Further Thoughts on Time
“the ultimate unrepresentability of time… makes even phenomenology continually turn to metaphors and to the language of myth in order to talk about the upsurge of the present or the flowing of the unitary flux of time” (Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Volume 3, 243).
We exist in time. No one can disagree with that statement. It implies that there is an “outside” to time which it is possible to exist in—though not necessarily for us to exist it, occupy, see, or comprehend, but possible for us to imagine, in some way. Not what it is “like” particularly, because except for the possible and merely suggestive analogies or metaphors it isn’t “like” anything we know or experience. We exist in time. It may be that the “in time” part of the sentence is redundant, meaningless, dangerously misleading. It may be that time’s “outside” is a fiction made possible because our metaphor to our relationship to time is the metaphor of “in.” “Outside of time,” may be pure nonsense. If we die we may no longer be “in” time, but that does not mean we are “outside of time,” but rather that we don’t exist at all. An inside does not imply an outside when an inside is simply a metaphor for a relationship that has no nonmetaphoric way of being expressed.
On the other hand, we who live in time have no way of knowing that there is no such “place” as “outside” time. Do we have any evidence beyond analogy, metaphor and the tricks language plays on imagination to suggest there is such a “place”? I think we do. We do not have proof. And all our evidence can be talked about (I won’t quite say “explained”) by other references. But even Nietzsche, the great atheist, admitted that music suggested to him the unearthly and made emotional play son him that broached a sensation of the spiritual. Music did this to him even when the spiritual was no longer allowed in his positivistic frame of mind. We’ve all had the same experience with music, with art of all kind, with natural beauty—we say “breathtaking in a linguistic serendipity or causality that deepens the experience when we realize that breath is the ancient origin of soul. The longing we feel that nothing that is can satisfy, that does not have any obvious function in the world, that does not in any way contribute to our survival, that evolutionary pressures cannot adequately explain, this suggests that the world that we are in, the world of time, has an outside, a place for which our feelings are hints.
We have no logical need to tie the outside of time to the longing. They are two impossibilities that co-exist and are or are not in fact related. But if we do not want to accept the reality of the spiritual—which we are tempted to call the “other world” or “time’s outside,” then along with Nietzsche, we have to deny to this universal experience the urgency the experience calls for, and that action is as arbitrary as affirming it.