FLYING TIME

17th December 2009

Flying Time

I can’t believe it’s been a decade since 2000, I’m not sure whether it’s the number of noughts in these last ten years or whether the significant events (and I would count amongst these – the emergence of the climax debate, rise of fundamentalism, the massive acceleration of internet related info and commerce and the recession) feel less significant bracketed by the emptiness of those digitals. One thing for sure time ain’t linear, it seems to be dictated by one’s own subjective experience of it. There was a fantastic article on this is the New Scientist (24.10.09 – The Time machine inside your head) and I’ve heard various brain experts talk on this on the radio since – it appears that the more new experiences you crammed into your day the longer that day feels – basically as your brain gives the illusion of ‘slowing time down’ to allow you to learn and absorb new information. Which is why, in a nutshell, sometimes when you’re travelling it can often feel like months by the time the sunsets. It’s also why one’s childhood might feel as if it went on a lot longer than a mere twelve years of one’s life. Discovery slows time and intensifies the experience of time. So does intense experiences like falling in love, sudden accidents, etc, yet some intense experiences like being fully intellectually engaged by someone or an activity can have the opposite affect of speeding up time. Fun makes time fly.
Certainly I can remember a few times of being with someone I had fallen in love with (usually unrequited) and experiencing that intense sensation of time slowing down, and everything magnifying slightly, even colour taking on an new intensity. As if you could almost see the pores of his skin, the slight gesture of a finger, the twitch f a lip, the way his shoe was angled etc – all deeply engraved on the memory banks ready to sum up at a moment’s notice. Distress and pain is another way of slowing down time and I have a strong memory of a car accident I had decades ago. Routine is another interestingly phenomenon; work days can crawl along, yet when you think back on the week each day blends into another. Apparently one way to intensify time is to simulate your brain by swapping hands used for menial jobs – left hand to brush teeth instead of right, you get the picture. Jolting the brain out of a dull automatic observation. Frankly I’d rather crowd my day with fantastic new experiences, like travel, new skills, and lateral observation – and yet it’s impossible to achieve anything without a certain amount of tedium and repletion. Therein lies the human condition.

In my prose I’ve experimented with trying to depict the subjective acceleration or slowing down of time. Shifting into present tense in emotional (or sometimes sexual) climaxes in the plot – staccato sentences to accelerate into action…When a character sees someone for the first time and is deeply struck to go into the minutia of that character’s appearance depicting the protagonist’s experience of him/her.

Onto a  more festive note, for my UK readers, if you can go and see Alan Bennett’s new play: The Habit of Art at the National theatre, South Bank.– a fantastically witty depiction of a fictional encounter between the poet W.H. Auden and the composer Benjamin Britten set in Auden’s rooms in the early 1970’s. Auden and Britten were apparently associates/lovers when they were young, but this takes places at the twilight of both their careers. It’s a very funny and moving depiction of the paradoxes of both homosexuality in the 1950s (their milieu as younger men) and what functions as muse at the later end of one’s artistic career. Bennet has also very cleverly set the core of the piece as a play within a play – so the two central characters are actually National theatre actors rehearsing a play about Auden and Britten. Immediately the theme widens to experience of the playwright I the rehearsal room, actors struggling with both psychological and historical accuracy and integrity and what is deemed as Art or high culture.  Bennet is cheeky enough to throw a very grounded working class rent boy in as Auden’s muse that leads to a poignant reminder of the strictures of Class in British society and the great intellectual divide. A populist play with transgressive themes, loved it! Merry Xmas to all who celebrate it from me!

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