Time and Time Travel

Lars Aagaard-Mogensen


            The time it takes you to read this sentence, is no doubt a fact familiar from daily life as is the time it takes to sit down and get up. Fictions of bow-knotted time, simple products of story telling, are in (oral) literate societies equally familiar facts. At the same time untimely mystification of these and innumerable similarly plain facts has become the predominant mode of speculating, theorizing, reflecting over jolly absurdities such as ’(since) the beginning of time’, ’(till) the end of time’, way back when, precisely o’clock, Sein und Zeit, sign(s) of the times, eternities, etc., – which is what happens many times, particularly, when people get really serious. Surprisingly, sciences are as cluttered with the same and even time-travel as our "science fiction" and cartoon books cum telly screens: so predictably that the line ”Dr. Who, I Superman” shall very very soon have infamous futures in the exact jungles of such canonized fictions; much as you can say already, no kidding, another mysticism failed to alphabetize its ”B.C.|A.D.”, with twilight zoned in your boulles eyes. The time’s right, ripe, and ready for the concessions that time is, while time-travel can’t be, well-known, – to go by:

            Although highly and widely venerated the mysteriousness of the ’mystery of time’ is as almost all other mysteries all misty and vastly overrated. They all feed off the kind of ad lib gibberish tolerable with drunks, fools, and small children (to whom you’re welcome to add the naïve, the credulous, the superstitious, several grave societies and associations, political parties, sects, etc. of your choice) and versions of these same sorts of gibberish are occasionally taken for deep stark insights from sages and phantasmic rhapsodists. How else could it keep up a spotless reputation of genuine mystery? And what’s there to a ’mystery’? except it’s a cover for ”I don’t know what to say”, ”You don’t know what to say”, ”He doesn’t know what to say”, ”They don’t know what to say”, etc., know not nearly, not then, not now, not soon – a run-amok-question, no one is ready to sit down and collect himself to answer. Surely its temper spots show once you get down on the facts of the matter, once you stay level headed about it.

            And that’s what I aim to do, stay level headed about it, level headed enough to troubleshoot (time and) time-travel talk: I shan’t claim formal logic on my side (formalities and formal possibilities are too meagre for level heads); certain things you can’t figure out, they have to be thought out; rather my slingshooter is common sense. (It sprees live rounds though and, I expect, hit a good many times – many good times). You see, as soon as time becomes the topic of discussion most dive directly into that pothole between theory and reality where formulas are lifebelts, as if a formula would tell Big Ben the meanest of mean time.[1] The temptation of such jumps are best attended by sticking to plain talk. (I’ve said that before). Pictures still move thinking astray. Ever since Kant emanuelle’d the world into philosophers’ heads (or thereabookouts), juggling representations or quasi-formulas, magic though they may appear, became the first symptom of pragmatitis, the affliction where not only words but worlds are properties of thought. The incomparable convenience is of course that such thinkers need not go in time or space or woods or shops at all: thinking the whole thing covers it all.

            Others try to cover up the (oval) pothole, jagged edges and all, with a square clock. The clock you know we rocked around in our youth or whenever Silopeans handed it to us.[2] Many peel many paradoxes and contradictions off any time by discovering that clocks’ hands far from time, show merely their frames[3] or the numbers decorating them. To every clock its own frame! So pick a frame in no time. Semarf emit it, is it. While one clockwork was orange, few oranges are clockworks. So, however they may grind their seedy teeth (at night when we snore rather than listen) all that clocks make me o’wonder is this: do they tic-toc or toc-tic? and does measuring bohrishly change time? problems so timelessly deep I deem it won’t pay-off to scrutinize them, and in a stroke I delete all horologistics (chronometry, chronology, chronometrics, et ceteralogies) from further investigation now.[4] Formulas and afflictions and clocks (and frames) aside. Oh zone it!

            Relatime.[5] Really. On to

            Time is indeed a most remarkable being. It’s more indomitable than the common house cat; a cat has nine lives, but time is killed over and over again – from Mac’s taggarting to Borges’ jorgering – and it won’t roll over and go away. Parmenides already knew this. Perhaps it is invincible. All these assaults notwithstanding, there isn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that time exists. Because if those who denied time exists were right, they wouldn't have had time to say it. Those who enjoy to make such denials (repeatedly), meanwhile confirm the obverse, they join me, they won’t stop talking either.[6]

            Philosophically the time is always right for mixing with aesthetics (not a mere aside). You see, one of the most popularly held theses about art-technology connections is that most, if not all, technological innovations and inventions are anticipated, have precedents or inspirations in art and literary works. A standard case in point is, of course, Jules Verne’s novel (1870) and modern astronautical moon travels, – ”… if you’re going to go interstellar on me, I’d just as soon read the men’s microcomics. Interplanetary travel existed only in such literature once,” one fictioner fictionalized. If you search hard enough, nearly any novel gimmick can be found rudimentarily envisioned in some fiction; think of Norbert Wiener’s thinking machine ancestor in Gustav Meyrink’s Der Golem. Yet it isn’t every seer’s lucky lot to be as successful as Hans Christian Andersen in ”In Millenia”. Especially in science-fiction are such relationships held to hold water and, upon Verne Wells (1895), one of the all time favorites here is time-travel (if also preceded by Andersen's "Fortuna's Galoshes" of 1835). I shall neither analyze nor comment on particular stories, rather I wish to examine the cogency of the time-travel fict I gather from all such texts, talks, and anomalous tales I know. And it has none. So on with the argument:

            While I have no trouble making sense of time, I have a hard time making any of time-travel. I say this confidently because among the great many I can’t find one single word, idiom, or expression, nor any statement, of any sort about or of time that I don’t know what means,[7] down to the spur of the moment; at the same time I can’t find any of or about time-travel that I do in the end understand. Mooreover, I know this same is true of many many other people in the world. And I know, and they know, that it is precious to them, even when traveling. So without wasting more of your precious time on ’time’ I’ll without further delay go to, pardon me, the lack of sense of the latter, the time-travel. O time your pyramids.

            Minding the times. Time is very close to you. You remember perhaps last X-mas and that you have to pay the water bill next tuesday right now. You may even remember that at said X-mas you remembered to buy presents before time and that later you’d unwrap yours which you now remember you anticipated you would do, just to file that receipt – all now of course. So mastering the few tricks of recollections, anticipations, now, and then, and not too much later, could be considered a kind of time-travel (and it may in some obscure way well be an inspiration for timing proper). After all, what you do is ”think back and forth” from one to the other to the next to the one before to next last week decade century era. However, this kind of minding, nowadays fairly normal mental operations, however timely or untimely time-laden, is purely psychic; when excessive, more or less voluntary, as with those whose mind wanders, quite comprehensive; (there were days when night dreams commonly forecast the future. In our days they forecast nothing but the past. OK).

            Others get carried away in somewhat the same way especially by reading fictions, but also other kinds of old books, into imaginary (they call it:) re-livings of periods not (far from) their own; when obsessive, as with those who’re glued to past authors’ novels and documents, claiming to thereby obtain a free ride in time, it is equally psychic;[8] of course history books and historical novels further those same problems for people whose imagination leave them to others’ devices, problems perhaps with telling travels from interpretations, their take aways are likewise psychic – certain quivers of transportrance,[9] none of which are good enough for the timing of real time-travellers: they don’t want an off-time, they want it off their minds and bring their luggage (for certain to carry the trophies on the return trip). And that’s what we must do, get out into

            the Thick of Time. So what about the real ’time-travel’ and what I can’t make any of? Time flies – fugitiously; but unlike Concordes, however fleet-winged, it takes no time and has no where to go. So the pair of them, travelling and flying, are over and done with in no time. What were the possibilities envisioned for time-travel? I gather it started perhaps this way. It’s getting later for us all all the time, so we’re all travelling on or ahead or forward in time with time.[10] No big deal, anyone and everything can do it and in fact does do it – in exactly the time it takes to do so: what’s worse, no one and no thing can’t not do it – it’s a chronic condition. As an inescapable conclusion, a straightjacket of insurpassable fit and comfort. We are timedwellers, (rather than travellers). And it is over and against this ’can’t’ that dreamful speculation takes off.

            First of there seems to be just two possibilities (bobbing about in the present is discounted): you can either go forward or backward in time, perhaps as Captain Barcley was said to walk against time. But direction-talk is all wrong here, – and part of a larger task of dislodging time-talk from spatial and locomotion talk would have to be undertaken to tell exactly how far, – it is misleading: there are no up time or left time, down time, in and out time, and so forth, totally misleading. Gold-rimmed invitation to Lineland. Therefore the two possibilities can more to the point be cast in times; you can either time to the future or to the past. The former, the future, just isn’t there to go to; unless you’re a complete Fatalist (who has no choice but to go), and even so, it is true to say that the future hasn’t been yet and no timing is going to get you no where (and apart from a single remark and one implication I shall, may Horos cope with it!, speak no more of it). Is there, regarding the latter, a past to go to? No, there was a past. So, you had to have been gone to get to the past when it was. To (really) get from ’is’ to ’was’ requires more than a label, a stipulation of time-tripping, timing. If belated, the belief that somehow pasts hang sluggardly around in the wings for you as another Leif Erikson to discover is sheer, however queer, fantasy. (Besides, the heyday of the travel account, the travelling salesman, seem to be gone). So if you’re all rigged out to go, there’s no particular place (nowhen) to go.

            But then a repair of those two impossibilities seems to leave a loophole, – a loophole through which you may bump your head against the nonsense wall again,

One More Time, please! you order the universal waiter. It consists in the idea that you can step out of time, ”do your tripping”, and re-enter at another, earlier or later, time and, most of the time, eventually retrace slip back into the present (this or the ”next”). As Matilda waltzes out of time and sits down warming the bench again. Whiff. Unlike the making of instant coffee, pudding, soup, and such delicious delicacies, it takes time or something of the sort to travel. So what seems required here is that there should be two times, one – a spare time so-to-say – for travelling and another to exit and enter, the real one. Comparable, perhaps, to ”the cheerful melody that trips along as though it had not a care in the world, somewhat like a person, though not really one – moving in a time that is not the time of the physical world.”[11] That is just two times more nonsense than I can handle on one Mittwoch (how much spare time do you get at the time-exchange for, let’s say, a spring time? enough to love Paris twice?) and I’ll leave it therefore to the mystics, perhaps those who all along favored several universes (perhaps wormholed together) such that they can go from one to the (which?) other the way we step out of and into the parlor and into and (relieved) out of the bathroom. The cheap transportation reincarnation affords. There just is one time, (one, in fact, is enough of the darned things), and if you want to travel in it, it won’t help you to step out of it, even if you could get off out into (some) timeless (what?). How would you change time there? The way, to be sure, some would have a stripper, once out of her clothes, change from bare to naked to nude? Go eat your weed, Tim E.

            Tin Can Alley. As with many things you can’t, but badly want to do, – iffy as no one badly wants to do time, – a machine is devised to help you out, salvage your dream.[12] Can it. And we have devised wonderful machinery (besides some awfully dismal ditto). As you trust a serum (is in truth) an immunization against mums, say, I suspect you entrust the infamous time-machine to do the same against time. A special kind of conservation tin it must be,[13] preserving you the inside content/rider from the furor of the outside, shutting its timing out; or as your suspenders hold up your pants, garters intime her stockings, the tin shall hold off time, belt it. Can it? Well, to enter a tin, a mere displacement of location, (for once a door slam to effect), to obtain immunitime seems just to pass the trouble one buck down the line and even if so immune it’s not clear it would do much else than put you behind the time, keep you now’ing, stamp you on to a moment as the post office a cancellation stamp on a stamp. Some travel, some conservation!

            But wait. ”Inventors built ’impossible’ machines and made ’impossible’ discoveries” a noicy voice cried out loud without telling us which, so this could be one or two of them. I don’t know how many refusals patent offices issue per year, and woordworkers possessed have indeed marvelled out imbilities styled like the plumbing in my basement.[14] What will they think of next? Alladin’s rug pales, the way interest silently make money. But admit it, there’s acute lack of know-how and blue prints for wringing this camel thru this needlestack.[15] But more than that, there’s a reason:

It can? However, instead of speculating more on the timeless minutiae of this tin contraptionary, let’s realize the evidence,[16] as conclusive as evidence comes, does away with it: Because if it ever will be invented, it is or is passing through here now (ex hypothesis, going only to the past); the all-time evidence says it isn’t here now, nor was here;[17] therefore there won’t be such a device, ever. I hope, hold and beLo, plead and aver, this little inference is a lot less square than Lavoisier’s to the effect that there are no meteors because there are, he found, no stones in the sky.

That mine squares is obvious: Starting from nowhere isn't going to get you here (the tortoise couldn't "win" having no goal line). Future people, if such ther be, will have as little past to traverse to as we do. The idea, fancied by a great many fobs posturing for posterity, that the present is the past of the or some future is no less spurious: this present will not endure longer than any other past, it will be 'was', not 'is', at any later time.

Evidence of nothing is nothing (this too, Parmenides told you). Don't bother to search for it; if you do, you'll be right everywhere you look, whereas Lavoisier only was somewhere where he "looked". Deposits of if-evidence you use your shiney ifcroscope to detect.

            (Considering how much gold is said to be in a bug and how the practice prevails, there’s a striking absence of bugging the past. That all so-called time-capsules are current, distrustful of ordinary monuments, perhaps bespeaks the timers’ special condition: the unmanne(re)d tin, the robotic probe – perfect historicist eavesdropper – doesn’t ignite this adventurous inclination the right way. Perhaps cause the right kind of (control) wiringless got crossed out. Hence, debugging that mystifictionality can be put on hold as well).

            Timing Time. So when you can’t time yourself to the past(s) [nor the future(s)], to time at all, the remaining possibilities are to reverse, accelerate, or stop time. And I can’t make any of these either. Read me try:

            First about acceleration. Some are said to be behind their times, and some indeed are, some in fact so far behind that their behinds still show yesterday. And it would be nice for them to catch up. I, for one, really wish they would. But apart from them (and those who have’t changed their fundamental minds for ages), it beats me who would want to age faster while the rest remains at its own pace, the usual. That would just come to shorten your life or cut out or off or compress so much of your experience, enjoyment, and prospects, etc. Some indeed, for obscure and challenging reasons, do just that, age very rapidly; we lament their lives’ brevity, call it progeria, a disease, and try our best, or very nearly so, to cure it.

            Second about deceleration. It may have its advantages to age slowly or bloom delaidly,[18] Indian warmer welcomed than summer summer. At any rate, aging slowly is something we all try all the time. We try to prolong life, try to make as much of it as possible, in fact I think to slow down, to pace aging is one legitimate branch of age studies and I much hope it succeeds real soon, (for example before my doctored or natured end, whichever comes first, as agents are fond of clausing). Some are so slow they remain children all their lives, infantilism covers this condition, which again we wish was curable.

            Third about stoppation. I just don’t think it makes any sense that anyone goes for the perpetual still life, the frozen snap-shot ”just a moment, I’ll be right with you” world – and it hardly counts as travel to get stuck between the halted teeth of time (– it surely would be sad for those currently in nasty situations, messes, and jams) as a week old sinew of tough loin. Stopping and timing are contradictory.

            Icecapades of Pausing. Any respectable remote features a pause button, bears hibernate, and spores slush in dormancy. Some extemporation is in order, certainly for those hotly intent on suspending their animation, some stops are intermissions, as frigidity partly preserves a certain virginity, some postponements, go frigid and the rest of your future is to come.[19] Parked on ice they pat(i)ently wait flat out for less rainier days, the remainder for part-time lifers. Modernized mummy commerce. What is there to say, are they "going" in the meantime? Not otherwise than the rest, only sedatedly.


            2. It doesn’t greatly surprise me if time-travel proponents object that none of these are really what they had, have, or beget on their minds. And it is clear it is something much much more ambitious they crave. They don’t want to accelerate, decelerate, or stop time, thrill at a chill, they don’t really want to travel back and forth in time, they want to control to direct time itself, the world and what goes with it – back and forth. So this is what they’re up to:

            Suppose one of them really managed to reverse time, to time shunt, to emit. I think that would have to mean that you would get younger and younger [shit enters your anus, and fresh fruit and macaroni and antepasta exit your mouth, – which besides swallow a lot of sounds – from where it goes....] and if you shunt far enough you’ll finally pass thru your infancy [where skrinking babies pump milk into their mothers' breasts] your fetal stage, the gamete, and then what? Your guess is as good as mine.[20] A weird revelopment and I’m at sea as to the purpose of such a regression.

Of course, again, this is not quite what the time-travel dreamers imagine; they seem to think that they would become time-less or carry with them, no doubt in the now so fashionable backpack or spray can, their private (perhaps not so) little chunk of real time, just enough so that they would stay normal to enjoy that the rest dances to their whims and wishes. In other words, they don’t just want to turn back the clock (anyone can do that) or have a load of yesteryears’ pageants and orgies, they want a repeat, a rerun, an encore, on demand, in reverse; they want to change time, our time, but not their’s, and that is very ambitious, if you ask me. I realize you don’t, but all the same I won’t have it, these sickies must not – and I’m rather glad that time (or something) detains them – turn me and you into fetuses and so on and forth, time and again, just to accommodate their visitations. Their affliction is of course of a maltempered grave sort properly called megalomania: their tin is going to turn back revolute the world, while preserving them sweeties in their present condition. [They want it both ways at the same time]. It’s plain silly, that’s what it is. Not least because

            Part of the idea here perhaps is that, if one could time-travel, one could choose to so compose one’s life of or spice it up with the, and only the, most significant, exciting, or whatever sequels of human life episodes (whether one chooses such thrills according to the tourist’s, the scientist’s, the chronicler’s, the archivist’s, etc., index of importation). This might be made out to sound noble enough. All the same the weirdest motivations must be admitted: some would want to join be part of be present at a crucifixion, Casanova in action, others Caesar’s murder, some Hitler’s rages, some Mona Lisa’s grin, some the earth’s convulsions, some the extinction of cultures or species, etc. etc. Not a very handsome, nor commendable, collection of human motivation all in all. Pervert dating. Reservations are not taken, for the pious who wish to dine at the last supper, for they couldn’t possibly fit another chair at the table – the dinner is already over nearly 2000 years ago.

An equally queer consequence of preference primed this way is the implicit trade-off between the experiences the timers could have had in their own future lives, that which was about to happen, unknown and unforeseen to them of course at the time of timing departure, and those moments and actions which are the real events only of other, in casu dead, people’s lives, which they don’t know either, of course, beyond certain legendinous second-hands-us-downs versions. Over limbo temps era t(o)ures. This odd preference between two unknowns, favoring the ”presumed” familiar, the legend rumored ___?___, betrays a kind of nostalgic rejection of their own lives, a Heimweh aliénante (an element no doubt of traditionalism I've examined elsetime[21]).

            (Insisting on a similar trade-off with future experiences in the face of the odds against there being any ahead of time, is pretty dull and pointless, except perhaps to vindicate Sartre on a few moments of nothingness. Not even worth the posture, I should say). Several timesillies.

            Now to

            The Lighter Side of Time-travel. The craving for experience substitution is sucked in by that ole snuggler, the primacy of vision, such that when you realize that you can’t turn back the world tout court, seeing observing eye-witnessing its bygone events is deemed close enough, the next best thing to being there, to the original dream. Put a panorama window in the aforementioned tin (and forget not to fit it with a sturdy wiper rack to clear it of all the bloody meat of the victims hit en route) and time-travel resurrect as spectator sport (with all that usually implies by way of passive gluttony and so on). The mania re-dressed as omnividience. Seeing or observing past events gets entangled with certain (standard) theories of light, and everyone has of course heard of the marvels of light motion and its super speeds[22] (it seems we have here another travel story (a light advisory) rather than a light theory). The stheory is somewhat as follows:

            Vision is not a contact sense, (though not entirely unsexy). Between you and me there’s a spacey distance. My eyes, my vision can't reach you, and men of science discovered that, when I do see you, there's light in that distance. But make no mistake, that light should  be (velociting as it were) all over is a bluff, it really is not: It goes from x to y, on these theories. You see, you don’t make it, nor do your looks, so in order that I can see you from here, some light must flow from you to me.[23] Light carries your looks over across the distance to me who then sees ’them’, without noticing any carrier. Light is busy; it’s sent off by a light source, bounced off on you and gets to me before you and I know it. It’s a kind of an illusion, done very diligently, by the Great Illuminator, who is no evil genius, but a most enlighteningly tricky one.

            By some such very crude deductions we rationalize further common facts such that what we take to be far away things, the moon, the stars, etc., are despite remoteness still visible to us; therefore the medium of seeing must be able to go the distance (how else could we see it?) – it probably takes more than one drop of snakeoil, a whole can maybe, letting them go perfectly unscathed all that far – and it must go the distance very very fast or it wouldn’t make it before you want to look at something else: after all you haven’t got all night to gaze at the moon, and every time you as much as sneak a peak at it, sure enough, light accomodates you with no objection whatsoever, and no extra express charges. So definitely, it must be incredibly fast – perhaps here we have a counterpart to the kind of control timers long for over time. The little chronognomes, timelings, just like the little luxognomes, lightlings,[24] should be trainable to perform in the same 3-ring circus – with the timer as Gesprechtsstallmeister (which is a German term non-German writers sometimes use, when they want to, for ringmaster).

            All right, now you’ve got a traveller,[25] and all you need is to make this dear oldtimer change his itinerary. He set out in the past, has been on his merry way ever since, and the trick is to make him detour deray to where you’re at, and deliver to you the ’looks of past things’, the has beens, the gone-ons or sawing as’ses, – so you can reel ’em in as so many hooked herrings. It supposedly works, like a charm, pretty much as a delay mail service the one you know which suddenly drops a postcard in your mail slot with a snapshot of your great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Graddy7 to be exact, in plain view; what a pleasant surprise, – it is a service just like that, only you can decide what looks land in your timecardslot. Quite a trick, you must admit, but how nice it would be. The quite’r, as the

            Prospects appear brighter than with the tin. We excel in this kind of business. Flipping switches. We can project make it carry all kinds of images, and if you can project, you can no doubt reject, pull out from the rear of the light rays the receeding looks sent off and time-borne by little lightlings of things in the past or swing them around, perhaps by a clever mirror system or some real heavy duty gravitationing, so that whenever you choose to look at them, they serve you the way contemporary lightlings polka to your whip. It’s such a cute story that I nearly haven’t the heart to monkey with it. But, given the present purpose I must try to, say, try.

            Lightlings, who, when, where, what are they? I’m afraid we’re quite unenlightened, particularly wavering, about light. To shorten a long saga, I shall only sketch five troubles common sense shoots in this ”theory” – and we can whip up the rest, or at least a good many others, any old time.[26] First, the retreat to spectation involves the assumption, in one form or another, that you can have the view of an event without the event – that lightlings do what a recorder, that idol of our bureaucracies, does, which is petty and pretty absurd – or to put it differently that the light is dated (which is, incidentally, inconsistent with its multiple refractions, reflections, deflections, scatterings) and thus contains or preserves the looks of ”the event” for ever after for retrieval (once, twice, …?) on demand, just in case some timers should sometimes want it. I don’t, haven’t a reason to, dispute lightlings’ loyalties, I merely wonder why they should serve timers so unswervingly?

            Secondly, there may be something amiss for the enterprise to work as proposed. Suppose you compare, for a moment, with that most beloved trivia analogy, the movie being run reverse rather speedily (which appear to have some similarity to the rejecting journeyman’s dream) – (lightlings do not come in frames, etc., – delighted to forget it). The distortions introduced by this compression gives you an idea, I hope, of the mess (I see) the rejection proprosal involves. To yield barely minimally satisfying results, such rejection requires tremendous adjustments in the rejectionist’s sensibilities. Frankly, I don’t see how he can do it. And I’m a bit at a loss as to why he should want to do it, e.g. to see the battle of Copenhagen, backwards this way. And face it, many events, surprises, Bingo, bangs, climaxes, etc., entirely lose their point, sense,[27] excitement and all, backwards.

            Thirdly, I think there’s a spuriousness in the theory of lightlings’ dispersion along rays,[28] which appear a somewhat necessary feature for their retrieval: unless ordered or regular in some way, some non-iso/entropic way, where do you go for the desired ones? It certainly encounters severe difficulties if required to account for the fact that they (whether straight, bent, dented, curved, or not) only go so far (or sometimes as we see deliver no looks at all, say the dark night sky). Some things at a distance can be impossible to see, neither because occluded nor because unlightened, but because lightlings never make it, they are so-to-say used up, worn out, turned off, before reaching you, and the stheory postulates infinite propagation. So, if lightlings carry the view of things for his review, why do they not desert the timer’s highway as they sometimes, indeed quite often, desert us all the way?

            Fourthly, when the light gave up, never made it all the way over to you, where did it go, once it went? and what became at that very moment of the looks they carried? (See the look depot manager). (Similarly, where do they go once you’ve seen the looks?)[29] Unless we find an answer, find a good home for these dearlings, I guess the timer can’t retrieve them either? can he? and that spoils his entire enterprise; (another comblication is that the lightlings we saw may be unavailable to him just because we saw them, they disappeared were absorbed spent worn in us, a plant or the Jensen’s, so it may be a flickering, strobic, ”random” discontinuous (re)view, perhaps entirely unrecognizable, he’s in for, a stammering so severe only a native Chinese can even misunderstand it).

            Finally, see if the timer sets his panoramic window to, say, King Hans' days (1481-1513), as Hans Christian Andersen mused, all the lightlings left – rather quickly – at the time, so all he'll see is utter darkness. (And photons, by the way, are merely samples of particles or energy, i.e. the rest left too). So the entire thing as spectation enterprise ends up all murky and black.

            (I can’t resist prodding at one more element in voyeur emitting. It intrigues a great many that on this dream you may view yourself in your past, meet yourself visually, so-to-say (yet neither as in a mirror image or home movie, nor even a real image of you, but your very own former looks (obviously you aren’t yourself there any longer) with a lot more flesh to it). An ontologic formication, which will make every housewife buy it. (Why, did you fail to leave a trail of looks? We’ll broom them up). I don’t know if one is recognizable reidentifiable (let alone likable) to oneself in reverse (up-side down already produces misses), but an assumption here is that one’s withdrawing from time at a certain time has no effect on one’s previous presence(s). (Backward causation has now become selective). Perhaps it’s two bits too outrageous, but how are we to second that removing oneself from time (at any time) isn’t going to remove one entirely? (Only your last look dies – a question as poignant as ”Can two invisible people hide from each other?"). Well, I suppose one way of answering this is as good as another, and I’ll leave it at that. That is, until such good time as we’ve got any defogged notion of what would count as (finding) an answer.) So even watered down denatured to spectation, time-travel doesn’t seem to have much going (sic) for it.

            A Sound Side? Then to my last point, now. As the movies, pardon me, went from silent to talkies, now you’re at it, reviewing (pre-viewing?) isn’t enough for the typical emitter, he also has a few questions for Socrates and so you see him add a sound system (i.e. repeat the trick he played on lightlings on audiognomes, soundlings, synchronize them as best he can), and, having practiced his best ”Greek” since departure, get them off his chest (”Socrates, is it really true you know that you don’t know anything? Or is that irony as Søren says it is?”) – and here you run into this difficulty that Socrates no doubt led a full life: that is, he did this, he did that, he scratched his back, ate, yawned, slept, he talked to Plato, to Crito, to the rest of the Sophist gang, quarreled with Xantippe, his two boys, went to court, and so on and on and on and on his entire life. But it follows that Socrates didn’t couldn’t have any time, doesn’t it on the whole, to talk to the dear timer, none at all, his life is already filled taken booked up solid – and well, you might add – (or chance upon the pocket where time stood still for him). From cradle his life was good to the last drop. What makes you think he can will take time out for a snotty timer and his petty questions? What would make him want to, even if the timer does?

            (I’ll leave the participatory live-show (heaven and its soldiers forbid) to your own and Pierre’s single hand devices).

            Smell a springtime – and always dinnertime. Follow your nose, in the dark when you can't see the clock (on which we spent a lot of effort to lighten up the arms and faces), the inscrutable oriental as usual had his amomatic timepiece, ....

            End. Enough is enough, certainly for a paper this near its end. As if I knew when to stop. So, in recapitulation: setting aside mystics, mentalism, operationalism and relativisms: Time is, time is all right, just one of them.[30] The past is no more, the future not yet, no spare time to go (you can’t use your own); no tin tin available. To accelerate, decelerate or stop time makes the wrong sort of solitarian travel, indeed may only make for travel-sickness, for our heroes. Love makes the world go, even wrong, round, – not freak nostalgia. So the plot to reverse the world is gross and for eccentrics only. Even sporting timing down to, however mega-, vidiencing it stacks up more problems than promises.

            Let me repeat: We knew all this (and now I’ve told you, if you didn’t) all along. So although I shouldn’t rushly conclude that time-travel is an altogether bogus issue, I shall submit that several of these troubles hitshot, singly or jointly, make it very little attractive and indeed resistible – even irritating in fiction.[31] Which warrant at least two pendent conclusions: I propose it follows too that one can tell a fictional text from a non-fictional one by such spurious contents. And secondly, however much artistes and technologians may otherwise have in common, this can’t be one such affinity, at any rate not a cognitive one. It remains fantastic. Which can, thirdly then, also be said for a great many historical enterprises.


[1] Nor is there an all time scarcity of diagrams only when color mags feature it (e.g. Science Digest, Sept. 1982), but never (e.g. Henry Margenau “Can Time Flow Backwards?”, Philosophy of Science, vol. 21 (1954), pp. 79-92; Murray Macbeath “Communication and Time Reversal”, Synthese, vol. 56 (1963), pp. 27-46; and on and on and on). Among others, time-lines, straight and narrow, are as telling as life-lines to palm readers; cones swirl and sweep as funnels on medieval heads; and arrows home amorously in all over this as flies on a dung heap.

[2] Alan Goldfein “The Introduction of Time”, Heads, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1973, pp. 61ff.

[3] Too many to list anywhere, for a blunt for instance see Paul Horwich Asymmetries in Time, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1987, part of which “On Some Alleged Paradoxes of Time Travel” he just yesterday got into The Journal of Philosophy, vol. LXXII (1975), p. 433ff, too.

[4] Neatly demetered at any rate by O.K. Bouwsma in section I of “The Mystery of Time (or, The man who did not know what time is)”, Philosophical Essays, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1965, pp. 100ff.

[5] After all, operationalisms are just versions of relativism. Which has such following that I suppose it shall disappoint relativists if not engaging it more explicitly. But disappointing one on time waives it, cf. "I Have Seen It", Papers on III, i.p.

[6] And some (therefore?) say time is all (in) the way you tell (it?), which of course makes it, the perfect success of succession, at least once too wordy for real temperamental people. See, e.g., Paul Ricoeur “Narrative and Hermeneutics”, Essays on Aesthetics, ed. John Fisher, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1983, pp. 149-160. But the slenderness, indeed anorexia, of the narrative is too obvious, even Foucault michelled, The Order of Things (1966), Vintage Books, New York, 1973, p. 371, if I hadn’t.

[7] Of which I’m reassured by Austin’s assessment that in the matter of time ordinary language certainly is not rich and subtle. Philosophical Papers, The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1961, p. 130. But it echoes luxuriously across poetry, see e.g. M.N. McMorris “Time and Reality in Eliot and Einstein”, Main Currents, vol. 29 (1973): 91-99.

[8] All those boarding raptic metaphor (bus): “A novel like one of Fielding’s goes much further in transporting one into the eighteenth century than a history of manners and customs of that period like the serviceable one by Mr. Sidney.” “Introduction” to The Sir Roger de Coverly Papers, Cambridge 1893, p. x.

[9] To discard the books and words and wormery, Carl saganed doses of MDA, etc., Broca’s Brain, Random House [where else], New York, nd., p. 303 passim.

[10] Some even argue that the direction of time is crucial in assigning possibilities to people, cf. Thomas Nagel “Death”, Nous, vol. IV, no. 1, (1970).

[11] Monroe C. Beardsley The Aesthetic Point of View, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1982, p. 369. So if you’re a ringer, ding-a-ling, or scream, you’re half a backslapping timer.

[12] And of course you can get a manual: Time Travel: A How-to Insider's Guide (a mere 160 pages, promising: "Strap yourselves in, folks, and take a journey into the unknown. Former military intelligence operative offers safe, simple and proven ways to travel through time. Using secrets of ancient mystics and methods allegedly perfected by covert U.S. military agencies, you can visit the past or future whenever you choose. Shows you how to cross dimensions, enter vortex and window areas and successfully break the barriers of time and space. Change your life by using ancient and modern secrets of time travel."), www.johnson-smith.com, cat no HQ-21882.

[13] This cantraption usually is fused, for economic reasons only, with a space mobile as well to make it less impractical, i.e. you wish to time and “be there” at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, – perhaps to find answer to ”Can blood flow backwards?” – but your tin sits in Kalamazoo, (a combi-complication I shall by and large ignore here).

[14] Anticipating #25; cf. also John Fisher “Perceiving the Impossible”, The British Journal of Aesthetics, vol. 18, no. 1 (1978), pp. 19-30.

[15] Maintenance might be hard (impossible) to schedule, but do execute in this end. Zen may not procure spare parts when most you need them.

[16] See M. Dummett search for it in the outer reaches of ignorance, “Causal Loops”, The Nature of Time, eds. R. Flood and M. Lockwood, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1986, pp. 135-69.

[17] The eternal problem of proving negatives (something suspect in views entailing that?) fuels hunting down only esoteric traces. Timers, in the manner ETes have impolitely left no (radio) calling card Carl et co. whine, left not a single wrecked device now. Though voided two paragraphs ahead, notice that rampant proposals wallow in scarcity and rarified etherealities. Admit it, if there's any, there are many. Traffic congestion in one now, whether passing or resting, from all times, I guarantee it, would be noticeable right away.

[18] It was written some years ago, 31 to be exact, to improve especially womens’ chances of getting to become centerfold decor if they filled the Playboy bill of “We like to find a late-maturing girl”, Thomas Meehan Cosmopolitan, May 1971, pp. 181-185.

[19] Cf. E.A. Poe "Some Words with a Mummy" (1845).

[20] As Georges Bataille’s guess: “We know that death destroys nothing, leaves the totality of existence intact [1. law of thermodynamics], but we still cannot imagine the continuity of being as a whole beyond our own death, or whatever it is that dies in us.” Erotism. Death and Sensuality, City Lights Books, San Francisco, 1986, p. 141. Even he did not omit a ‘whatever’ hanger.

[21] Real Art, Communication & Cognition, Gent, 1994, pp. 34ff.

[22] And once you get that, you quest to top it like Achilles his tortoise, cf. G. Feinberg “Particles that go faster than light”, Scientific American, vol. 222,2 (1970), pp. 68-77. And now, the evidence, we managed to slow down and to speed up the photons.

[23] We all know how stirring this can be, in fact interferestingly so, when two look each other deep in the eyes.

[24] And tiny tiny littlest ones they must be, for you don’t get them in your eye like specks of dust, fumes, and dryness ...

[25] You finally spaceyfied time, too, perhaps to Theodor’s recipe “As a piece of music compresses time into  small space, …” (Aesthetic Theory (1970), Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1984, p. 200), converted timer to a spacer, a washer up between every nut and bolt.

[26] For some whipping, see “Seeing the Invisible”, Papers on III, i.p.

[27] J. Hartnack spells this out for causal events only, "Om Tid", Filosofi og Common Sense, C.A. Reitzel Forlag, Copenhagen 1999: 65-82.

[28] Reminiscent of that disappointed lover in the romance who leaped on his horse, Isothrophalus, and galloped madly off straight in all directions, they gogo directly allwhere.

[29] Cf. a head start I made in “Pictsextures. A Foxtrot on Subception Hypocrisies”, International Journal of Visual Sociology and Visual Anthropology, vol. I (1986), pp. 56-73.

[30] I asked Ludwig, he ok’ed.

[31] Luk De Vos “Science Fiction as Trivialliteratur: Some Ontological Problems”, Zagadnienia Rodzajów Literackich, vol. XX, 2 (1977), pp. 45-59.