November 15, 2017 (Wednesday)

by Yule Heibel on November 14, 2018

A perfect sunrise; the ides of November.

Another day; heading into the month’s second half.

What does geological and cosmological “time” care about our seasons, our months?

Short answer: it doesn’t.

Longer answer might be a question: why do we need to parse time the way we do? Into years? Months? Weeks, days, …hours? What is this nonsense of “standard” versus “summer” time, anyway? Who cooked this up? Not gods, just mere mortals. Systems to keep us accountable, on track, and morbidly aware.

It’s all, at heart, without a doubt an attempt to calculate how much time we have – how much time we have left. We all know we’re spending it. Are we too profligate? Too parsimonious? Is our time well spent? Only time will tell.

Well, no. It won’t. Time doesn’t account for us, it doesn’t care. It just passes. Only we keep tabs, trying hard to make our mark on it.

When it’s personified, as what do we “embody” it? I don’t think I’ve heard of “Mother Time,” but certainly of “Father Time.” Cronus eating his son, the Baby Boy ushered into the New Year, going out as an Old Man at the end. Time, if personified, is male. It’s not pictured as our Harsh Mistress, but as a Father.

This means that we think we can appease it. Perhaps ask it to spare us. Everyone knows deep down that Harsh Mistresses – or Fierce Mothers, or Belles Dames – know no mercy. They are “sans merci,” by definition. No, if we want forgiveness and largesse and a rational sort of plenitude, we see Father about it. Mother might swallow us back up, her plenitude is potentially oceanic.

It’s interesting that those Greeks imagined a father eating his son, ingesting him back into himself. Perhaps in this way that personification says, “Be careful. The Father can be as all-consuming as the Mother.” It also suggests that Time is especially horrifying insofar as it adopts that female principle of returning all into homogeneity, sans differentiation, sans merci.

Goya painted Cronus as especially ugly, for he looks like he’s gagging on his own son, forced against himself to keep shoving the body into his maw. He can’t help himself, even though he looks like he would dearly love to be anywhere else in the world, just not here – in the cosmos, cramming his offspring down his own throat.

Maybe he’d prefer to be in our time, our place, not in this eternal cosmos. Maybe Goya was showing us a thoroughly secularized “god,” who knows about rationality and enlightenment, and who is disgusted by his “divine” cannibalism. But… But, dear Cronus, you wouldn’t be appeased by our small ways. Keep eating your children, as we will keep dying. It’s as inevitable – in the cosmic scheme of things – as tomorrow’s sunrise.

When I was at the New York City Public Library earlier this month, I saw an English translation, prominently displayed in the gift shop, of Die Kleine Hexe, a book I know well from my childhood. I quickly reread the last pages and have been meaning to write about it. What an awful book. Why is it still popular? Why did my Belgian grandmother give it to me when I was really little, myself a kleine Hexe? It basically glorifies resentment and revenge: all the big witches are mean to the little witch, forbid her visit to the Brocken for the big Walpurgisnacht witches’ sabbath, and in revenge she burns all their brooms so they can’t go, but also ends up smugly alone. Nooooo! It’s not exactly a wise story, even if it is all too human (and not at all “witchy,” properly considered).

Yesterday I dressed up for my coffee date with X. We actually had some deep conversations. This was good. She told me a ghastly story about “transgender rights” creeping into a local, well-regarded and private (i.e., expensive) pre-K to Elementary School, a story about kids five year old kids “transitioning” (under the crowing, self-congratulatory gaze of their narcissistic mothers who lack a proper outlet for their frustrated lifestyle and social media ambitions). World gone mad kind of stuff.

The sun is really up now.

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