Sunshine and cold this early Monday on California’s north coast — supposedly, we did descend to freezing for awhile last night, but right now it’s heated-up into the mid-30s.
Next rain is scheduled for sometime tomorrow — about 30-percent chance — and a warm spell slated for the end of the week, temperatures expected close to 60-degrees. Shit!
Winter, though. Duh!
Yet this the winter of awesome discontent, not only for the horrendous seasonal weather across most of the US, but the nightmare realistic freak show of life.
So bizarre 2016, last week the dictionary-people, Merriam-Webster, announced its ‘Word’ of the year, ‘Surreal.’ The word guys claim the year was hypnagogic because the past 12 months ‘“marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream”‘ — nailed an era of a year.
Criteria for the honor: ‘“high volume of lookups.”‘
A main ingredient for this outstandingly-shitty year has been, of course, T-Rump, and all his horrifying, surreal baggage. If only a real time machine, which at minimum could whisk us back at to at least June 2015, and stomp the T-Rump on the going-down on the down escalator. Before the shit got too deep.
James Gleick’s illuminating and entertaining Time Travel is about one of these once-new stories.
We have grown very used to the idea of time travel, as explored and exploited in so many movies and TV series and so much fiction.
Although it feels like it’s been around forever, it isn’t an ancient archetypal story but a newborn myth, created by H.G. Wells in his 1895 novel The Time Machine.
To put it another way, time travel is two years older than Dracula, and eight years younger than Sherlock Holmes.
The very term “time travel” is a back-formation from the unnamed principal character of the story, whom Wells calls “the Time Traveller.”
The new idea caught on so quickly that it was appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary by 1914.
Wells is described by Gleick as “a thoroughly modern man, a believer in socialism, free love, and bicycles.”
He was a serious thinker in his own way, forceful and coarse-grained, but the invention of the time machine wasn’t one of his deep philosophical conceptions.
It was instead a narrative device for a story with two cruxes, one of them political-philosophical and the other imaginative.
Its main argumentative point comes when Wells travels to the far future and finds that humanity has evolved into two different species, the brutish, underground-dwelling Morlocks and the etiolated, effete, surface-living Eloi.
This, Wells implies, is what could happen if current trends toward inequality continue unchecked.
A narrative device implied in a year of waste.
Also this bit from Maria Konnikova’s view of time travel via Gleick’s book at The New Yorker last Tuesday:
Gleick is not a believer in the feasibility of actual time travel, now or ever.
“It does not exist. It cannot,” he writes.
We cannot go back in time and change how Clinton approached the election.
All we can do is learn from what happened, and wait for the chance to do it better.
As the author Israel Zangwill put it, “There is no getting into the future, except by waiting.”
Our memory is and always will be as good as time travel gets, and in the meantime time will do the travelling for us.
Perhaps that’s not altogether a bad thing.
Wells, the original time-travel creator, was disappointed by the future when it came, “as a child finding lumps of coal in the Christmas stocking.”
It couldn’t compete with what he had imagined.
Reality is no match for imagination — and our current reality has made that point all too clearly.
Yet in time the past is not always what we think — or remember, or want to remember.
And reality-perspective of time and history. A good read in that vein comes from a talk given by Zadie Smith, a biracial Brit, novelist, essayist, and short story writer, this past November on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize. Also found at the NY Review of Books.
I find these days that a wistful form of time travel has become a persistent political theme, both on the right and on the left.
On November 10, The New York Times reported that nearly seven in ten Republicans prefer America as it was in the 1950s, a nostalgia of course entirely unavailable to a person like me, for in that period I could not vote, marry my husband, have my children, work in the university I work in, or live in my neighborhood.
Time travel is a discretionary art: a pleasure trip for some and a horror story for others.
Meanwhile some on the left have time travel fancies of their own, imagining that the same rigid ideological principles once applied to the matters of workers’ rights, welfare, and trade can be applied unchanged to a globalized world of fluid capital.
Meanwhile the dream of time travel — for new presidents, literary journalists, and writers alike — is just that: a dream.
And one that only makes sense if the rights and privileges you are accorded currently were accorded to you back then, too.
If some white men are more sentimental about history than anyone else right now it’s no big surprise: their rights and privileges stretch a long way back. For a black woman the expanse of livable history is so much shorter. What would I have been and what would I have done—or more to the point, what would have been done to me—in 1360, in 1760, in 1860, in 1960?
I do not say this to claim some pedestal of perfect victimhood or historical innocence.
I know very well how my West African ancestors sold and enslaved their tribal cousins and neighbors.
I don’t believe in any political or personal identity of pure innocence and absolute rectitude.
But neither do I believe in time travel.
I believe in human limitation, not out of any sense of fatalism but out of a learned caution, gleaned from both recent and distant history.
We will never be perfect: that is our limitation.
But we can have, and have had, moments in which we can take genuine pride.
I took pride in my neighborhood, in my childhood, back in 1999.
It was not perfect but it was filled with possibility.
If the clouds have rolled in over my fiction it is not because what was perfect has been proved empty but because what was becoming possible — and is still experienced as possible by millions — is now denied as if it never did and never could exist
Traveling in time is line-of-sight…
(Illustration above found here).