14 Feb 2017

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society (Part 1)

In order to discuss transience, we need to start off with the unadulterated notion of Time. If we were to represent its timeline, it would be intrinsically timeless, infinite: imagine a continuous ribbon, i.e. with no beginning and no end. This itself is not easy to figure out as a human being. Our lives are brief (compared to the estimated age of planet Earth), and our biological clock takes us to sleep one third of every day, and in the remaining two thirds we cram activities that are structured around our lifestages and other rites of passage (the different echelons of education, household, work, leisure, travel, socialising, etc). To say that we humans are time-constrained by our frame of reference in relation to time itself is almost an understatement!


Mehinako Bench - Monkey by the Mehinako Tribe, via Xapiri

Meanwhile the same notion of infinity that applies to time also applies to space above and beyond the solar system, with no beginning and no end either. The notion of infinite is baffling for us mere mortals, it is a dimension all to itself that we cannot apply in our lives because we are by essence finite (at least in our body form).

Now as a human, when you hold a vision for yourself and the world, you need to take into account two fundamentally nonmutable parameters that make you stand right against the test of time: (a) the natural entropy (decay, degenerescence, obsolescence) of inanimate objects and the all-encompassing natural environment, and (b) the mortality of living beings, which occurs as the end point of entropy, the latter manifesting itself through ageing process, health problems, accidents, war and conflicts, etc.

Transient occurrence? Scilla autumnalis, Korsika, 1922, via ETH Zürich, photo by Eduard Rübel

If there is one certainty to expect - and accept - from life it is that, no matter what, we will one day cease to exist (at least in this dimension, under the current set-up). Death is not a probability, it is a certainty, a fact of life, a circumstantial expectancy. Even the wealthiest, healthiest, happiest, kindest person on earth will one day die. Pharaohs understood it, which is why they were very keen on prolonging human life into the afterlife, in order to bridge the finality expressed by death and bring on the idea of immortality to the defunct. More broadly, religion is here to help us accept the end of life and open to the probability of redemption and reincarnation. Because the notion of death as the all-consuming be-all and end-all, anticlimactic grand finale, is perceived by most of us as the ultimate human tragedy, we must therefore believe in the possibility of a follow-up, a continuity of sorts.

Transcending mortality in spirit in order to live on in death is one thing, but you can transcend mortality in more prosaic ways, through transmission; passing on a legacy, heritage to be inherited by your next of kin, local community or to civilisation as a whole (values, skillsets, discoveries, physical assets, material goods, hard cash). Leaving a trace on earth as you pass on is not only an act of philanthropy, it is almost certainly a survival skill, a tangible proof of life ('Hey, I was here, look what I accomplished!'), however discrete. It might sound egotistical, yet essentially this is what we all do, whether consciously or not. Depending upon the individual and the circumstances, leaving something behind (as legacy, heritage) may not necessarily be positive and beneficial. Rather it may be morally and/ or physically nefarious: calomny, debt, detritus, a trail of death and destruction... Think about what Nero or Hitler left behind.

Wayana Bead Loin Cloth by the Wayana-Aparai Tribe, via Xapiri


Man standing the test of time in order to defy it has held true from the opening chapter to the History of Civilisation. From those early days on, the visionaries and luminaries of society in their widest scope have made it their goal to channel philosophical ideas, produce material goods and execute architectural constructions that would as beacons of grace and progress collectively advance the human condition and bring progress to society - and have a lasting effect. Think the greats of this world and their accomplishments: The Founding Fathers of America's Constitution, Napoleon's Civil Law Code, Nikola Tesla, Gustave Eiffel, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, etc. They materialised a vision for the better good for the now and most importantly for generations to come: legislation, a code of conduct, scientific discoveries. It was part of the organic, natural altruistic evolution of man: to labour for the betterment of oneself and others. Of course this carries on into the present but in Part 2 we shall find out how transience was introduced into our business, production and political model in order to thwart progress, and at the same time unhinge the present into a permanent fixture.

Ideas transcend time. The notion of immortality - or rather the defiance of time within its human constraints - is realised through art, sciences (inventions), applied to objects and constructions that bring a mechanical and/ or aesthetic (beautification) momentum and purpose into our lives and those of generations to come, erecting towers that take us closer to the Heavens and Wisdom. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are one example of the socio-cultural legacy that has perdured to this day, if only as accounts (feeding the stuff of myths and legends) or as scattered archeological fragments for most of them - bar for the otherworldly Great Pyramid of Giza, still standing in its time-defying, mystical, enigmatical grace. (to be continued)

Of space and time! Buchenwindform, Vizzavonapass, Korsika 1922, via ETH Zürich, photo by Eduard Rübel


_________

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society is a 3-part series:  Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

No comments:

Post a Comment

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...