Friday, February 15, 2008

Exactly a year, as if it matters

"I take my last drink on September 11, 2002 - exactly a year after so many things kicked off..." -- Tania Glyde

The dull aphorism of the Pseud's Corner, as often, illuminates the central tendency of humanity to be most obedient to pointless customs and desires.
We make a fetish out of marking boundaries of time for important events. Birthdays are recorded and celebrated, anniversaries remembered, and minutes of silence observed. It is as if something has not happened unless we make a point to remember it regularly.
In one way this is entirely arbitrary and terrifying in its lack of spontaneity. It is almost as if what has happened must keep happening over and over for it to have happened at all. Of course, in many more ways it is understandable and enjoyable for us to feel so constrained by the demands of time - it does give us something to do, it does sponsor a collective memory, it is how we want to work.
Something is also demonstrated about the way we live. If we did not mark these occasions so readily, what would we have? The idea of "carpe diem" is a very extreme way of marking our lives, each day a line in the sand with "one day closer to death" on it. We are counting down, in our imagination, our closeness to death. And this is what will cause us to act thoughtfully and consciously, according to its adherents.

Just imagine how amorphic time would become without these little signposts of here, now, and then. Weekends and weekdays, if dissolved, along with all other such markers, we would grope blindly not knowing why to act on anything but immediate concerns. To get rid of our thin attachments to history through regular observations of time would be to destroy our link to anything, maybe we quite literally have to invent the past in the present to recognise it at all. In truth, I do not think motivation is in any way possible without this human notion of time running out, of (in the most mundane way possible) deadlines and cut-off points. We are only able to do anything when we set ourselves limits, and as we are so poor at that most individuals simply react only to the limits set for them by the outside world.

The grim pleasures of external control beckon, but we submit willingly, because in an of ourselves we recognise we can do so little.