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ZERZAN, John. "Time And its Discontents"
Article published on 19 July 2005
last modification on 27 April 2015

by r-c.
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The dimension of time seems to be attracting great notice, to judge from the number of recent movies that focus on it, such as Back to the Future, Terminator, Peggy Sue Got Married, etc. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (1989) was a best-seller and became, even more surprisingly, a popular film. Remarkable, in addition to the number of books that deal with time, are the larger number which don’t, really, but which feature the word in their titles nonetheless, such as Virginia Spate’s The Color of Time: Claude Monet (1992). Such references have to do, albeit indirectly, with the sudden, panicky awareness of time, the frightening sense of our being tied to it. Time is increasingly a key manifestation of the estrangement and humiliation that characterize modern existence. It illuminates the entire, deformed landscape and will do so ever more harshly until this landscape and all the forces that shape it are changed beyond recognizing.

This contribution to the subject has little to do with time’s fascination for film-makers or TV producers, or with the current academic interest in geologic conceptions of time, the history of clock technology and the sociology of time, or with personal observations and counsels on its use. Neither aspects nor excesses of time deserve as much attention as time’s inner meaning and logic. For despite the fact that time’s perplexing character has become, in John Michon’s estimation, ``almost an intellectual obsession’’ (1988), society is plainly incapable of dealing with it.

With time we confront a philosophical enigma, a psychological mystery, and a puzzle of logic. Not surprisingly, considering the massive reification involved, some have doubted its existence since humanity began distinguishing ``time itself’’ from visible and tangible changes in the world. As Michael Ende (1984) put it: "There is in the world a great and yet ordinary secret. All of us are part of it, everyone is aware of it, but very few ever think of it. Most of us just accept it and never wonder over it. This secret is time.’’

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