What empty notion is an hour
And yet we lend to it such power
Dictating what we choose to do
What ambitions to pursue.
Limitations she presents,
A concept that my soul resents
And even worse that age old curse
How much longer are the adverse
Minutes spent where you’re not free,
Hellbent, wishing I could be
Sent to a realm no space or time
A forest where the sun that shines
Will be alongside this wise mind
The only things my life defines.
I wrote something like this yesterday and stopped, noting the obviousness of a philosophical discussion of the useless notion as time. It is an empty construct that is a universal guideline, yet it’s hard to tell precisely how we can adequately quantify passing time. Are some minutes worth more than others? Some years? The illusion that everything will move past you and leave you behind, the idea that time is unrelenting, has stood what is considered to be a test of great strength, one of the most unrelenting, which is of course time itself.
I came back and decided to begin what I imagine will be a long process of thought about time, because the first thing my lecturer said this morning at nine am. was “what even is time?”, implying its problematic nature. In mocking passing the greatest questions of our lives are belittled into humorous reminders of our hopelessness in their answering, Later he came back to elaborate that there is a tribe, where the notions of states and time aren’t conceptually relevant in their society- they just aren’t concepts they could attempt to understand because their lives are not governed that way. There is more to universal rationality than just the intrinsic metaphysics with which we have had to become accustomed in our own culture.
I wonder if a construction of a moral and fair world will require an overhaul of terminology and definition. How much does language around a thing truly shape it, how that can possibly be avoided, and whether it is fair or even possible to implement changes to such a complex idea. The cognition operates in a way that is so extensive, so whole, each element of our brain operating in accordance with a million sources interacting, some consciously, others in the mere whispers, hints of experience that present themselves at the forefront when brought to attention. I used to find comfort in the fact that all things past do not simply disappear, even though our brain can’t possibly prioritize their conscious memory at all times. That the thoughts and knowledge we gather reinforce the structures of our brain and fortify their processes into something concrete, almost law-like. Nothing important is lost. Nothing painful is lost.
It has been famously difficult to come up with empirical laws that govern society, or social interaction, or even action, because psychology isn’t enough to explain what precisely takes place when we make choices about what to do. There isn’t necessarily a clear trajectory from an inclination to a decision to an action. Motivation or purpose may be the driving factor in this trajectory however there are so many winding pathways down which each element of our cognition has had to come, at all stages of our lives.
Do we need time? Is there any way to live in a society that doesn’t prioritise it? What’s the value of organisation and are there any costs to this insistence on order and neatness and symmetry?
I don’t know but I’m very intrigued to read David Davidson’s paper through once more and potentially find out.