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Another Time, Perhaps

by on December 1, 2020

Another Time, Perhaps

by Marco M. Pardi

Time is Nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” Adapted from:Ray Cummings. The Time Professor. 1921

Both in thought and feeling, even though time is real, to realize the un-importance of time is the gate of wisdom.” Bertrand Russell. Mysticism and Logic.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are open for comment.

Although Russell is correct in a circumscribed sense, the conceptualization of demarcated time is illusory. Time is simply a measure of change. No change, no time. As the television series Kung Fu pointed out, the instant you conceive of the present it becomes the past; it is Not. The future is not here; it, too, is NOT. But if past and future are not, and present instantly becomes past, where is time?

The second hand sweeps at a fixed speed and we pass the minutes. We have a clock. The radioisotope decays at a fixed rate and we have an atomic clock. Remove all possibility of measuring change, perhaps by sitting in a windowless room with no chronometers of any kind and then tell me how you “tell the time”. This was demonstrated some years ago by volunteers deep in an Italian cave, with unpleasant psychological outcomes. It has been demonstrated accidentally by miners trapped underground for periods known to the rescuers but unknown to the miners. Invariably, they report grossly distorted impressions of the passage of time, always on the long side. Of course, this phenomenon is known to those who have sat through my classes.

But time travel is a constant fantasy, even desire for many. Some long to go back within their own lifetime and get a “do over”. Others, more adventurous, want the long view, a visit to long before they were born. One of the early examples in common literature was Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In either choice one faces the questions: Do I go back as the person I am now, knowing what I know now? Or do I simply go back as a person living in that era?

The answer to the second question is easy. If one went back as simply a person living in that era one would not know it. Everything would be normal, the person would have no concept of having “returned” from some future state. The person who “was” would be erased and the person who is would be, well, is. Perhaps wondering what it would be like to live in the future. Where’s the gain? There is none.

But most people opt for the first choice: arriving in the distant past as the person they are now. And here’s where an Anthropologist might be of help, first in trying to talk one out of it and second in trying to prepare a person for a reality likely quite different from what they expected.

Many Anthropologists have been time travelers, of a sort. Those of us who have done field work, living with people in “under developed countries” especially as they do from day to day face a dual but deceptive reality. While it is easy to assume that such “marginal” people represent a long past stage in the development of “modern” society it is critical to understand that these people are living in their own present reality. They may not have the developed histories (which are often manipulated and/or outright wrong) modern societies rest upon but they do have generational memory preserved in folklore and oral traditions. And, they often have ways of doing things that would stun the sensibilities of modern Time Tourists. In the United States Thanksgiving has just passed. How many Americans went out into their yards and slaughtered a turkey for the festive meal? How many even know what a living turkey looks and sounds like, and how it behaves? But you get the point.

Personnel in other careers also find themselves at times in “other worldly” settings. In the military I recall shortly after dawn on the Great Libyan Desert hearing and then seeing a camel caravan coming over a huge dune about 50 yards from me. Camels’ padded feet are silent but they often have strings of bells hanging from their halters. As they plodded past I was transported into an uncertain time warp; it could have been centuries ago or just last week. I half expected to see a bearded prophet followed by disciples trailing along behind.

Being alone out there with my attack dog on leash I felt free to respectfully wave at who appeared to be the leaders. But as they waved in return I knew that under those colorful robes there possibly were the latest Soviet issued Makarov handguns and the large parcels on the pack camels could be carrying Soviet supplied firearms and ammunition destined for the modern guerrilla fighters repeatedly attacking our base drinking water pumping stations about fifteen miles away.

Many people seek vicarious time travel through historical fiction, and some through serious historical accounts. But with the notable exceptions of Ken Follett, Neal Stephenson, and few others historical fiction is sparse on the details of day to day life in past times. I would be quite careful in recommending it to personnel outward bound to some of the more traditional societies. The television series Little House on the Prairie did not much mention the little house behind the little house on the prairie, where attending to toilet function was unpleasant at best and life threatening during serious winters. And thinking of that imaginary prophet (there were hundreds at any given time) followed by his disciples, I wonder why the biblical literature, so descriptive of violence, doesn’t mention: And, lo, a straggler fell back from the group, calling to the brethren, “You guys go on. I’ll catch up. I gotta take a dump.” And so it came to pass…………..

Serious literature can also raise questions. The Talmud, Torah, and especially the Mishnah precisely explain the moments of everyday Hebrew life. Reading through the proscriptions and ritual ablutions before, during, and after sexual intercourse one is left wondering how the next generation of Hebrews got there. But like notable denominations of modern Christianity, how people say they should live is not necessarily how they do live.

Which brings us more or less to the “present”. It’s hard to repeat the trite sayings such as The past is behind you when we are living with the consequences of four years of horrendous internal turmoil, greed, lies, disregard of foundational principles and even laws, and the blatant attempt by the reincarnated American Fascist Party to replace democracy with outright fascism. The past is alive when we wonder how it is that so many supporters of the current regime who had family members who were maimed or killed fighting fascists in World War II Europe are blinded by their single issue obsession, such as banning abortion and even contraception, to the point where they will destroy the foundations of democracy and imperil all life on the planet we all share. It’s as if Time did not simply progress, but shifted into an alien dimension.

As soon as it won the last presidential election the Trump administration became known around the world as The dog that caught the car. An amusing metaphor at first, it soon turned out that this dog was intent on destroying the car, the passengers, the road, and the countryside around it all in the name of personal and corporate greed. Ongoing international studies have shown that during the 40 years between 1970 and 2010 over 65% of the world’s wildlife has disappeared, including an accelerating number of species that have gone extinct. 40 years are less than an eye blink in the time humans have walked the Earth. But extinction is forever.

In those 40 years we see the Democratic Party was in power for only 14. And now, as another Republican orgasm ebbs, we see a frantic effort on its part to roll back and/or eliminate any and all remaining environmental safeguards crafted by the scientific community over the past decades. We see around 300 lifetime appointments of “conservative” federal judges just in this recent four year span following the successful Republican blockade of centrist or left leaning judges during the previous administration. We see what used to be a fairly balanced, lifetime appointment Supreme Court now turned into a lop-sided 6 to 3 “conservative” court mostly beholden to the American Fascist group recently posing as the Republican Party. Would you like your case to come before this court?

In other words, the Ship of State is firmly set on a course from which it will be very hard to turn before Democracy is irreparably damaged, the environment is pushed beyond the tipping point, and our current generation of young children is indoctrinated into the subservience that serves the Fascist Fatherland. Already an increasing number of young people are electing to forego having children lest they bring them into the world that is plainly awaiting them.

But herein is the deepest tragedy. The very people who, by their awareness and concern are the most qualified to alter the course of the ship are the ones choosing not to change and empower the crew. There has long been no doubt that the best thing Mankind can do for the future of this planet is to dramatically reduce its numbers. But the irony is that this call to action is being heeded by the very people best qualified to prevent the environmental, economic, and social disasters deeply sewn by those who beguiled “the base” into supporting their short term rapacious greed. (I find it amusing that people who do not speak Arabic miss the fact that “the base”, as Trump supporters are so widely characterized, translates into al qaeda – a vicious, transnational terrorist organization centered around their interpretation of one of the three great religions of the West.) Oh, well. Another time.

The Doomsday Clock is ticking toward midnight. Do we have the time to get up and act, or shall we just sit back and listen for the last tick? As the next administration steps into office it will be important to remember that undoing the horrendous damage will not come overnight. And, as we saw after the United States and the Fascist Axis Powers formally entered into World War II against each other, Fascists don’t change their minds just because they changed their stripes. They melt back into our communities, our schools, churches and courtrooms. Waiting for another time.

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14 Comments
  1. jkent33 permalink

    As long as my memory serves me I heard one time that we all experience a 7 year time span, whereupon we are reborn. I decided to break down my past into 10 year blocks of time. That way my new self could fully benefit from a whole new slate of history to reflect upon. I set about thinking of it in terms of the past say twenty years, thirty years, forty years and so forth. I referred to them in my mind as the back 20, back 30, back 40. I was then going to then set about comparing them in terms of my status of accomplishments.

    When I got to the 40 year mark I felt time had suddenly shifted ahead leaving me to postpone the past 10 and jump right into the 50 year span. It happened again at 60 forcing me to go right into the present time of 74 years. I couldn’t quite catch up because time was flying by quicker than I expected. Changes were occurring that appeared as a blur at times. Economic changes forced me to take jobs I certainly hadn’t planned to take. With these jobs came commitments I could no longer accomplish. But it didn’t matter because the circumstances left me little choice. Income inequality and social changes led me to losing my family. My home and all of my belonging suddenly left my hands like sand in an hour glass.

    I got exposed to high concentrations of chlorine in my already stressed body and mind that left me living with an ex-employee whose needs were far greater than mine. She like me found herself divorced with a 5 year old and little income from 2 jobs, who after rent and automobile, food grew scarce. She saw something in me thinking we could be good for each other. That was when I because very ill showing signs of dying with little health insurance, save my relationship with caring doctors from my past who cared.Together along with her brother who was an ex military doctor led me back to health. Also an old female friend who owned a rehab center who upon learning of my dilemma, gave me free access to her staff who ensured death not in my future.

    My lifestyle shifted from living in the best suburbs to living for 3 years in an old crack house hotel for $50 weekly, with linen service once weekly. Suddenly with my new health and job time really speeded up because I was ready for something better than worrying about all of my belonging stolen or worse yet killed by the dregs of life surrounding me. Believe me under such conditions you want time to fly, because each day brought more and more violence and fear. For the next 5 years I was forced to pack a P-38 Walther, slapstick and a mean looking knife anytime I was out after dark. As Frank Sinatra said in his famous rendition of “Luck be a Lady” it finally came through for me. I gave up on god coming down from somewhere discovering he was there in female form pushing me across the line.

    i accepted the challenges ahead in my bespoke lifestyle using my wits, patience and courage; to excel, that developed into the means to make some decisions no longer fear based, but good decisions with a promising future. However, time never took a vacation. It at times appeared to be going out of control. I picked up the trappings my new lifestyle dictated that cleared up my sometimes foggy mind.

    I knew with my advancing age I needed to clearly focus on what being in my 70s meant. Fewer ways to make money and the fear of failing health. Well, as soon as I planned to relocate to start my new life, upon arrival my worst fears come to fruition. The very day I was awakened to my lack of ability to barely walk was my new self. The doctor I had been corresponding with in my new state fell ill and died. I searched through the health system he belonged to finding another doctor who turned out to be a disaster; whereupon, I discharged him after the second meeting. Now with failing health my research proved to be correct when I met a young (40ish) lady from Romania. Remember the song Luck be a Lady, well it came true once again. For the past 5 years she has not only became my friend, but a trusted healthcare giver whose practice in lifestyle medicine proved to be a perfect match.

    Four years ago my ship lost her way and a times spoke of never sailing again. I like many felt after getting this far on the path the going was showing little promise. Well at time, thinking I was losing my reason, I held on campaigning for change and change we have. Its only 50 days away but the fear of failing again is off my plate and the plate of millions like me. I invested borrowed funds to support the GA election and encouraging everyone to do the same. Land is in sight promising less stress and once again a future.Lets all hold hands believing better times are coming our way!!

    Marco, I hope my story gives some credence to your post.

    Like

    • Dana permalink

      Jerry, thank you for sharing this. I’m so glad you’ve survived so much. And I’m also relieved you survived pneumonia and decided to venture out the evening we met in Publix.

      What is time, anyway? As you’ve always said, “Every night is a Saturday night, and every day is a holiday.”

      Like

  2. Thank you, Jerry. You are a model of survival. I know I speak for many when I say we are awaiting your coming book.

    Like

  3. Gary permalink

    Firstly, you are so serious Marco (usually) that you knocked me off my chair laughing at your witticisms about your class and the biblical joke about the guy taking a dump. Best laugh I’ve had for a while. Secondly, thank you for pointing out that “the base” translates into al qaeda – I knew that, but I hadn’t made the Trump connection.

    Also, the horror of time travel in “Back to the Future” was Marty McFly being sexually harassed by his own mother as a teenager. Awkward.

    Thank you for mentioning Ken Follett, one of my favourite historical fiction writers. In fact, his latest book, which is a prequel to Pillars of the Earth, is on my Christmas shopping list (along with another bunch of books) that my children and grandchildren demand of me this time of year. Oddly enough, most of the stuff I put on the list can had for $15 0r $20. My kids think they are being too cheap only spending that kind of money on me – after all I am wonderful and deserve so much more, or so they think. That is what they tell my wife, anyway. So, I name my favourite single malt scotch as an alternative. They price that out, and, lo, on Christmas morn my books lie under the tree

    And, finally, as a distant observer of your recent presidential election, it is my view that Trump LOST (he hates that word) simply because of a mask. He wouldn’t wear one, he belittled people who did (“Joe Biden’s got the biggest mask I have ever seen”), and through his antics and his rhetoric he encouraged the public not to take virus seriously. He caused a lot of people to lose any marginal trust they might have had in him. If he had worn a mask and told people it was a serious danger, he might have won – a scary thought.

    Like

    • Thank you, Gary. I am always glad when someone tells me I have brought some mirth into their daily life.

      I’ve read Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series, including The Evening and the Morning, his latest. They are truly transportation into a fully developed other time. My wife has brought some realism into the gift giving events such as birthdays and Christmas; she tells people “If he wants something, he gets it. So don’t bother.” Nonetheless, I do receive gift cards for bookstores.

      I would like to think Trump’s loss was due to more than just his crass response to the pandemic, but you are probably correct. As you may know, here in Georgia we have election officials, many of whom are Republicans, surrounded by armed security since Trump inspired death threats are being considered quite seriously. Our own variant of the Blackshirts are in the streets.

      Again, thank you for enabling me to feel I brought at least a few moments of humor. I do realize I tend toward the dark side.

      Like

      • Dana permalink

        Marco, sometimes I felt your classes were 50% education and 50% hilarious standup comedy routine.

        It would be unfair to call you a harbinger of doom. You’re a harbinger of reality with a terrific sense of humor. It just takes me a few moments to catch up to it.

        Like

        • Thank you, Dana. I’ve always felt the best way to pass along information is to make it pleasurably memorable. But I’ve often been told that people can’t tell if I’m kidding or not..

          Like

  4. All my life I have been warned of the dangers of time travel. Despite being a fan of those movies and television shows (Dr. Who, in particular) which entertain us with the notion, it can be said without any doubt that it is a bad idea. Like most, there are things in my past which I wish could be changed, decisions made and actions taken which I sometimes wish could be erased, but good sense tells me better. All things happen for a reason, even if it a stupid reason in the long run, and the lessons learned from our mistakes would be lost if they had not happened. It’s yin and yang in action, the good with the bad; everything that has made up my life history has led me to where I am now, and despite the occasional not so good, I wouldn’t change that for anything.

    Like

  5. Thank you, Rose. Your life has certainly been rich with travel, new experiences, and opportunities to see and be part of very different ways of doing things. If anything, a life like yours would inspire many to try to live longer.

    Like

  6. Tany Walker permalink

    Hello Marco,
    Long time! Happy to see you are still writing! I very much enjoyed reading this and I too laughed at the references toward hygiene. Interestingly, I remember you using that same example in class when I took your Introduction to Anthropology at Ga Perimeter in 2010! It always stayed with me because from that point on, any romanticing of historic periods were ruined haha!
    It’s funny, as a clinical social worker, I frequently tell my clients that we really can’t undue what has already passed. If we were to go back in time, we would become the same person we had been and would only have access to knowledge and resources of that moment in time. We would incidentally make the same decisions likely.
    And, don’t even get me started on Trump! You are correct, despite a new administration, it won’t be overnight to correct the damage Trump did and he plans to run again in 4 years. Can you imagine if the country elected him again years later? I shudder to think of it!
    So glad to still be on your newsletter emails. It came to a less used account so I haven’t been caught up on your intellectual discourses :). I thoroughly enjoyed this!

    Tany Walker

    Like

    • Thank you, Tany. I’m so glad we are reconnected. I’m glad you explain the coulda, woulda, shoulda thinking to clients. It can be helpful with guidance, but too often just ruins the present.

      I doubt Trump can run again. I don’t see how someone in a New York State prison (bank fraud and tax evasion) could do that. He is simply grifting more money to pay off his huge debts.But the real concern is the exposure of the number of people who think like him.

      Like

    • Tany. Thanks again for commenting. Please do forward this site to any and all who might be interested. The more we have participating the better. Or, it could just be the Christmas fruitcake that gets passed from house to house. Marco

      Like

  7. Dana permalink

    Marco, for most of my life (at least what I can recall) I’ve had relatively poor concept of time. Admittedly I sometimes have no idea what month it is, much less the day or date. When I have mystical experiences there is definitely no such thing as “time.”

    I’ve never wanted to time travel, but I have always thought it might be fun to have certain historical figures to visit the present – especially Benjamin Franklin. Well, I used to have that fantasy before 2016. I wouldn’t wish time travel on him today……..

    Like

    • Thank you, Dana. I, too, pay little attention to time. As you know, I have little to no realization of anyone’s birthday including my own.

      Like

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