library/highlights/selected cuts & bits
The error lies in seeking to understand the world in terms of things rather than events. It lies in ignoring change. The physics and astronomy that will work, from Ptolemy to Galileo, from Newton to Schrödinger, will be mathematical descriptions of precisely how things change, not of how they are. They will be about events, not things. The shapes of atoms will be eventually understood only with solutions to Schrödinger’s equations describing how the electrons in atoms move. Events again, not things.
And a human being? Of course it’s not a thing; like the cloud above the mountain, it’s a complex process, where food, information, light, words, and so on enter and exit. . . . A knot of knots in a network of social relations, in a network of chemical processes, in a network of emotions exchanged with its own kind.
It quite simply affirms that, if we dig deep enough, there is a difference between the way we see the world and the way it really is, and the way it really is, we’ve discovered, is devoid of intrinsic existence.
On closer inspection, in fact, even the things that are most “thinglike” are nothing more than long events. The hardest stone, in the light of what we have learned from chemistry, from physics, from mineralogy, from geology, from psychology, is in reality a complex vibration of quantum fields, a momentary interaction of forces, a process that for a brief moment manages to keep its shape, to hold itself in equilibrium before disintegrating again into dust, a brief chapter in the history of interactions between the elements of the planet, a trace of Neolithic humanity, a weapon used by a gang of kids, an example in a book about time, a metaphor for an ontology, a part of a segmentation of the world that depends more on how our bodies are structured to perceive than on the object of perception—and, gradually, an intricate knot in that cosmic game of mirrors that constitutes reality. The world is not so much made of stones as of fleeting sounds, or of waves moving through the sea.
There is no single time: there is a different duration for every trajectory; and time passes at different rhythms according to place and according to speed. It is not directional: the difference between past and future does not exist in the elementary equations of the world; its orientation is merely a contingent aspect that appears when we look at things and neglect the details. In this blurred view, the past of the universe was in a curiously “particular” state. The notion of the “present” does not work: in the vast universe there is nothing that we can reasonably call “present.” The substratum that determines the duration of time is not an independent entity, different from the others that make up the world; it is an aspect of a dynamic field. It jumps, fluctuates, materializes only by interacting, and is not to be found beneath a minimum scale. . . . So, after all this, what is left of time?
I return to Mary Ruefle:
John Ashbery, in an interview in the Poetry Miscellany, talks about wasting time: “I waste a lot of time. That’s part of the [creative process]….The problem is, you can’t really use this wasted time. You have to have it wasted. Poetry disequips you for the requirements of life. You can’t use your time.” In other words, wasted time cannot be filled, or changed into another habit; it is a necessary void of fomentation…Gertrude Stein: “It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.”… The only purpose of this lecture, this letter, my only intent, goal, object, desire, is to waste time. For there is so little time to waste during a life, what little there is being so precious, that we must waste it, in whatever way we come to waste it, with all our heart.
In this way, smartphones consume rest. I mean to defy the usual consumption metaphor—in which we (the users) consume whatever the device makes available. Instead, I think the devices (and their attendant systems and modes, the apps and news feeds and platforms and whatnot) consume us. We are consumed: our rest, our ease, our leisure, our breath—all are eaten up by the flickering and frittering and jittering of inconstant screens.
The damn thing had been working all along.
I just didn’t think it was working fast enough.
Poetry, music, forests, oceans, solitude—they were what developed enormous spiritual strength. I came to realize that spirit, as much or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before a race.
(– Herb Elliott, Olympic champion and world-record holder in the mile who trained in bare feet, wrote poetry, and retired undefeated)
Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University:“A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet, and had much lower incidence of knee injuries.”