Man and time

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In the new age, one of the most crucial issues which man is called upon to face – first and foremost at the level of consciousness as a profound inner experience – is that of time. Up to now, he has developed many variations on his approach to time, to duration – whether we are talking about short duration, or eternity.

Man must change his attitude in a substantive way towards these two aspects which time presents, because it is precisely these representations of time which, in essence, dictate a stance and strategy within space.

He sees space as a field for the conquest of time, or, in other words, he looks upon the environment competitively. Here, of course, there is another, hidden, dimension of our relationship with time, because there exists this apprehension of only the ‘minerality’ of existence, that minerality alone, and not life, is there as self-existence. And here the polarising approach of the consciousness insinuates itself: a conception which introduces a dichotomy between life and minerality, just as it does between ourselves and others, in an attempt to lay claim for ourselves of being the principal expression of life, as opposed to the environment, to which we assign the identity of minerality.

There is a yearning in us to be the regulators of time for the environment, so that it is made subject as something belonging to us, through our strategies, in space-time. It could be said that even in this whole structure of the consciousness which has a wish to be perfected, a tendency towards flight from time, a flight from open duration is inherent. This flight from the open duration of time is effected through a compulsive quest for a perfected intellectual form, so that this form can serve as a complete interpretation, a turning into an idol of time by the consciousness, so that it will endure eternally.

This perception of the relation between mind and life as being static is also inherent in the processes of science, but there it is exposed, of course, to an on-going falsifiability, in spite of the fact that science hardly ever acknowledges it. What perhaps we ought to sense is that life is winning the game of time. Because it is time! But because we have identified ourselves with the side of idolisation and with that of inertia as a fantasy victory over time, we have, in essence, been tied down. We have not realised that inertia is a part of a bipolarity, an idol of the eternity of time, precisely because there is also action and no one can say with certainty that inertia dominates. Consequently, inertia is a just one version of the evolution of forms. It is not a version describing the presence of existence.

The time has now come for us to look at our experience in relation to open duration and also to look at the issue of duration in a different way, chiefly in terms of the consciousness, whether we are talking about the logic of the continuum and of continuity before and after the taking on of bodily form by the self, or whether we are talking about a Big Bang of individuation for each person, or about a nihilist / materialist account of consciousness and identity; in either case we are exposed to the dangers of a manner of apprehension.

It is obvious that nihilistic materialism comes into total conflict with any logic of Being. It leads only to a quest for an eternity of matter; but such an eternity of the body could never be, in any circumstances, substantively identity, substantively consciousness, it could not be Self. This is because there is no Self in nihilistic materialism, however much we look upon it with an unthinking intellectual tolerance or with an acquaintance by means of a malfunctioning awareness, with the fixedness of a phenomenological naivety, such as that criticised by Husserl.

We are left with the other narratives – the religious and metaphysical accounts – of time against which we must also develop an experiential approach. This elitism of a Big Bang of the anthropocentric soul for each person involves some fundamental contradictions. And we are also left with this spiralling upward evolution in time which has its own causal referentiality, a recognition of a depth and a length of existence, in the longue durée with an open duration. And here, of course, an abusive approach is made which leads to the minimisation of our experiential mindfulness and the learning process, as a sense of a facile perspective. Always and to the extent that references to time are apprehended in an abusive way, the fear of death lies in wait as a price to be paid and thus ultimately – and through the notion of death – we come face to face with a need to substantiate our experiential approach to time.

Man, little by little, by way of a new experiential approach and a sense of life in the open duration (or of open life in duration) must be liberated from the thinking that he is a divisive subject who alienates space in order to gain time. Duration is also open in the ‘now’ as Presence / existence, as presence in its ecstatic self-awareness. Time-space nihilism must be seen as an absence of consciousness and as an imaginary shrinkage of Being into the non-dimensional. The dynamic of the consciousness is shown to be a tropism for the apprehension of Presence in the landscape, as a transcendence of representation. It could be said that there is within man this transition from feeling and instinct to sensibility and thought, and from there as a referential transcendence or as a return to the quintessence of consciousness through this time-space apprehension. It is, that is to say, a path of return to Being.

We must choose this path of consciousness. Otherwise, there will not only be this possessiveness and the desire to conquer where space is concerned as a conscious and idolising relationship, but there will also be monstrosities such as those we see in futuristic cities which are developing in our times as a result of anthropological psychosis.

It could be said that there is a return to Babel involved in these cities / monstrosities, where the city is given expression as an anthropological psychosis in the landscape reflecting the schizoid approach to the relation between subject and object. This schizoid stance of the consciousness and life is becoming general also as an attitude to human relations and has brought about today’s contemptuous alienation to be found in human relations. It can be identified in this flight away from the quest for existential depth and height.

On the other hand, in seeking the depth and height of existence, beyond apprehension or the landscape, beyond the objectivisation or the phenotype of stone or minerality, we are brought, to begin with, to an existential state of tragedy, because time functions as a trauma to certainty, to the attestation, that is, of life through forms. However, we then pass on to ecstasy and the certainty of life by way of the apprehension of existence in abstractive tropism, in tactism, and in the mode of abstraction. At the same time, we draw to ourselves the joy of and empathy with the eloquent and exotic manifestation, transmuted into form, of life.

What we need today is that man should turn again to the depth and height of existence, to the sense of the wholeness of existence in a transformational approach, but, at the same time, should rejoice in form through identification and empathy with the whole. Thus he will pass into open duration, and into space which is open to new dimensions of experience and will discover how limiting the range of feelings and how rich existence is.

Such a man, naturally, will not employ this divisive competitiveness, he will not employ this narcissistic obstinacy, but will experience this positive Potentiality of Being in a plurality of ways, serving synthesis and liberation.

This depth and this height of existence reveal the self-existence of the subject, the self-existence of consciousness, and constitute an emphatic self-awareness of the consciousness, in which it is raised from sensation to its identity and its spirituality.

Those people, those Presences which function in this way recognise this potentiality of their consciousness make their experiential transcendence of the anthropological vicious circle. They give expression to the experiential dynamic of the contemplative hierarchy of Being; they form a Spiritual Polity which makes its appearance when we sever the Gordian Knot of nihilism in the consciousness, and of the animal psychological fixation of contemporary man, who lives his life on terms of the market, on terms of moral hazard, on terms of a Titanic trap or a phantasmagorical vacuity or fascination which takes us back to Titanic foolishness.

If we do not act in this way and if we do not act in recognition of those who do act in this way, whatever else we do, we shall not go in pursuit of the cause of brotherhood and of solidarity, the cause of no-harm, the cause of full responsibility, the cause, in the last analysis, of the full life. All ideological and visionary approaches will be exposed to contradictoriness and to schizoid challenges and hazards which cumulatively will tear apart civilisation with anthropological, spiritual, and environmental debts.

Yiannis Zisis, writer

(Photograph by Yiannis Zisis)