Perhaps there are two phenomenological senses– that are strangely opposites –in which time can be said to stay still.  The first is the time of those small events that often punctuate life.  There are moments where you see your beloved walk across a room and it’s as if all time stops.  Alternatively, many of have been in a car accident report experiencing a similar halting of time.  There’s that moment where, as you look out the window, you see the other car barreling towards you and everything stops.  Many other examples could be given.  Perhaps this is the time of Nietzsche’s eternal return, the third synthesis of time in Difference and Repetition, where time is fundamentally split between past and future in an event to which we must become equal.

Where the ordinary flow of time in lived experience is charactered by a continuity of the past and future in the saddle of the present, past and future become asymmetrical when we are seized by these events.  These events, as it were, are crystals of time.  Perhaps it is that these events are so singular, so extraordinary, that they can’t be synthesized with the flow of lived time.  As a consequence, they stand outside of time as the extraordinary events that they are, such that it is perpetually possible to re-mark them, without being able to syn-thesize them.  Or perhaps it is that these events are bifurcation points in a life, splitting before and after into a fundamental asymmetry.  Here these events would be condensations of pure becoming where something fundamental is changed in our being.  In any case, when faced with these events, they are always accompanied by a particular affect unique to that singularity:  love, wonder, enchantment, disgust, horror, shame, etc.  These crystals of time standing still punctuate our lives in memories that cannot be erased.  Everything slows down and takes on a sort of ultra-clarity.

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Where this first form of time standing still seems to be a time of becoming or the individualization of a life, the second way in which time stands still is precisely the opposite; as an erasure of all becoming.  To be sure, things continue to happen and differ from present to present.  Yet somehow, despite all of this change, nothing really changes.  It’s as if the future and past have been erased and we’re trapped in a perpetual present.  This is the time of Ecclesiastes, or of which one says, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  This is time as quicksand; a monotonous and suffocating time that seems to allow no escape, no matter how valiantly you struggle against it.  It is the time of the film Groundhog Day, where the protagonist Phil Conners, despite undergoing many adventures, is nonetheless condemned to live the same day over and over again.  It is a time where despite the adventures one undergoes, no inward transformation or becoming takes place.  It is not until, through some mysterious mutation, time is again able to commence for Conners and the future returns as an open space or a line of flight.

It is always dangerous to read from ones personal experience to society in general, but since the November election, it feels as if time has stood still in this second respect.  It feels as if time now stands still and there’s no real sense of something other coming along.  At the risk of being nostalgic, I recall a time where people would become excited by a new book or film that had come out, or where a discussion could send us all on a new trajectory.  Yet now it seems as if none of these things have purchase for becoming and we’re all stuck in a space of low level horror and outrage, without possibility an outside or escape.  The question then would be how to render the commencement of time possible once again?

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