Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy on Time As I read and reflected on ERH’s ideas on time, I tried to capture some essential thoughts

that helped me to think about ERH on time. This is probably more like a jazz rendition of his ideas rather than an abstract of his thought. So I willingly confess I may interject too much of myself at some points in trying to express what I understand to be ERH’s ideas on time. – Doug Floyd 1. Time and Space as seen through the eyes of infants. ERH demonstrates how time is much more than a chronological account. He talks about prehistoric man or the pre-speaking man who does not define time and space. Think of an infant. For the infant, time is simply a flux of moments without particular distinction. In the same way, space is boundless. For no boundaries have been defined by speech. Speech connects this flux of moments together through the power of naming epochs or periods of time. We may define periods as hours, days, and weeks. We may also define periods as “business days” vs. “calendar days.” We may define periods as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany or fall, winter, spring and summer. There are endless variations of how we might connect this flux of moments. 2. There are three ages in the life of the human: past, future and present. Without naming, there is no present only past and future. As soon as I try to grasp a future moment in the present, it slips into the past. Without a name to mark the beginning and end of period, I am caught between past and future. Thus, the past and future create the present. The period that has passed combined with the period that is to come, gives me the power to act now. For example, a college student’s primary and secondary school training exist in the past. That training teaches them how to read and speak and write. On the basis of this past platform, the student looks toward the future and declares, “I am going to earn a degree in English.” Now the past and future combine to give the student the necessary strength to act in the now and choose an English curriculum. 3. A cosmic vision By connecting past ERH envisions that epic from creation of connecting past, future and present. and future to create present, we establish epochs or periods. man ultimately will connect all moments together in one grand day to judgment day.

Ephesians expresses this vision of connecting/integrating all moments and all spaces together in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:10 – “…that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”) While ERH does not site that passage, it seems to extend the vision of integrating all things. This points toward the resolution of the ancient (and still contemporary) problem/paradox of the one and the many or the universal vs. the particular. ERH presents a vision of all particularities integrated into one universal while not canceling the relevance of each particularity. (More on this later.) So connecting past, future and present happens on a multiple scales: on a personal level (each persons acts through the power of bringing these three ages into one); a social level and ultimately a cosmic level. This idea of connecting the three can be extended and developed into business, family, culture, society, and on and on.

Once again, speech is the power to connect these three ages. 4. These 3 ages/tenses (past, present and future) correspond with three powers: play, serious, divinity. The Past The past reveals the power of play. The past has already happened, so I cannot change it. But I can relive it, view it from different angles, enlarge it or diminish it. I can sing a 3-minute song about a person who lives 80 years. By playing with past time, I’ve shrunk 80 years into 3 minutes. The past can be manipulated in varying ways by looking at time through the four-fold cross of reality. The cross of reality intersects time with space. Space includes inner space and outer space. Time includes past and future (or backward and forward). Applying past time to the cross of reality gives me: Analytical Time - Outer Lyrical Time - Inner Epical Time - Backward Dramatic Time – Forward All four times can help orient me in looking at the future and acting in the present. Analytical time focuses on outer time, exact time. In a race, we count the exact milliseconds of the champions. This attention to exact details of outer space is analytical time. Analytical time is precise. Lyrical time focuses on inner time. Think of a poet gazing at a tree and writing a song. The poet loses all sense of time. And the listener who is later inspired by the poet also loses all sense of time. The lyrical is no time or free time. Time disappears. In a good conversation, two people talk and talk and talk. Suddenly they realize hours have passed but it seems like just a few moments elapsed: this is lyrical time. Epical time looks backward. This is rhythmic time. It counts and repeats and recycles. Everyday the alarm goes off at six o’clock, the sun rises, and breakfast is eaten. Rituals are part of epical time. They provide continuity from one moment to another. Epical time provides security. Children cannot thrive without epical time. It gives them the security to rest and live in lyrical time. Dramatic time ends one epic and begins another. Dramatic time changes. Dramatic time brings new seasons, new words, new languages. All things become new in dramatic time. All four times exist simultaneously through different people. Think of a marriage ceremony. The minister comes with reading ancient texts and reciting vows handed down (or a variation thereof). He (she) is operating in epical time. He stands for past time. The time of the community handed down from parent to child across ages. He wears a uniform that connects him to the past, as that officiate he oversees a service where everyone honors the tradition through dress, repeated words and actions, and focus on family. The bride is operating in dramatic time. During the ceremony, she breaks with the past. She changes names; she enters (and leads her family) into a new era.

The spectators relax and watch and possibly cry. They are not worried about when and who and where, they are simply present. Thus they are in lyrical time: no time. For some, the ceremony seems to go fast, whereas others may feel it is dragging on and on. Both are living outside of time in lyrical time. The wedding planner is making sure everything is happening when it is supposed to happen. The wedding planner is functioning on analytical time. Her willingness to count every second and make sure everything happens when it is supposed to allows guests to remain in lyrical time. So in one wedding all four times are present. The past allows us to define these times, move between the times, think about the times, discuss the times, and learn from the times. We can apply these four times to church, business, family, culture, history, personal life and more. We must have all four times represented to live in the fullness of time. The Present This is serious time. I cannot alter it. I can only act in the now moment. So the present is serious time. It is the time where I live and react and respond. It may bring unexpected circumstances that change the world before. I simply act in the moment without the freedom to manipulate or control. The Future The future is divine time. This is the power to create the world through speech. “I am going to the store.” By declaration, I set in motion the future and I go to the store. Isaiah speaks (sings) the future, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Is 2:4), and the world is still reaching and moving toward the vision he proclaimed. His words set in motion actions that move toward peace. 5. By uniting the past and the future (through the power of speech), we know what to do now. Thus we act in the fullness of time (three times united). It takes three generations to change the world. The father, grandfather and grandson must all come into agreement to change the world.

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