Bending Time

On the philosophic side of art I am fascinated with attempts by artists who wrestle with the subject of time through lyrics, images, plots, and sounds. A most recent example is Inception, starring Leonardo Dicaprio. In this film time-benders enter the subconscious of a victim to bend future events. The film wreaks of Huxley with drug-induced states being the modus operandi for accessing subconscious networks (note Dicaprio’s latest adventure literally with a Huxley text) .

Among musical examples, two of the most artistic/philosophic offerings are Windmills of the Mind by Michael Legrand and Time by Pink Floyd.

In Windmills of the Mind time is described as a series of never ending circles. As the lyrics become more personal toward the end of the song, referencing specific relational experiences, the theme returns to the overwhelming wheels of time that swallow the details. The song certainly embodies  melancholy longing, a salient example of the end-game for secular materialists. Interesting, but a gnawing soulish hunger accompanies the lyrics–no doubt, a bleak eternity even without Dante’s Infirno.

Pink Floyd both bends time in Time and deals with time philosophically. The writers remind us that living through time more than anything proves the timelessness of time. I would say between the two examples, Pink Floyd is perhaps a little closer to the truth, though not much closer when actually measured against Truth.

These explorations with time do little more than the much older artistic experiments with time in Indian Raga. With the Raga, the sitar player places the listener in a dreamy trance like state, only to be followed by the conqueror of time, the tabla player. Tabla players are the real mathematicians of the world, dividing time with sound in complex macro and micro phrases.

But what is one left with in these various versions of the Eastern art of allure. What one is left with is the desire to dive into the art, like the feeling you get when looking at the multitude of colors in a tropical aquarium.

I fear that some of our worship attendees are doing little more than the rock listener who dives into  Pink Floyd. Let me be the first to say as a worship leader that we must explain in a very sober manner the meaning of rich poetry. Rich art needs constant commentary and explanation. When the art becomes too rich with no one to rescue the culture the philosophers will enter the room in one way or another. In Greece clarifiers of complexity entered as philosophers as the Greek tragedy was spinning out of control.

I would suggest C. S. Lewis (quote from Weight of Glory below under comment) as a guide for understanding time. In the great divorce Lewis explores time and concludes that eternity is firmly planted in the heart of man, and humans feel a strange comfort with a sense of eternity. This strange comfort is a pointer toward the state of being for which humans were originally intended. But the point of the longing is for one to recognize the need for Christ. In receiving Him, in fellowshipping with Him, the sense of timelessness reaches its fulfillment.

One response to this post.

  1. In speaking of this desire for our own faroff country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

    Reply

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