The word "time" is the most common noun in the English language, according to the Oxford dictionary. Oxford University Press researchers looked on the internet at newspapers, journals, fictions and weblogs to take a snapshot of our everyday language. The top 5 nouns are: 1) time 2) person 3) year 4) way 5) day.
I looked at the date of my last post; September 2013. Over three years have passed since then, what happened ? Well, I met a girl... we got engaged and a few months later we married, we had a baby boy and 18 months later, a baby girl. We moved cities 3 times and after working for 2 years in Jewellery I went back to my banking career...
The four of us Live in Florence now and when I have a little free time I like to visit some of the monuments and museums this beautiful city has to offer.
Michelangelo's Day and Night sculptures are an allegory (together with his Dawn and Dusk) for Time.
I believe that inspired by this city and by the joy of my beautiful family I will find a little time to write about "time".
I just went to see the new
exhibition of Giangaetano Patanè at the Chiostro del Bramantein Rome. I was particularly
moved by a sense of anguish or helplessness emanating from his works of art, in
fact I felt this particular exhibition was more mature, something the artist
has been nurturing over time and was now ready to reveal.. In the following
short interview I asked him to tell us a little about his alchemic quest:
F.Ruspoli: what are the
elements within your art? G.Patanè: my artistic
search has two elements; one is a particular type of aestheticism and the second element is Time
F.R.: could you expand on
G.P.: The first is the uncodifiable
aestheticism, undefinable and
capable of transforming an object into “attractive substance”, the second is a
representation of time, sometimes it can take the shape of a face dissolving in
the air or it can take the shape of a tree but it’s always there: that eternal
conflict between man and the incredible pain of the escaping present. My artistic
search stands sustained by these two legs.
The exhibition is programmed to
close on the 18th of September so if you are in Rome I strongly
recommend you take a moment to see it. The Chiostro del Bramante is by Bar della Pace at Via Arco
della Pace, 5 it is open every day from 10am to 8pm.
I have written about time in poetry last year in my “Time in Poetry – Haiku”, but
after re-watching Ran by Kurosawa and
Titus by Taymor (both films are
pretty wild interpretations of Shakespearian plays) I came across this verse
from Macbeth regarding time:
and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
in this petty pace from day to day,
last syllable of recorded time;
our yesterdays have lighted fools
to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
but a walking shadow, a poor player,
struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
is heard no more. It is a tale
an idiot, full of sound and fury,
the idea of time being a succession of meaningless syllables uttered by a
passing shadow and was intrigued to discover more of Shakespeare’s vision of
time which always seem so linked to fate and the inevitability of death.
without all remedy
be without regard: what’s done, is done.
words Lady Macbeth tries to reassure her husband and later herself by muttering
“What’s done cannot be undone”.
Shakespeare writes of “the vale of years” not to be confused with the vale of
tears though the echo is suggestive. In the 15th century the Vale
came to be a metaphor for the span of life between the peaks of birth and death
in which we live our careworn lives. "Vale of trouble and woe,"
"vale of weeping," "vale of misery," and "vale of
tears" illustrate typical uses of the word before Shakespeare. Othello's
phrase, however, seems intended in a more neutral sense; the "vale of
years" is the broad, flat stretch of middle age beyond the slope of youth.
to conclude with 2 sonnets; XII and LX (like the hours and minutes...)
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end; Each changing place with that which
goes before, In sequent toil all forwards do
contend. Nativity, once in the main of light, Crawls to maturity, wherewith being
crown'd, Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory
fight, And Time that gave doth now his gift
confound. Time doth transfix the flourish set on
youth And delves the parallels in beauty's
brow, Feeds on the rarities of nature's
truth, And nothing stands but for his scythe
to mow: And yet to times in hope, my verse
shall stand Praising thy worth, despite his cruel
There is an
incredible variety of ways people perceive the flow of time. Linear time for
example is pretty straight forward (no pun intended), it can be seen as a straight
line in which time flows forward, but many questions arise with this model; why
can we only perceive the present? is it
possible to jump to a different part of this line ? can time flow backwards on
this line ?
assume the past is behind us and the future lies ahead but recent studies have
found that not everyone perceives time in this way. The Aymara people in the Andes
for example point in front of them to indicate the past and wave behind to
indicate the future. Probably because the past was seen but the future is
unseen. The Pormpuaaw people in Australia perceive a timeline running east (past)
to west (future) so where they point depends on where they are facing. In China
it not uncommon to represent time on a vertical axis with the past above and
the future below and for the Yupno people of Papua new Guinea Time flows uphill
and is not even linear. The past is downhill towards the mouth of the river and
their timeline is anchored in the kinked topographic properties of the river.
In fact the representation of the timeline as a
straight line with the years along its axis is quite recent one. Its use only
became diffuse in the mid 18th century. So though culture certainly
plays an important role in our perception of time I think there is an evolution
in the way we perceive time. And this evolution is leading us to a better understanding
of what time really is.
I just returned from a Week End in Lucca where I
attended the 2012 edition of Lucca Comics. I am fascinated by the sheer amount
of comics you can find but mostly it’s the beautiful setting of the city itself
filled with real people dressed as fantasy characters (Cosplay). This year the
new comics that grabbed my attention were END by Barbara Canepa and Anna Merli
and ABC by Ausonia. Though the stories are different they both contain the
possibility of communicating between the world of the living and that of the
dead, and since the main character in both is a young girl I immediately
thought of Jostein Gaarder’s Through a glass, Darkly. In all these stories
there is an attempt to explain the separation of the material and spiritual
worlds and a inquiry into death and religion. These stories are very different
to the ones dealing with time travel I read as a teenager such as Nathan Never,
and Watchmen in which Dr. Manhattan has incredible powers including
precognition (explained by Tachyons) but they are all very thought provoking
are very interested in time and the possibilities of time travel but are very
cautious with how they approach the matter. A recent example was the news in
2011 that Neutrinos could travel faster than light. The Opera group at the Gran
Sasso shocked the world with their announcement that contradicted Einstein’s
light-speed limit. In March of 2012 when two flaws were found in their
calculations, the leader of the science team Antonio Ereditato was made to
internet and the media are full of pseudo science and sensationalists news,
videos discussing machines and alien technologies making it hard to discern
between what is scientific and what are imaginative personal theories.
book the authors explain that they only interested in measures of time that do
not depend on the variations and vagaries of human perceptions. The emphasis is
on what modern astronomy and especially modern physics have learned about the
subject of time.
vastness of space is bewildering, the nearest star Proxima Centauri, is about 4
light-years away. With our present technology it would take over 10,000 years
to send a probe there. On an even larger scale , the distance across our milky
way is 100,000 light-years and our nearby neighbour galaxy, Andromeda, is about
2,000,000 light-years away.It is no
wonder that we should seek “shortcuts” between the stars involving travel
faster than the speed of light.
about time? Why is the past different from the future? Why can we remember the
past and not the future? Is it possible that past and future are “places” that
can be visited.
book examines the possibility of time travel and of space travel exceeding the
speed of light from the purely scientific point of view.
fiction often mentions warp drives but there is one problem, superluminal
travel seems to involve a violation of the known laws of physics, in this case
the “light barrier” in Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Science fiction writers describe “what”
technological developments might occur in the future and scientists describe
“how” they might actually work. When Carl Sagan was writing “Contact”, later
made into a movie with Jodie Foster, he wanted a believable way for his
characters to travel across the galaxy through space-time shortcuts. His
discussions with his physicist friend Kip Thorne got the latter to develop
theories that today allow us to understand “how” a traversable Wormhole might
curiosity and enthusiasm of scientists is why we built particle accelerators at
CERN in search of the “god particle”, experiment with entangled particles and
explore how we could build a quantum computer. The Nobel prize for physics this
year was in fact assigned to two scientists, Haroche and Wineland, who’s work
will lead to incredibly accurate optical clocks and are a first step towards
the quantum computers (super fast computers that will work with each bit having
3 states as opposed to today’s binary, 1s and 0s computers).
book is great in telling us what scientists have achieved as far as 2012. I
found it to be a very interesting read though the conclusion is a little disappointing,
as of today scientists believe no object can travel faster than the speed of light.
In fact even the experiments on entangled particles which show that when the
spin of one particle is observed the other distant one will be observed to always
have the opposite spin, doesn’t prove
superluminal travel. The measurement of one doesn’t cause what happens to the
other. When the observers get together and compare notes after the experiment
they will find a correlation every time. So no time machines or warp drives
artists have their very own way of perceiving time and of representing it
through their works of art. The image above is a detail from the magnificent
early baroque fresco by Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669) found in Palazzo
Barberini in Rome.Chronos (the personification
of time) is shown devouring his children.
primordial deities Chronos along with
Ananke (personification of destiny, necessity, and fate) marked the beginning of
the cosmos and brought about the creation of the ordered universe.It seems that Ananke represented a universal principle of natural order,
which controlled all fate and circumstance of mortals, and was far beyond the
reach of the younger gods whose fates she was sometimes said to control.Simonides (556-468 BCE) once wrote: "Even the gods don’t fight
the other hand was the goddess of luck venerated at Itanos in crete and later
by Romans as Fortuna. In medieval art she was also depicted as the wheel of
fortune or standing on the wheel, presiding over the entire circle of fate.
Wiener in his book “cybernetics” presents Ananke as the personification of scientific
determinism, contrasted with Tyche as the personification of quantum
indeterminacy; "The chance of the
quantum theoretician is not the ethical freedom of the Augustinian, and Tyche
is as relentless a mistress as Ananke."
Paintings do not need to represent Chonos or time
to relate to the subject of time, in fact some paintings can through the use of
symbols or “simply” through a sense of aesthetics communicate to us or
enlighten us on truths that might be very difficult to express by other means.
Since the 1970’s it is a well accepted fact
that artists use the right hemisphere of their brain more while creating
their art. Artists are able to switch to a nonverbal, non-temporal, special,
intuitive holistic mode. This subject was explored in depth by Betty Edwards in
the late 70’s. I have experienced this briefly myself when I’m immersed in my
In twentieth century
art Salvador Dali (1904-1989) comes to my mind. The surrealists were well aware
of how Freud used the psychoanalytic device of free association to trace the
symbolic meaning of dream imagery to its source in the unconscious, Dali
applied the same method to his pictorial imagery.
The above painting “The Persistence of Memory” is a good example of how psychology
and spirituality come together aesthetically to represent Transcendental Time.
From a paper by art critic Martin Reis:
“The Church thought of time as eternity, citing Thomas
Aquinas's Summa theologiae where he compares completeness, perfection,
and infinity, to God. The deep perspective in Persistence suggests time
past, with the viewer deserted and lost in infinity. Interestingly, Salvador
("Saviour") Dali's anti-clerical bias is reflected in his use of
Christian and Freudian images in the painting; and as if to emphasize the
reality of his hallucinations, his surreal iconography is placed in the
landscape of the bay at Port Lligat on the Costa Brava, his home and studio.
Although he describes the origin of the soft watches as derived from dreaming
of Camembert cheese, Marcel Jean, in his History of Surrealist Painting,
says they symbolize impotence: montre not only means "watch"
in French, but is also the imperative form of the verb montrer, "to
show". A sick child must show his tongue to the doctor, montrer la
molle, which sounds the same as la montre molle "soft
watch". Usually we think of these bent watches as referring to Einstein's
theory in which our world is becoming a spatio-temporal continuum; the world's
concept of time and space was certainly changing. The three open and vulnerable
watches (past, present, future?) are within orthogonals which point to the top
center of the painting (heaven?). According to Freud, menstrual periodicity
transforms the concept of time into a feminine symbol, and the fourth watch,
closed, hard and impregnable, has been diagnosed as a feminine symbol.
Certainly this watch in the foreground is a vital red, while the middle ground
watch is softened to orange and the background timepiece is a lifeless gray.
Ants usually suggest
putrefaction and decay; the rigid watch is attacked by scavenger ants,
indicating the inorganic is becoming organic and vulnerable. However, since the
watch is closed and red with life, time is unattainable and the ants attack
without success, implying triumph over death and decay via procreation or
immortality. In Christian doctrine, ants signify provident man, the one who
chooses the true doctrine and rejects heresy. The fly, on the other hand, has
long been considered a bearer of pestilence and evil (Lord of the Flies, or
Beelzebub, is from Ba al-z' bub, lord + fly, a god of the ancient
Philistines, averter of insects). In Christian symbology, the fly
The amoeba or fetal image
suggests the primordial beginnings of life, and like a lost soul in infinity,
is stranded on a barren beach with its life-giving water (holy water?) in the
far distance. This fetal image, usually interpreted as a self-portrait, appears
in several other paintings, including The Great Masturbator. The soft
tongue, similar to the limp watches, is a well known Freudian symbol for the
penis; Dali, in his Secret Life of Salvador Dali, makes public his
anxieties about sexual dysfunction. Trees, tall and erect, are male, according
to Freud; but this tree is scrawny and lifeless. The extending phallic branch,
with its post-coital watch, points to rock formations which in actuality are
the granite outcroppings above the Bay of Cullero near Dali's home.
"Geology has an oppressive melancholy," stated the artist, "this
melancholy has its course in the idea that time is working against it."
Again, the rock is a symbol of Christian steadfastness, and suggests the
antithesis of the biological objects which are subject to the laws of change
and disintegration. According to medieval Christian legend, the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil withered when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
Thus the dead tree in Giotto's Lamentation, della Francesca's Resurrection,
and Michelangelo's Fall and Expulsion, all refer to original sin,
otherwise known as Freud's Oedipus Complex. The cubes on the left may possibly
have some reference to Cubism, although again, they are symbols of stability in
Christian iconology. Ants, the fly, yielding watches, fetus, open horizon, all
suggest the transitoriness and impersistence of time.”- Martin Reis, 1991.
On the Time Triangle I would place artists on
the Transcendental Time axis on the opposite side of SCIENCE, not because they
cannot express scientific knowledge (on the contrary) but because their
approach is so radically different. (see the next article for a decription of the triangle).
have concerned themselves with time ever since they have become aware. A time
to hunt and a time to sleep, and dream. A time to fear and fight and a time to
love. Ancient burial sites and temples tell us we were deeply concerned with
death and the afterlife. Ancient shamans
tried to interpret symbols and dreams. I believe religion came about as a way
to explain Fear vs. Dreams or Eternity vs. Death. A superior being that
transcended time which I have labelled “GOD” at the top of my triangle. Then
came early physicists and mathematicians or astronomers who tried to
rationalize the world but with their limited knowledge would still rely heavily
on mythology. With the first philosophers myth was questioned and room was made
for argumentation. This brought on a
whole field of philosophy and later psychology that is concerned with what I labelled
“MIND”. This left scientist the freedom to explain the physical world or “SPACE”
without the constraints of religion or personal perceptions. These 3 distinct
approaches give us a very pure and abstract concept of time.From these three come three secondary
understanding of time. A quest for “Universal” time,“Transcendental” time or “Empirical” time.My hope is that we can converge from these
into a new and better understanding of what time really is.