Carol Becker

The Agitated Now: Perceptions of Time and the Contemplative Space of Art
Reading time 32 minutes

“The Agitated Now” was first presented as the 23rd Annual Kimon Friar Lecture at the American College of Greece in June 2018. Kimon Friar, U.S. Fulbright Research Scholar in Modern Greek Literature at the University of Athens (1954–1955), was a poet, anthologist, and first major translator of modern Greek poetry.

The perception of time is not a direct subject of history; nonetheless, it is es- sential to how we experience our world and also to how future civilizations will regard and record contemporary cul- tures. In each period of history, writes the author Byung-Chul Han, time has a unique “scent.”1 We discover this scent in the residues of the art and culture left to us from previous civilizations: their internal lives reflected externally in form. Just as we only are able to observe the wind as it moves through trees or water, rustling the physical world and generating sound, we per- ceive the complexities of the time in which we live through the embodiment of our own ephemeral experiences – and now through the so-called rapidification of daily life and its accompanying anxiety. But we understand our condition most clearly when artists, writers, and thinkers elucidate it, reflecting it back, making it more visible to us.

Artists and writers often play with and manipulate time. They slow it down, speed it up, wend in and out of past and future. They understand that the human imagination is fluid in this regard. When we go to the cinema, for example, we mostly expect and crave a compression of time and events that distills life’s experiences to their essence, and thus makes them more revelatory and exciting. So if we say that a movie is “too slow,” what we often actually mean is that it reflects the pace of daily life far too accurately. Yet some of the greatest film directors have known that to control the pace of the narrative is to allow us to see life more clearly, to dwell on it and savor its nuances. Not necessarily interested in creating action or in entertaining their audiences, such artists are hoping to connect to our deeper selves – and, to do that, they need to slow the story down.

Of this era, we might ask: how do we experience time in the present? Does it seem rich or impoverished? Slow or fast? Coherent or fragmented? Do we ever take the time to contem- plate the nature of time? If so, how would we characterize its “scent”? In a healthy society, citizens perceive time as continuous. They live each day with the assurance of sequentiality: one thing following another. There is also a perceived coherent relationship between successive generations. But a society ruptured by war, migration, epidemics, catastrophic natural occurrences, and the fragmentation of families that these circumstances create cannot readily experience a stable sense of time; massive disruptions in daily routines and expectations create anxiety about how the future will unfold. Such a state eclipses the ability to live in the present or creates a now that is so exasperating that one can no longer extrapolate enough from it to envision a future. While these events are occurring, it is also often impossi- ble to create a coherent narrative. Only later do poets, filmmakers, and writers take up the challenge of addressing how horrific that period might have been and the ways in which the diffi- culties of that moment continue today. After World War I, a generation of poet-soldiers emerged, such as Wilfred Owen, who created a body of literature that articulated the devastating pains of war in poetry. Such was also the case during and after the protracted Vietnam War. In his novel The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien, for example, attempted to articulate what he and his generation of soldiers had lived internally and externally and, in some cases, continue to experience each day.

Those citizens of the United States, like myself, who, at this time, are fortunate enough not to be geographically displaced by history, disaster, war, or politics, often experience less acute and less overt ruptures of time than others do. Yet, even so, many in the US feel that our lives are discontinuous, that we have lost the sense of home that once anchored us to the physical world, that we have disrupted the continuity of generations (families are dispersed across the nation and the world, trying to stay connected), and that we cannot envision a path to the future. But perhaps most prominent – in my country, at least – is the feeling that we are no longer rooted on the Earth, or even within the nation itself, tossed about as we now seem to be by the pendulum of history swing- ing dramatically from right to left and right again. Distracted by distraction, many people feel that they are barely hanging on, their attention shredded by media, information, and popular culture. Often we do not feel present in the historical moment or in geographical space, and hence we can experience a deep sense of uprootedness. Ongoing conversations focus on the shared belief that time actually has accelerated and that there is not enough of it. Byung-Chul Han does not attribute this sense of acceleration to any actu- al, physical, transformed condition of the planet, as people have postulated, but rather to the fragmentation caused by the maddening pace of information hurled at us nonstop and a sense that human life has deterritorialized, lost its groundedness, which translates into a sensation that things are unhinged and have “sped up.”2

Bombarded by visual imagery and information, we experience an implosion of time and space. Overwhelmed with e-mails, text messages, twenty-four–hour global media updates, Internet access – coming across devices we carry on our person most of the time – we find it difficult to focus on any one image, thought, person, or event for very long. It is not that time has accelerated so much as that we are no longer grounded by continuous time. In an overstimulated world, where there are demands for never-ending, rapid shifts of consciousness, we have to adjust to more input than any human being can comfortably assimilate. We have evolved the technology for round-the-clock media updates, but our psyches still lag behind.

Accompanying this constant disruption of our mental well-being is the rapidification of expectations in the workplace – another result of the proliferation of digital media. Through technology, we are now freed from the constraints of location. Many no longer need to go into an office every day to do their jobs or even live in the same state or country as their employers. But as free as we thus might seem physically, we are, nonetheless, psychically enslaved to a ubiquitous demand for our attention. Yes, we can work anywhere, but the result is that we now work everywhere. There is no “leaving work behind,” because such demands follow us home and sit waiting on our laptops, not observant of the concept of evenings, weekends, or holidays. Although many businesses have adopted clear policies that discourage employers and employees from sending work-related e-mails to each other over the weekend, we know that, early Monday morning, those e-mails will be waiting in our in-boxes and someone will be expecting a response. Now that we are reduced to functioning as round-the-clock laborers, a condition humans have tried hard to move be- yond for generations, our lives outside of work, which used to take up more of our time, now take up considerably less.

We might call this present state Crushed Time. In Crushed Time, the normal rhythms the species has become accustomed to over centuries – which included rest; celebration; rit- ual; slow, deliberate thought; love, delight, and joy; time for and with family – are all threatened. Instead we have an imbalanced sense of hurtling forward as we “multitask,” further fragmenting our concentration. We talk nervously about “having no time,” impatiently about “killing time,” or guiltily about “wasting time.” Mostly we feel that “time flies,” or that we have “lost time,” or that we simply don’t have “enough time,” as we futilely try to “stop time,” but we rarely simply enjoy and luxuriate in time. We hope perhaps that meditation or yoga or more sleep might help to slow it all down. We carve out vacations when we attempt to catch up with ourselves and regain the ontological bearings we have lost, worrying all the while about how to hold onto whatever de-accelerated state of consciousness we might achieve.

Because the species has emotional and spiritual conditioning that predisposes us to move a great deal slower than our present, obses- sive pace of life allows, we suffer anxiety – an emotion whose origins are ob- scure but which often takes hold of us when expectations do not match. The rapidity of technology elicits a sense of an omnivorous present, which has created an unrealistic expectation of how quickly humans can actually function. We now assume that traumas of all kinds that occurred only yesterday must be overcome today and decisions that should necessitate careful con- sideration must be made immediately. Thus there is little time to absorb our reactions to events or to seriously contemplate their consequences for our lives.

So we might ask ourselves: Have we filled the space of consciousness with the rapid and purposeless acquisition of information at the ex- pense of knowledge? Is our collective hyperactivity a way to catch up with a world that is moving faster than we are able to adjust to? Or are we living in Crushed Time because we no longer have the ability to create Contemplative Time?

Even within this dominant condition of acceleration, humans, by nature, actually still do live with more complex perceptions of time than we might at first acknowledge. These perceptions, which reflect a multidimensionality of the human spirit, manifest themselves best in art and literature: the vehicles through which we slow the world down and chronicle our psychic evolution to imagine how our species might foresee and even come to thrive in the future.

The Many Categories of Time

Humans actually experience time in multiple ways simultaneously, without always being aware of this complexity or of the particular quality of each category of time. So it is necessary to ask: how can we characterize these myriad experiences of time? In what ways do we respond to them and how do they affect our lives?

Perhaps the most basic category of time is what I refer to as Continuous Time. Continuous Time is the time embedded in the narrative of a lived life. It is traceable, mostly sequential, comprehensible, and historical, although not always direct. It might, for example, be elliptical. Poets such as C. P. Cavafy and others tell us that the journey of life should be lived with breadth and depth, circling back on itself, fulfilling itself with itself and finally touching eternity, like the mystical serpent, the Ouroboros. Homer’s most famous protagonist, Odysseus, is called anthropos polytropos, often translated as a “man of many turns.” His journey has a beginning and end, but it, too, is elliptical in nature, with dramatic and protracted detours along the way. On his great voyage, Odysseus leaves his home in Ithaca and only returns to his place of origin twenty years later, after experiencing exciting, albeit life-threatening, adventures and overcoming enormous obstacles every step of the way. There is complexity and continuity in his rich and multifarious journey, and of course he is transformed by the process. But although home is never far from his consciousness and returning is always his goal, in the decades spent wandering he has changed, and home, too, has changed.

In the poem “Ithaca,” which I first discovered several decades ago in the Kimon Friar translation, Cavafy tells us that we should savor this journey of life, take it slowly, absorb its meaning. And in these oft-quoted lines he writes,

When you set out on the voyage to Ithaca,
pray that your journey may be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge ...

Yet do not by any means hasten your voyage.
Let it best endure for many years…. 3

Odysseus’s journey exists in Mythic Time, which may or may not have a historical correlative. Mythic Time is dependent on a sequential narrative or multiple narratives to convey an imag- ined series of events that occurred in some inexact, unquantifiable, ancient, or future time.

We know that the events in the Greek myths never could have oc- curred exactly as told to us; however, we cannot quantify how much within these narratives is pure imaginative invention and how much derives from facts about historic figures who, through generations of oral storytelling, eventually became larger than life. These narratives – stories that endured because they are exciting and imaginative – also may explain events that took place in an undocumented time. We now recognize them, at least in contemporary incarnations, as metaphoric. They allude to trials we all encounter in our lives and in our psyches, although ours are objectively often of less epic proportions than those of Odysseus. We nonetheless understand and respond to Cavafy’s lines:

Of the Laestrygones and the Cyclopes,
and of furious Poseidon, do not be afraid,
for such on your journey you shall never meet
if your thought remain lofty, if a select
emotion imbue your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygones and the Cyclopes
and furious Poseidon you will never meet
unless you drag them with you in your soul,
unless your soul raises them up before you. 4

Mythic Time is ever present and also, perplexingly, ever past. Because these images are so basic to the way we construct our understanding of the world, they continue to resonate powerfully in our unconscious lives. They exist in what we might call Archetypal Time. In Man and His Symbols, Jung writes that shared patterns of human thought form clusters of images that endure throughout time and across cultures. Freud thought that these images were “archaic remnants” of the psychic life of the species, and although they repeat throughout human history, they constantly morph and manifest, transform, and evolve into what appear as new forms.5 These remnants also manifest in what Jung calls “collective representations,” the shared powerful images that live in the memory of the species and can be found again in dreams and in the sto- ries we tell ourselves about ourselves and about the nature of our humanness.6

Science fiction, for example, may contain heroic figures that appear in the mythology of most ancient cultures but in their present incarnations mimic the contemporary. For example, familiar warrior protagonists might be depicted wearing a mix of Grecian battle attire and modern, high-tech military gear, as in the US cinema blockbuster Black Panther. In this film, the mythic forces of good and evil once again fight for dominance – as is al- ways true in ancient epics of adventure and war – but the battle is set in an imagined, alternate version of Africa, which, with a utopian twist, is the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet, although this fact is hidden from the rest of the world. The ancient archetypal frame is the same: the good warrior will triumph over the evil one; Odysseus will escape the Cyclops. These are originary images, easily recognizable to us. But the specifics of the narrative are adapted to fit contemporary and future civilizations. The familiar events hearken back to the old so we can more fully understand the new.

This previewing of future potentiality might be said to encompass Prophetic Time. Many of us see or imagine occurrences in our dream lives that then occur in our waking lives. The Prophets of the Old and New Testa- ments visualized significant events that were about to transpire: cataclysmic natural disasters or annihilating wars, great punishments for destructive behavior. They lived in salvational, eschatological time, the time that marks the end of the world. But some of us often have more apparently mundane prophetic experiences. We may see something in our mind’s eye that has not yet manifested in the world but somehow we intuit it will. Freud could not imagine that the species was able to see future time, which is why he did not create a category for such prophetic images in his comprehensive study The Interpretation of Dreams. He explained these phenomena when they occurred as coincidental or self-fulfilling.7 He only felt comfortable testifying to what could be proven by science and was anxious when he stepped outside his understanding of the rational.8 In this, he differed with Jung, himself a scientist, but one who also lived in the mys- tical and mysterious. It did not occur to Freud that time simply might loop back on itself and not be linear at all, as Einstein and other physicists since have proven. Freud’s understandings predated these more contemporary theories of time and “parallel universes.” Thus it did not occur to him that humans might exist in a multiplicity of times simultaneously or that experiencing these phenomena intuitively was part of human consciousness, whether the occurrences could be scientifically proven or not.

Another way to understand the subjective nature of time is to contemplate the Time of Loss, the time spent negotiating a deep, often immobilizing attachment to a person who is no longer physically present. In Freud’s essay “Mourning and Melancholia,” he writes that “the absorbing work of mourning” is an “inner labor” and is, as labor, a task that takes time to complete.9 In grief – whether due to death or other causes – one has to undo all of the deep connections formed with another person, bit by bit, in order to allow that person to leave the prominent place held in our psyches. It is difficult to withdraw an intense libidinal attachment to another, and thus the person’s absence can persist in the present as pain. Because the grieving process takes place over extended periods of time, some people collapse into grief and remain there for months before reemerging. Some nev- er reemerge. Others feel the pain only much later, if at all. Grief, resulting from loss, also can endure, submerged, affecting our lives and dreams for years after the event, even while unacknowl- edged by our conscious selves.

When I was a child and someone in my Jewish family died, we retreated into mourning for a week or more. We all “sat shivah.” Of course, as in most societies, we sat collectively; friends and family came and went. After the week ended, adults close to the deceased continued to wear a rent piece of black ribbon attached to their clothing as they went about their lives, signifying that they were grieving, communicating to others that they might appear distracted, that they were not completely in the time of the present but rather still submerged in the time of loss.

Durational psychic states, such as grief, belong to the larger category of Emotional Time, in which deep feelings continue to dominate our conscious and unconscious lives. A memory of childhood humiliation or joy that might have occurred forty years ago may resonate more profoundly than something that happened only yesterday. These emotional memories of our early lives create the specific Time of Childhood, perhaps the most powerful time of all, because its vividness remains easily accessible to us throughout our adulthood. We can always draw upon childhood memories in present time. As adults, we may feel that we are forever following a script, constructed during this time of childhood, when the psyche was most permeable and without defense. These images, expectations, and dramas of childhood are often replayed throughout our lives. Eventually, we may begin to want to reframe these narratives and to reimagine them so that we do not keep replicating obsolete patterns. Thus we attempt to free ourselves from the past in order to write the future script anew. But the images of this time remain ever present. They often live deeply in the unconscious and appear to us powerfully and sometimes repeatedly in dreams.

Much literature is based on the attempt to reorganize the Time of Childhood. Of course, we think of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, J. M. Coetzee’s Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life, Richard Ford’s Between Them: Remembering My Parents, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, and Emily Dickinson’s poetry and that of many others. These works grew from the desire to give shape to what is most profound in a writer’s psyche: the memories that en- dure and keep returning, demanding to be replayed, relived, rethought in the present. Such early memories seem to live in the deep neurons of the body, and as writers struggle to write about their very vivid childhood selves, they return once again to the age they were when these memories first formed. How is this possible? The act of writing memoir draws from the inexhaustible Time of Childhood to negotiate and represent the life of the adult.

These categories of time are important in so far as they demonstrate that time is subjective, relative, experiential, and unique to individuals, societies, and the species itself. In the prevailing contemporary culture, there is little discussion of these complexities of time. But there is an intuitive understanding that what is now absent in most societies is Contemplative Time, which is characterized by depth of thought and concentration.

How can one find the time to think – to experience the spaciousness and timelessness of thought – if forever preoccupied and diverted by the accelerated, demanding pace of now? When do we reflect upon the portion of our lives already lived and the adventures ahead? How can we consider what we have learned from the journey to date? If the possibility for expansive thought seems impossibly thin, when and how do we find or create deeper opportunities for contemplative time in our lives?

Here we must turn again to art, poetry, and literature to offer a respite from this metallic “scent” of acceleration. If we study a piece of music for long enough, for example, we again become aware of the potential depth of time and resonance of space and their relationship to our emotional lives. Through concentration, we experience duration, and in duration there is an opportunity to move into deep breathing, which can alter time by slowing down the world. In this way, we begin to experience our own complexity and that of our species’ memory as well.

Art has the potential to expand our psyches, because art, which taps into all of these categories of time, also exists in a constant, inex- haustible present. It reminds us that, although we function in this accelerated time, we also continue to live in the deep, slow, ancient time of our spiritual selves. Our conscious, earthbound mind is only a trace of the profound mind into which we are able to dive, the mythic sea, the dense water in which the species has been swimming since its beginnings. We are amphibious beings who carry the memories of our species’ journey, which we can conjure anew through archetypes and images that we write, paint, and dream into conscious being. This ability to slow down the world, to deaccelerate and inhabit creative, contemplative, poetic time, is an antidote to the crushing and exhausting pace of discontinuous acceleration. Art, filled with the imaginative possibility of a more perfect world or of a new narrative that can inspire us to radically shift the direction of the species, can exist in all these times simultaneously.

The perfection of a work of writing, art, or music can free us from the anxiety of lost time. Artists engaged in all forms of art-making often have an idea or concept that manifests itself only through the proces of making the work. And it is during this process, while inhabiting the rich time of concentration, that artists can find relief from the present. They regenerate themselves and recover lost time as they attempt to allow meaning to find form. Art thus can be a public reflection of our shared humanity, articulated through individual voices. The actualized poem then sits silently in a book, the painting quietly on a wall, the sculpture unobtrusively on the ground, and the play hushed until enacted, until a viewer, audience, or reader interacts with its intention. At that point the work is activated and has the capacity to bring order to the world – and it is order that our ungrounded, incoherent, exhausting “agitated now” craves.

Many years ago, I wrote an essay about the philosopher Herbert Marcuse’s final book, The Aesthetic Dimension. It began like this:

If pressed on the subject of the political significance of certain types of
art, Marcuse often recounted an anecdote that pleased him a great
deal. It was about the painter Victor Neep, who when “challenged” to
explain the alleged element of protest in Cezanne’s Still Life With
Apples responded, “It is a protest against sloppy thinking.” 10

Marcuse particularly enjoyed this unexpected response because it implies that the organized and deliberately focused care and compositional perfection of Cézanne’s seemingly benign painting can be understood as a radical response to the world. Contemplation of this painting might bring order to an otherwise “sloppy” reality. It might inspire a desire to create coherence, patience, or thoughtfulness – hence, the potential for radical change embedded in a seemingly apolitical work of art. Marcuse locates this experience of contemplating the nature of such art in what he calls the Aesthetic Dimension.11 I refer to it here as Aesthetic Time, in which art and the aesthetic experience serve as catalysts to put the viewer or audience into a contemplative state of mind.

This concept also could be understood as Poetic Time – a profoundly expansive time because it encompasses the entire range of human emotions. Kimon Friar, paraphrasing Archibald MacLeish, writes: “A poem must not mean, but be.”12 Poetic Time potentially can be boundless, without constraints, and can achieve success if artists have the skill to fully actualize their intentions. Our response is always dependent on what we are able to understand about our lives and on what artists are able to shape into form that others can experience and comprehend.

Artists are also capable of envisioning – and perhaps more willing to envision – alternative versions of the future. They will even dare to examine the potentiality of a time when our species may no longer exist on this planet. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine one’s own death, but it is even more agonizing to imagine the death of the species, our world without us in it. The land artist Robert Smithson called the potential for such a world “ruins in reverse.”13 We might call this future projection Unimaginable Time, the time we dread but which haunts us, unconsciously, nonetheless. While researching their own work, some artists are willing to contemplate that humans may become obsolete or that we may make ourselves obsolete. The bad choices we have made, the catastrophic weather we have unleashed, the uncertain effects of the technologies of artificial intelligence and robotics that we have created, ultimately may cause the species to drown in its own wake.

In Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley speculated about the way in which our own creations might ultimately turn against us. In this 19th-century science-fiction fantasy, she challenged a modern notion of scientific progress by illuminating its darker side. In the 20th century, the novelist Arthur C. Clarke and the film director Stanley Kubrick conceptualized a similar catastrophe. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the robot Hal eventually becomes paranoid and fearful of the humans who created him. He then uses his “intelligence” to destroy them one by one.

Many years ago I was struck by a mural in the San Francisco Bay Area that illuminates the concept of “ruins in reverse.” It depicted an abandoned expressway where there were no cars and no humans; instead the expressway was crowded with endangered species. Mountain lions, buffalo, moose, and other soon-to-be-lost creatures roamed across a barren highway that overlooked an urban landscape gone to seed – the world as we’ve known it, but ghostly, with no trace of human life. It was a view of contemporary civilization after our demise, when a catastrophic event, or a series of less obvious events, has created an inconceivable, mostly unimaginable time of life on a posthuman planet.

As a species we have invented the mechanisms of our own destruction and have already deployed them in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is an imagi- nary but not entirely unimaginable idea that we would be gone – not because of anything outside us, but because of our own arrogance, pride, and care-lessness. Artists are willing to investigate this potential for the species to self-destruct. Their work is their warn- ing to us to take heed, to slow down, to observe, to pay attention, in order to prevent such destruction.

The act of making art could be understood as taking place in Utopian Time, a time for imagining and for expressing in form that which does not as yet exist. Every act of creation is a purposeful negation of the present moment, a reorganization of the world as the artist or artists would want it to be, rather than an exact representation of how the world exists now. The idea of making art, or even the belief that an interior vision can lead to a unique, external interpretation of the world, is a utopian thought. Because dystopian, totalitarian societies demanding uniformity cannot tolerate individual, unique voices and perceptions of the world, art is often the first expression of human individuality to be repressed. But this creative desire to give form to what Ernst Bloch might call “the Not-Yet-Conscious,” and to do so in original ways, reveals a key imperative of utopian thinking, which is “anticipatory illumination,” the envisioning of what might become possible within a societal situation.14

But what might become possible is not always positive, however. And artists are often the ones to focus our attention on the dangers of the future, to make us aware of what exists in the present that could become more threatening if allowed to persist. Perhaps this is why the television series based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become so popular – the seeds of this fictional dystopian world already exist in the world at this time. Artists and writers exaggerate these undercurrents of the present, often placing them in an undetermined future so they might be reflected in a large and visible enough way to be seen and perhaps prevented.

In this sense, Imaginative Time might in fact be the most important time of all. Without Imaginative Time, there would be no process for interrogating the world and no utopian thinking about how the world might become better in the future. Without imagination, there would be no progress in the evolution of the constructed world of our planet Earth, which we humans call home. If we were unable to imagine what does not as yet exist, we could never dream a new thought into being; we would only be able to repeat what we already know and have done. We would only see what already exists, without the possibility of imagining a better version of our world.

Although events in Imaginative Time might have some connection to historical occurrences, they are embellished by the imagination. Prehistoric storytellers might have tried to understand the erratic behavior of the sea, the fury of the winds, the rising and setting of the sun, or creation itself. They created stories to explain actual phenomena before humans could quantify, measure, experiment, and verify – that is, before science, as we know it, developed a methodology to determine facts. Imaginative Time explained causality: the eruption of volcanoes were linked to the fury of angry gods, and so forth. The stories people told themselves attempted to explain the unpredictability of the physical world and often also their emotional worlds. In our era, Imaginative Time is often a mirror of all we have become and, at best, a vision of a more healthful future for ourselves and all other creatures – a time beyond discriminatory thought, practices, exploitation, and inequities.

The obsession with time, in one sense, is always about the time of our own lives – the stories that we tell ourselves and that others will later tell about us when we are gone. As a species, Narrative Time – the framework for the story itself – is how we organize and share our stories: birth, life, death, and all in between. We each hope that there will be abundant time within which to live a rich, full life, but we also know that no life feels long enough. There is never time for all the narratives we would like to live, all the adventures we hope to experience, or all the changes in the world we would like to catalyze. But at some point, resistant as we are to the thought, our time will be up.

Cavafy writes that even this most painful understanding of time must be savored as uniquely human: “Ithaca has given you the lovely voy- age,” he writes. “Without her you would not have ventured on the way./She has nothing more to give you now.”15

Perhaps we could call such time the Never-Enough Time, which inevitably must end with our own death, the time of the long journey home to ourselves, when, like it or not, we fulfill the dream of our lives and come to understand that doing so was all we were ever intended to do – and for that, in fact, there was always just enough time.


The phrase “the agitated now” is taken from Ernst Bloch, as quoted in Jack Zipes’s “Introduction: Toward a Realization of Anticipatory Illumination,” in The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays, by Ernst Bloch, trans. Jack Zipes 

and Frank Mecklenburg (Cambridge, MA: The MIT

Press, 1988), xix.

1. Han, Byung-Chul. The Scent of Time: A Philosophical Essay on the Art of Lingering, trans. Daniel Steuer (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2017), 18.

2. Ibid. “Chapter 3: The Speed of History,” 20¬–27.

3. Cavafy, Constantine. “Ithaca,” in Modern Greek

Poetry, trans. and ed. Kimon Friar (Athens: Efsta- thiadis Group, 2005), 38–39.

4. Ibid.

5. Jung, Carl G., et al. Man and His Symbols (New York: Dell, 1964), 32.

6. Ibid., 42.

7. Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams: The Complete and Definitive Text, trans. and ed. James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

8. Freud, “Dreams and Telepathy,” in On Creativity and the Unconscious: Papers on the Psychology of Art, Literature, Love, Religion, ed. Benjamin Nelson

(New York: Harper Brothers, 1958), 236–63.

9. Freud, “Mourning and Melancholia,” in Sigmund Freud: Collected Papers, trans. Joan Riviere (Lon- don: Hogarth Press, 1949), 4:155.

10. Becker, Carol. “Herbert Marcuse and the Sub- versive Potential of Art,” in The Subversive Imagina- tion: Artists, Society, and Social Responsibility (New

York: Routledge, 1994), 113.

11. Marcuse, Herbert. The Aesthetic Dimension:

Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics (Boston:

Beacon Press, 1978), 7–8.

12. Friar, Kimon, trans. and ed., Modern Greek Poetry (Athens: Efstathiadis Group, 2005), 24.

13. Robert Smithson used the phrase “ruins in re- verse” in “The Monuments of Passaic,” Artforum 6, no. 4 (December 1967): 52–57.

14. Jack Zipes discusses these concepts through- out his “Introduction: Toward a Realization of Antic- ipatory Illumination,” in The Utopian Function of Art and Literature by Ernst Bloch, XI-XIII.

15. Cavafy. “Ithaca,” in Modern Greek Poetry, 3.

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