pun cold war? Helped alert you to the tidal nature of interest and involvement.

When you sit before a computer screen or note pad, when the actor pauses in the wings, waiting for the cue to enter the scene, when the musician, either playing from memory, improvisation, or a marked-up score, or a photographer, having adjusted the lens aperture and shutter speed, confronts the next step, the entry, they are all conscious of and guided by time.

They are in the equivalent of that moment between consciousness and the abrupt drop into sleep.  Once in the medium or the sleep, time becomes more than relative, time becomes idiosyncratic.  The passage of events may speed up relative to the actual passage of time, or it may draw events out to the point where every detail of movement seems exaggerated.

For you, the most excruciating moments are those before the blank note pad or computer screen.  Time seems to take on a personal quality in that it appears to throb, reminding you of the cue you are waiting for before going “on,” entering the stage of the inner world.   Now that you think about it, you have the same awareness when you “stand” before the sleeping state, waiting for your cue to enter that stage.

The most appealing way to get “in” is the way with the most risk.  Potentials for danger, reversal, emotional and physical pain have the effect of producing the tingle you were talking about a few days back.  The more you think about the complexities and danger of risk, the more you sense yourself going into an alert mode, a place where solutions come rushing at you to the point where all you have to do is reach out, then grab one, wrestle it to the page, tweak it, then try to ride it as it takes you beyond the constraints of time.

Whether it is in the act of sleeping, reading, or writing, there is a sense of time moving because all these activities involve event, but not mere, simple event, rather event as a fraction in which event is the numerator and intent is the denominator.  Some dreams are so uncomfortable that your intent is to get out of them, either by orchestrating other scenarios or, if things get rough, waking up.  Some reading is so satisfying that you override your time constraints of social or work-related obligations to stay “in” someone else’s story.  In similar fashion, if the reading proves boring or predictable, you can end the association right now, and no need to be polite about it.  From all this behavior, you can see how it goes with your own writing.  Sometimes that need for a cup of coffee is your way of overcoming the throb of time passing in reality in ways that remind you of the struggle between your thinking mind and the writing mind that wants you back in the story.

When you are afflicted with a cold, analgesics help to a degree, but by far the best analgesic is being “in” some reading, some writing, or some dreaming, to say nothing of being “in” some music.

Having a cold is having the double whammy of the time zone of reality, ticking away as it might under ordinary circumstances as well as the sense of having your frontal lobes and sinuses packed in bubble wrap.  The best way to get out of this is to get into something where your time frames are the operant ones, and the best way to reach these is to stare down the things you most fear, least know or understand. Doing so takes you, by another lovely analogy for the manipulation of time back to your primitive self, being chased by some now defunct predator.  You are deliberately staging your own chase by your own saber-tooth tiger.  And this time, time is on your side.

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