1 “Only from death will he fail to find escape” is one of the Theban elders’ phrases in Sophocles’ Antigone. This fragment starts like this: “There are many remarkable things, but none like the human being. He, pushed by the reckless wind and amidst the wild waves surging round, makes his way across the white foaming sea. He, with his ploughs that travel o'er and o'er, wears the land out, year after year, turning it upside down with his mules”. The phrase carries on by saying: “And speech, and thought as swift as wind, and laws and habits, all of these he has taught to himself.”
2 The angst that ancient Greeks experienced by living in an unpredictable, chaotic and disorderly world was also proverbial, and so was their need to look for an orderly and harmonic system – cosmos – that they reached after spotting coincidences, tracking down encounters based on repetition and finding laws that explained existence and that rendered chaos into order and panic into pleasure. The key, therefore, would be to conceive time as a cycle with units that can be compared in order to program habits.
3 The Art of Classic Greece sought patterns while reproducing Nature to a large extent; it also did this by identifying rhythms, breaking down the visible into geometric forms and narrowing down diversity to the essential in an attempt to understand an otherwise puzzling variety of forms. The more human beings manage to grasp Nature, the more human the latter becomes.
5 Saint Augustine uses the metaphor of the knife, setting the present on its edge - between the past and the future - in order to dematerialize it, or rather de-temporalize it (in Book XI, Confessions, Augustine of Hippo). To verify the precision of this author’s example, you do not need to get a knife: just take one page from the book you are holding and imagine that its left side is the past and the right side the future. You can then touch the side edge with the tip of you finger while thinking about fugacity.
6 In paintings of medieval calendars, the same individual carries out agricultural work throughout different months of the year, and the former occupies a space that, as brief as it may seem, is apparently the same one. It is only because of the different objects or traces of nature that we are able to identify the different seasons of the year. This individual, in spite of carrying out a series of duties, has a similar posture in all of the scenes. When it comes to the passage of time, occasionally, subtle variations turn out to have a stronger dramatic effect than more drastic changes. It is not by chance that the sum of monotonies adds up to an immense time. These pictorial calendars should be read in the following way: when we get to the last month we must return to the first one, over and over again, conscious of this boring repetition of cycles because humans chain themselves to these in order to hold onto reality.
7 The Persian poet is Ahmad Shamlou and the lines are the following: “I will set a mirror in front of yours/ To build an eternity/ out of you.”
8 The beauty of Islamic creations lies in the repetition of forms in which a pattern, which is used repeatedly, cancels out its essence in order to create a whole. We shall look at a particular element and, by gently placing our eyes on its geometry, our gaze will be taken to the next element and then to the next one and so forth. At the beginning, the experience might seem tiresome but, as soon as we have taken in the composition, boredom vanishes, and it is replaced by the pleasure of repetition. From that moment on, we can fearlessly jump back and forth across the entanglement because we will no longer run the risk of getting lost now that we now recognize the latter as our own.
10 The true tragedy of our species is that we have managed to create (in the field of Art) or to discover (in the field of Physics) worlds in which time is relative, even though it follows a determined path on the level of daily experiences. According to their actions, humans have infinite futures, and although in all of them it appears that they will die, it never appears that they will be born.
11 The satire is born from the Greek’s walks across Nature. The former is an aspiration of the primitive and natural state, the essential type of human being that worries more about the flow of life than the flow of time. But since the satire comes from the head of the civilized man, it is also influenced by the latter’s need for order (See Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 1872).
13 See Einstein, ob. cit. This same author later on developed the idea of how we move across time-space by using a movie as an example, but not as a screened movie but rather as the photograms in it that are cut and placed one on top of the other, piled up. To understand this better, we should come back to our present moment and, as soon as you finish reading this note, close the book, hold it in one hand, place your index finger on the cover, and your thumb on the back. Finally, think that you are delimiting time-space, or, at least, a determined time-space.
Extract from the Notes on the book by Iván del Rey de la Torre