Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Map of Time

In the dark shortly before dawn, I learn to remember the new year’s colour, which -- because of the seven -- is a smoky, almost blue shade, the colour of a Siamese cat. The year travels in two directions. Within itself, the year has already crested and now glides down the long slope that broadens out like an alluvial plain toward spring. Beyond itself, the year rises into the millennium, which darkens as it will for several years before becoming light again. This is not a prediction of difficulty; it is merely a description of the geometry of time.

A personal description and a private geometry, I might add, although apparently research has found patterns in even this kind of conceptual synaesthesia, reporting that chronologies tend to be linear or otherwise coherently organized. A prosaic description, perhaps, of the cognitive tricks we all employ to orient, understand, and remember. But synaesthetic mappings occur beyond the level of metaphor or cognitive convenience: they are essentially eidetic because they are automatic and extended. And, perhaps not unlike like Blake's wheel or Yeats' gyre, my map of time flows outward and upward. But its recursions are not spiral; they are limnological, like sediment layers under a still lake, or like geological formations laid down across epochs. And, in the same way that a paleontologist might survey a stony landscape seeking evidence of the organic past, it is possible to read these temporal landscapes looking for patterns and discontinuities across time and space.

Archaeologies of memory.

[The top image, a reasonable approximation of seven in this context, was created by 00dan. The sediment image was created by Andrew Eick . Both images are used under the aegis of a Creative Commons license.]

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