22 November, 2009

"Only through time time is conquered"

Right, so time-lapse photography is possibly one of the coolest things I've ever seen or ever will, in my opinion. And how neat is it that T.S. Eliot had a time-lapse portrait given his fixation with the theme of time, the still point, the Bradleian view of history....

Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen something that quite so niftily illustrates Eliot's conception of history as a "pattern of timeless moments" (see Little Gidding, V). Each moment is an independent reality, yet (paradoxically) dependent on all of history, in the sense that the newness of the moment in some sense consists in its reevaluation and recreation of all that has gone before. It might sound like incredibly sketchy philosophy if you're not familiar with it, but it's really quite sensible; I'm just not expressing it very well. But the basic idea is that all that has gone before forms a new reality when united with the new moment, which must necessarily alter our understanding of what has gone before.

It's a sort of relativism that asserts the relativity of human knowledge while never once doubting the power of faith and God to provide us with the truth. On their own, humans will never be able to discern the "pattern" of the world because the progression of time ensures that the pattern is new in every moment; as he expresses it in East Coker II:

There is, it seems to us,
At best, only a limited value
In the knowledge derived from experience.
The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.

Yet the fact that for the Creator of time "all time is eternally present" (Burnt Norton, I) means that for Him, the pattern is eternal, and eternally revolving about the "still point". This very still point is then the reason that humans are (again, paradoxically) able to have knowledge of Reality; because this "still point" is no less than the Incarnate Word, whose entry into the world gives us a sure "point of view" that does not falsify by virtue of its limitation, unlike all fallible human viewpoints. The Church which preserves the Truth of Christ's revelation is then the only path to sure knowledge for a human.

That's the basic philosophical idea behind all of Eliot's poetry, though it's most perfectly developed in the Quartets when he begins to emphasize not merely the necessity of purgation and courage to achieve faith, but more importantly the way of love. Things just become ridiculously beautiful towards the end there.

But here I am with six papers to write and I can't start getting into all of that now. I just really liked this picture when I saw it for a variety of reasons and thought I'd post it. Maybe I'll try to do a more thorough explication of the Bradleian position one of these days, or better still, of the Bergsonian position, which I understand somewhat better because I've actually read a significant amount of Bergson.

Familiar compound ghost?
(Little Gidding II)

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