(William Blake 1757-1827)
Just to be clear (which is to admit that I’ve not been clear on this important point), my analysis here is about our felt experience of time. It is specifically a phenomenological analysis.
This approach is distinct from scientific approaches, those of theoretical physics, and distinct from the rest of this work that is rooted specifically in media studies. My own starting point, as an undergrad studying with Marshall McLuhan and wise folk at the University of Toronto, no doubt informs this work. However, a phenomenological analysis attempts to bracket theories derived from other important disciplines. I try to bracket all that, and return later to that work with my findings, following upon a reduction to the felt-world of time, the thing itself, that I discover is an open rather than narrative structure.
In doing a rigorous phenomenological analysis, I honor that experience over the theoretical framework that might eclipse the experience. Compare this approach to eating a good meal or sipping a fine wine. A culinary or wine expert might better appreciate the taste, and certainly might understand why a particular meal or wine tastes delightful. However, anyone enjoying the meal might be equally delighted. The expert, sharing a meal with their child, might share the child’s simple delight.
In the last century, theoretical physics caught up with artists’ and religious leaders’ insights into the nature of time. Albert Einstein declared, “The distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one,” while William Blake declared more than a hundred years early, “I see the past, present and future all at once before me.”
More than a millennium earlier yet, the two accounts of Muhammad’s Night Journey as either an actual transportation of his being or his dream is, in part, a debate about the quality of time. Is it psychic or variable and physically experienced?
The South Park artists might blaspheme in their depictions of the Prophet and the Christ, but capture in their lampoon the essential quality of sacred time as phenomena. We get used to Kenny living in infinity, just as some accept in faith the Prophet and the Christ playing with our notion that time is just one thing after another. It’s not. We live in infinity time all the time. It’s just we have organic bodies and die.