Time, Ethics, IntelligenceEd Keller : Columbia GSAPP Summer evening lecture 2003
'When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him thechain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly bodies. Instinctively he consults themwhen he awakes, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth's surface and the time that haselapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, and to break itsranks...Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves and not anything else, by theimmobility of our conception of them. For it alwayshappened that when I awoke like this, and my mind struggled in anunsuccessful attempt to discover where I was,everything revolved around me through the darkness:things, places, years. My body, still too heavy with sleepto move, would endeavor to construe from the pattern of its tiredness the position of its various limbs, in order todeduce therefrom the direction of the wall, the locationof the furniture, to piece together and give a name to thehouse in which it lay...Then the memory of a new position would spring up, and the wall would slide away in another direction...’
I have edited much of the minute detail out of this passage to get at the minimal core, which Ifind moving for two reasons. The first being itsaccuracy in depicting the fluidity of perception,identity and memory; the second beingProust’s vision that somehow, many layeringsof time could superimpose with each other inan ineffable yet completely real coexistence.What could be the mechanism for thiscoexistence? what would be theconsequences of our ascending into it, or itsdescent into us, such that more and morememories live within us?How could we sort these memories and give them meaning? What could we do if we hadaccess to a range that we normally do not? Can we accept the thesis that living bodies, or thesubstance of the earth, the sea, the sky, the sun- are actually diverse bundles of time? Andthen, what can we do with that idea?Proust is showing us from the anthropocentric point of view that there are indeed certainoverlaps of time which take place... and that there are ways of constructing a section throughthose overlaps which would be valuable. Thus, the idea is not just choosing the most valuablebundles of time and memory to preserve: but the construction of the most vital method or procedure for this storage and analysis.