ON THE CYCLICAL AND ARCHETYPAL NATURE OF TIME
This article relates the practice of Post-Architecture and Ontological Design to the idea of Time as a malleable substance, to be manipulated together with space to interfere with the entity we like to call “Human”.
DO YOU HAVE A MINUTE?
The first issue I’d like to address, relating to the notion of “time”, is how the perception of time as a linear phenomenon is detrimental to a mythological and aesthetic experience of life. The contemporary, positivist “theology” of mainstream awareness understands time as a line, extending infinitely into both the past and the future. Time is something that moves incessantly towards the future, coming from the past, running (this metaphor is notable) at an ever-steady and constant pace. It’s march is objective and absolute. The myth behind this notion of time is simple and one-dimentional: time will lead us, further and further, to more progress and to an eventual utopia, a New Jerusalem in the end of History. Linear time is History as crescendo.
Now, cyclical time is a whole other subject. Borges and Nietzsche both dealt with the idea of the eternal return — the idea that, if time and space are in fact infinite, then it is certain that all that has ever happened has happened before and will, eventually, come to pass again and again. As if the universe’s space/timeline was an ouroboros — a snake biting it’s own tail. This snake signifies a periodical recurrence of patterns, events, themes and archetypes, which, by virtue of being revisited, time and again, gain complexity, value and information. The reason that leads me to mention such an unfathomably large scale of space-time is the idea of the cycle. Societies and collectives attribute meaning to cycles in many ways: people celebrate New Year’s Eve, people work during the week and rest on the weekend, people celebrate anniversaries, etc.
Now what I think could be valuable, in the context of Ontological Design, would be a creative approach to the measurement of time. As if time, measured in a cyclical manner, could carry meaning and be incorporated into the arsenal of ontological design tools we are beginning to define.
There have been many, throughout the ages, who measured and lived this concept of “time” very differently than we do, on our digitally precise turning of wheels. Some factions of christian monks, in the context of their monastic lives of seclusion and worship, divided their days in ten hours, according to the rituals by which they governed themselves. The cycles of menstruation for women typically have the same duration as the moon’s cycles — 28 or 29 days. Some pagan tribes mythologized this synchronization as part the rapport of our species with the overall order of Gaia and the Universe. And even if we go into Astrology, this most “pseudoscientific” of subjects, we find a very elaborate system for attributing meaning to temporal cycles. The celestial bodies are used — in the less charlatan-esque versions of the astrological tradition — as a timekeeping apparatus. Months, weekdays and hours: if one studies astrology enough one can find that there are tremendously elaborate systems that associate meaning of a mythological and narrative nature to the timekeeping systems we employ even today. In this sense, astrology can even be seen as an aesthetic and artistic way to keep time; celestial bodies as clocks for esoteric dynamics. Now, the reason for this enunciation of different timekeeping methods is to introduce the idea that the mythification of time cycles should be included in the arsenal of categories of experience that Post-Architecture employs — along with space. Let’s see how.
I WOULD LIKE TO TELL YOU A STORY:
Slices of time could designed to carry certain meanings within reality tunnels. They could trigger narratives, creating what is generally referred to as RITUALS. Just like a religious celebration — a mass, for example — is a ritual which employs not only space and perception, but a mythification of parcels of time within a certain timeframe. Reality tunnel maintenance and control was achieved by the catholic church, in the West, for thousands of years, not by means of strictly controlling ALL space, time and perception — but by carefully framed and curated RITUALS, which have a precise location in both time and space. Unlike the idea of God or of linear time, rituals are not omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Rituals have a beginning and an end. It was by means of these rituals and stories that ontological design was achieved in a very effective way, for centuries on end — and the same principles are also at play today, in our digitalized, information society.
BY THIS I MEAN…
Storytelling and story living unfold within time, because time is, itself, story living. As I said above, time is not objective, it is not absolute nor utterly precise. Our tools for measuring it are. It’s “time” we ditch this cartesian view of time as the absolute blank canvas where action takes “place”. Time is meaningful because meaning is embedded in time. In other words, time is more of a subjective fabric rather than an absolute, cartesian, overarching structure. It’s a perceptional fabric, woven along with time, perception, stories and so many other things, to create reality tunnels. And as Ontological Designers, this is a very valuable insight.
To tell a story, within time, is a gesture with ONTOLOGICAL GRAVITY. It is an object of meaning whose gravitational pull affects all others around it — even if it is an ephemeral object that does not encompass a lot of time, just like a short video or an article. Or, to use another metaphor, rituals within time can be equated to planting seeds on people’s reality tunnels, which will eventually flourish in a way that is at the same time unpredictable — because the conditions for its growth in the person’s life are somewhat volatile — but at the same time predictable — because of the content of the seed, or of the RITUAL. Even Sigmund Freud stated that these devices — what he called “Substitutive Satisfactions” — had a physiological effect on those who employed them. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud stated that “The substitutive satisfactions, as offered by art, are illusions in contrast with reality, but they are none the less physically effective, thanks to the role which phantasy has assumed in mental life”. Through the emotional and energetic transaction that is effectuated through rituals, narratives and the belief one posits therein, a powerful redirection of energy is achievable. The point here is that rituals are operative tools for ontological design.
Thus, cycles of meaning, or RITUALS, could be viewed and designed as the overarching structure of someone’s personality; but instead of keeping track of time metrically, we should do it symbolically. They can influence the spirit, the ambience, the souls, the humours and inclinations of individuals. In this sense, it would be productive to seek different ways to perceive time, that are specific to the individual and his ego-narrative. Timekeeping units could correspond to epigenetic and mythological time. Clocks could relate to the individual hero’s journey and to archetypal human experiences; they would be literary devices in people’s lives. TIME would thus be kept (or designed) in a much more intelligent way.
All moments are mythological; all perception is aesthetic.
… A STORY ABOUT HOW THE WORLD IS MADE OF STORIES
Two things should be take in consideration in this particular definition of ritual. On one hand, an activity that is regularly repeated can be said to be done ritually — such as, for example, the ritual of having breakfast every day. This becomes a ritual, or is performed ritually by virtue of being repeated on a daily basis. On the other hand, a ritual is an action which carries with it a ceremonial and meaningful charge. Anything from a religious celebration to a formal dinner party and even to the security screening processes in airports can be seen as rituals, since they all employ specific norms of etiquette, rules for behaviour, and they all have specific narratives behind them.
Given the relative autonomy they benefit from concerning structures of meaning, one can thus say that RITUALS ARE HETEROCHRONIAS. A Heterochronia is a concept that mirrors Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia — a space which, despite existing in physical space and being geographically locatable, is in a sense outside of all other spaces. As I said above, rituals have a precise location in time and in space — but they transcend it. Their “otherness” can be traced to their independent structures of meaning, of norms, of behaviours and of perceptions.
To create our own stories is a powerful thing, as we have been saying all over this website. And, regardless of mainstream culture’s tendency to monopolize the instruments through which individuals define themselves as individuals — in other words, the stories of our lives — AUTHORITY over our own lives is still possible. The word authority is a word used to refer to the power to give orders and to enforce obedience. Yet, if we just look at the word, we can see it also contains the secret as to how its power comes about: it has to do with AUTHORSHIP. To author, rather than to leave decisions to accident, is as different as falling is from flying — one happens when you misplace your foot, the other when you employ the collective achievements of Mankind to pierce the heavens and beyond.
AND ABOUT HOW WE CAN BECOME THE WRITERS OF OURSELVES
I’m interested in the possibility of inscribing — better yet, imprinting — deep mythological livelihoods into people. I think that Post-Architecture can represent an aggregation of methods which will enable a new artform, so to speak; one where deep aesthetic experiments and ecstatic trances are woven into the sequence of events we call everyday life. The religious experience of oneself — or of the Gods through oneself — is, as I see it, an enticing and very real possibility. This path of research will eventually enable us not only to craft our own dreamscapes, but also inhabit them. As the ancient secrets and mysteries become mere components of mainstream media culture, they begin to look more bland and ineffective. But with Post-Architectural design, one can initiate oneself into one’s own Pantheon. Mythology will become the perrogative of designers, instead of being that of our ancient shaman forefathers. Everyday coincidences have meaning; it is up to us to design the lines that connect the dots. Slowly but surely, we will achieve it.