So now it’s become obvious to me: I’m writing a book about time. “Kenny in Infinity” is a chapter, the cartoon character Kenny my muse.
Here’s the introduction:
This began as a study of new media, not so new now, that discloses aspects of experience we might reflect upon with new insights, given what new media discloses about, well, everything.
Theoretical physics was born out of new means of perceiving what’s out there, these new means being new media. Both the new physics and new media reinforce what careful introspection illuminates: time, and our being in time, spreads into infinity. Our physical experience discloses narrative time, ‘one damn thing after another’. But words fail us. And between every syllable is silence. Otherwise, it would be one long screech.
Between every note played in music is silence; between every word or at least every sentence, silence; between every symbol in computer code is no-code. The breaks symbolize something other than the code and, while the overall code has a beginning, middle, and end, it is riddled in no-code. In every sentence there are words and with every word phonemes, and between phonemes… We have breath between syllables, and those familiar with meditation are aware of how noisy we are – our hearts beat, when we inhale, exhale, more noise – and everyone and our world suddenly seems noisy when we attempt to be silent.
There are scientific (measurable, replicable, falsifiable) theories, but here is what distinguishes theoretical physics from plain old physics. On the level of experience, apart from theory, time consciousness might be all we have to work with. In any case, that is what I’m working with here.
Our new time consciousness reflects, amplifies and illustrates ancient understandings. For instance, “In the beginning was the Word…” Fundamentalism is an easy mistake to make when you can hold the Word of God in your hands.
People accept the illusion of a text as timeless, associating the Word with a lot of words. I still hope to hear the word of God in the person of Jesus through the medium of print or, better yet, read aloud, though now the printed page is largely usurped by the pixilated computer monitor. We talked about a paperless office in the beginning of the digital era while creating the cloud of text and images.
Today I even participated in the Daily Office online. These selections of prayers and scripture passages for the morning, noon and evening prayer, a practice going back to Constantine and monastic life in the third century, are recited aloud in communities, and flicker on my laptop as I pray with an online community, though there’s no one else in this room.
Walter Ong, Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan all identified the relationship between language technologies and meanings. Overstating it perhaps, McLuhan’s point that “the medium is the message” became a touchstone and then a cliché, but the point is still well taken. There is a trace of the oral in the written text, a trace of the written word on the printed page, and in the pixelated images on my computer screen. Yet, each medium is distinct and is both a vehicle and the road the vehicle travels upon when it comes to a new consciousness of what is real.
That’s life. When sacred or even mundane symbols are pressed onto clay tablets, the clay itself contains remnants of living organisms. Ephemeral words and the eternal Word are only adjacent. To identify the medium with the message might be straight out idolatry because these means of expression are human. What is other than human, absolute silence, is divine.
But I have focused too much on the otherness of text and word associated with the Word. It is incarnate. It is other than other; it is also this.
I close my laptop and put my phone out of reach.