Our Momentary Metering
Momentary Metering and the Sweeping Second Hand
Somewhere in Samuel Beckett I think, is the description of a second hand and its shadow. Somehow Beckett’s description reminds me of the most familiar of Zeno’s paradoxes, wherein one continuously halves the remaining distance to be traveled and so is consigned to never arriving. The sense of relinquishing the destination for the sake of the journey is also an echo of the frequent sentiments in Beckett and the measurements in Zeno. And of course, what might be at play is memory – full or fading, complete or fragmented.
Memory is so taken for granted that when we begin to piece together a thought or pattern from even our most immediate past, we recalibrate what was initially metered into our brain cells and like the gears on a bicycle the sequences are expanded or made to fit a different, invented space and its pace of details. Somewhat like the experienced cyclist, we downshift or gear up to accommodate the different landscape that we now must attempt to reconstruct “from memory.” Did we really do all that or are some of the details new events that are a manufactured linkage?
When we are asleep and dreams come to us from our memory banks, there are often even more exaggerated inventions or adjustments to events and their sequences. The derailer of our dream space seems to be able to move rapidly between different gear ratios and most of the reconstruction of what we knew has a vivid and seamless quality that makes it difficult to remember once we’ve awakened. There is some psychic compensation that is made in sleep and dreams that even the aspirations of surrealism, psychoanalysis, and hermeneutics cannot cash in on.
Wide awake, we watch the sweep of the second hand as shadows gather and move from the corners of the room towards the desk and its pool of light. Outside, beyond the mountains, shadows slide west with the sunset. Soon memory will be called upon in sleep, and our experiences will attempt to reinform us as they are transformed in dreams. When the sun returns, we open our eyes to the future as a new collection of experience gears up again. So, as we live and we learn, continuing to adjust our metering of each moment and giving the sweeping seconds a memorable context.