As German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt suggested, 'It is the insertion of man with his limited life span that transforms the continuously flowing stream of sheer change … into time as we know it'. But time as a continuity of successive moments is a cognitive illusion. For author and professor of physics Carlo Rovelli, every living thing is a 'wave of happenings'. A kiss is a happening. So is a stone quietly eroding on a hillside over millennia. Through Rovelli's eyes, we see that there is no such thing as 'here' or 'now.' Reality is a constant, ever-changing interaction. Nothing exists purely as a moment in time: everything stands in relation to everything else. To understand time and space we need to extend metaphysical theory to a view of the world as rooted in relatedness, to see reality as a skein of interactions with the world around us.
After diagnosis and treatment, like a tree caught in a storm, I stood shaken and uncertain, my shirt of leaves dropped to the ground overnight, my new shape revealed. Scalpeled silhouette. Weatherworn but branching still. A softening comes with acceptance and a reaching out in the abundant dark. Beneath the littered surface, roots spread wide, blind, white filaments touching, twining with sister species, sharing resources, communing patiently, waiting in the cool, deep reservoir of life and hope.
In the undefended place where we all currently stand, we are reappraising our sense of the sequential character of time and its essential ongoingness. After the unexpected death of her young adult son poet Denise Riley experienced time as arrested. In her slender, blue hardback Time Lived Without Its Flow, Riley writes about the nature of grief. She describes an 'altered condition of life', 'the curious sense of being pulled right outside of time' into a state of 'bright emptiness', of non-being, unable to move on because, 'there is no medium through which to move anymore.'
Finding ourselves captive to the present tense, we can glean something positive from trauma; an invitation to silence, to inhabit a world of evanescent impressions and receptivity, let go of ambition, of past and future and learn to inhabit the eternal present.
'It is the quiet of the Now', writes Hannah Arendt, '… in the time-pressed, time-tossed existence of man; it is somehow, to change the metaphor, the quiet in the center of a storm which, though totally unlike the storm, still belongs to it. In this gap between past and future, we find our place in time'.
Words and imagery by Louisa Thomsen Brits