TRY THIS Chapter One begins…

The existence of the image, not its actual existence if it makes sense to speak of the existence of a black hole, proves the point:  We extract a narrative structure out of our own being, our physicality, our mortality and it’s given a name:  Is.

For mortals this is has a narrative structure:  We have a beginning, a middle, an end.  We are born, we live, we die.  There’s nothing ultimately true about that, other than our being mortal, but not really mortal.  We are more like Jesus.  Death has no dominion, except over that particular manifestation of our is-ness at the moment of death.  I don’t want to diminish that sense of dead is-ness.  I’ve been there, touched enough dying and dead people to know that it’s profound.  It’s just that it is a profound moment in a much larger story, some of which will be told at a subsequent funeral perhaps, or an expression of that chiseled onto a gravestone.  Still, life goes on.

Rocks might not have a narrative structure.  A black hole is all about not having a narrative structure.  And by perceiving it now as a photograph we confound our own nature and somehow that confirms everything.  Well, not really.

Back to the image.  It only comes into being because people in several different places put their data together and there you have it.

Click here:  First black hole image: How to watch …

And here:

Detected Gravitational Waves …

And here:

Living Near a Supermassive Black Hole …

And here:

Imaging a Black Hole …


The supermassive black hole (big even by black-hole standards).

It was there all along, but we didn’t know about it.  Then we knew about it.  Now we ‘see’ it.  Well, not really.

(Is it hubris to say ‘we’ here, claiming some identity with the geniuses that figured out how to make this image, this proof of Einstein’s theories and of Steven Hawking’s theories, all that math – to the extent that I’m making some personal claim here to their knowledge I’m sorry?  I can barely tally up the bills to keep my bank account intact, to keep my checks from bouncing; I make no claims, just a kind of noticing.)

The image is not of one’s seeing.  No one person ‘saw’ the black hold and took a picture of it.  Rather, its a collaborative exercise of many people necessarily at some distance from each other, collective and accumulating the data that created one image of something very far away, that in itself is just the outer ring of its own timelessness.

What am I getting at?  That this is not a thing at all, this black hole or even the image of a black hole.  It is a sum of its many equations and projections that coalesce that we can knowledge, or knowing, or “This is it!”

Except, perhaps, stillness.  Unmediated.  Stillness.

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Sacred Time as Phenomena

(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.

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