Autumn, Space and Time

October 30, 2021 - 7 min read

Dear wanderer,

For the first time in a long while, I don't know what to write about. Or rather – there are many ideas, but it's difficult to choose just one. Oppressively difficulty. What if I waste all my life juices on it and get a terrible result? This is the question hatching from my skull any time right when I sit in front of a blank page. Nevertheless, the fear of wasted time dissipates once a couple of sentences have taken their place and are now begging me to continue.

The hardest part is starting to write, especially about something particular. But what if I don't have to choose a topic and can write about nothing? Is it possible to write about nothing? Even the previous few sentences were already "about something": writing, worries, the woe of choice. My very first essay was  about everything but nothing particular, which was its strength according to my first readers - the comment that I won’t forget. "Space, Time, Lockdown and Flâneury," was it called? Before publishing it, I wouldn't have thought it is possible to write both about everything and nothing at the same time. But what kind of disrespect would it be to write about the same thing again? Could you, reader, forgive me such a thing? How insolent would it be for me to refer to my past work as if it was something worth referring to as if it was a foundation on which one could build without the risk that everything would suddenly go sideways and fall apart? Half a year has passed - no, flown - since it was published, but the themes I tried to address are still relevant to me. So maybe I should give them a second chance?

Giorgio de Chirico - The Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon (1910) [1400x1025] -  The best designs and art from the internet

I recently caught a cold. Do you know this disgusting feeling when the disease is sort of there, but sort of not? Like rain outside, which is sort of there, but sort of not. It drizzles so hideously as you are a flower in the pot spraying you with a scattering of tiny sharp drops. The same is here: with body temperature neither high nor normal, with a nose running at random times, with everything: with a cough, with a sore throat, with aches and general weakness, which appear and then disappear, and then reappear, then disappear and then reappear again. The main symptoms are annoying incomprehensibility and the metamorphosis of you from a person into just a body carcass. A carcass that would like to function but cannot. Refuses. Or doesn't want to. If it was a coronavirus, I would think, well, hello, so we met, you motherfucker. But it wasn't it. How? It’s strange to say that but it’s even a little pity that it was not it. After all, is it possible now to get sick with something else? For two years of social deprivation, I have already forgotten about common colds and flu. And now look at me - I’m lying in the midday under two blankets and spreading across the bed, staring at the space between the phone and the ceiling, resting my elbows and trying to type with numb fingers the next sentence, which teases, refuses me to come up with itself, and I have to press "Enter", putting it a gravestone in the form of a new paragraph and three stars.


I like autumn. Modern people have a craving for romanticising all weird. Here you have autumn - a time in which the golden fire of trees, defoliation and the first snow coexist with cold, slush and infections creeping from everywhere. Autumn without all of them is not autumn, speaking with no irony. Many things (and people) don't have to be perfect to be liked. Many other things work on contrast, on juxtaposition, on uncertainty, on the state of in-between, on the oscillation between opposites. Autumn is like that.

Nature is either dying, or going into a long lethargic dream, or waiting for something to happen, and you, freezing but serene, walk on the leaves of its remains, which crunch underfoot like thin Dutch waffles you may be thinking about at that moment.

Your inner kid falls into a pile of red and yellow fire. It doesn't burn your body, only warms your soul. You walk between the black intricacies of undercut shrubs, looking out over sometimes still rusty crowns of trees. Spiders are gone. Their cobwebs do not get in your face everywhere like they did a couple of weeks ago. You sit down in a café and instead of a social networking feed or a book you look outside. It's probably raining and there's nothing to see. You look anyway. You hope to find something in that watery curtain, to see that very "nothing" and only it. You hope that you can quietly observe it to the sounds of Gnossienne no.1 coming from somewhere in your head.

Along with nature, everything else falls into limbo. Including us. Existential sloth takes over the remaining two months. Subjective time either slows down or speeds up. Summer has already passed, winter has not yet arrived, Christmas and the New Year are still a few months in the future, but everyone is already waiting for something - the holiday itself, the long weekend, the new year resolutions, another number on the calendar: two, zero, two, two.


Have you ever wondered why when you stand in a queue and wait, time is torturing, every second and minute has weight, but when you wait, for example, for a distant holiday, like the New Year, time seems to speed up and turn into a disjointed set of moments, happening at different random intervals, perhaps just to remind about themselves?

The answer is simple really: in the case of the queue, you think about minutes and seconds, about waiting, but in the case of the new year, you think about the year itself, when it will arrive and what you will do: go to your parents, meet your friends, exchange gifts.

Time loses its subjective matter if you don't think about it. For you, reader, does a green apple exist on my table, which I have recently started eating and the bite place has already become rusty? Probably it does - I wrote about it and your brain draws that picture. Did it exist before I wrote about it? What if it’s fictional? The same, perhaps, we can say about everything else in this life, including time.

Imagine a process that occupies you completely, first and foremost, your mind. For example, a video game. When you play, you are in a virtual space, the real world seems to disappear, not in the physical sense of course, but in your own, subjective sense. It dissolves and loses some of its meaning. There is no more "before" or "after", neither past nor future. They cease to exist, you forget about them, you forget so much that it creates a vacuum. Now there is only the present moment, the bounds of which cannot be established, because as soon as you start doing it, you will remember about seconds, minutes, hours, and the moment will slip away, will hide behind the wide back of the construct of time. When you play a video game, you live inside it, act and exist according to its laws. You might forget about food (but not virtual), about water (but not virtual), about sleep (but not virtual), about danger, excitement, sex - about everything (but not virtual); and give to it, to the game, a chance to occupy that vacuum which is formed in your reality.

The same can happen when you are reading a book, writing, playing music, spending time in the company of loved ones or friends, watching a good film, having breakfast while looking out the window, watching birds or the shimmering haze of the sea - any time you are under the process’s dome, you shut down and ignore everything outside of it, including time. Emotions, impressions and experiences from such processes are often well remembered, but the chronology - what happened at what time - sinks to the bottom of Lethe. Because it is not important. What matters is the moment. At such moments, you realise how watching the clock is sometimes useless and unnecessary. At such moments, time doesn't pierce you, but it is you who pierces it and truly live.

Until next time,

Ivan

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