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AMCrenshaw
09-17-2008, 05:27 AM
"We are a people walking backwards into the future."



Is this a forward or backward expression of time? Either/Or, Neither/both?


AMC

GLAZE_by_KyrstinMc
09-17-2008, 05:52 AM
Sounds like everything you're doing is reversed/backwards. And time is regular/constant/ongoing to the future.

... *Tilts head* Now that's a thinker.

Roanoke
09-17-2008, 06:05 AM
I think context would be defining here.

If someone in a group like say the Amish, people who reject most or all technology, said this I would understand this to be forward; they advance in time, but their ideas backtrack. Same for say the Jewish people reoccupying Israel, because they have returned to an old place as an advancement of history.

However if a person from a group that views time as advancing contrary to our standard interpretation, starting from the end and working into the begging, were to say this it would be a comment on the 'reversed' perception of time by people. Thus a backward expression of time.


There could even be someone who felt time traveled in reverse and that ideas or things should travel in reverse relative to that reverse time. This one can be painful to conceive, but people would be traveling through time into the 'past' as time progresses and ideas would travel into the 'future' as time progresses, and while we're at it the reverse that too. In both these cases that is a completely sensible statement on the nature of time.

I think that about covers it.:D

AMCrenshaw
09-17-2008, 06:10 PM
Can anything travel in reverse from the future when the future does not yet exist?
If nothing is traveling from the future, we are still moving into it, right? Isn't this forward motion, no matter what our ideas are?


AMC

ColoradoGuy
09-17-2008, 08:12 PM
I think Western cultures generally have thought of time as linear--others have seen time as circular. In the latter view, going forward or backward in time ultimately amounts to the same thing, since you end up in the same spot.

Dawnstorm
09-17-2008, 09:39 PM
Actually, out of context, I saw no conflict at all in the quote. "Walking backwards" was a spatial metaphor, to me. That is, we're not facing the way we're moving. So, to me, that sentence means we're only ever moving into the future, but we don't see the future (we have to guess, hope, plan), we see the past (i.e. we remember). This isn't about time so much, as it is about temporal perception.

Idahobo
09-17-2008, 10:51 PM
I agree with Dawnstorm. To me the phrase "walking backwards" refers to the direction the walker is facing, not the direction they are heading. You can walk backwards in any direction spatially or temporally you want. The power is in you.

Ruv Draba
09-18-2008, 05:24 AM
"We are a people walking backwards into the future."
...because we can only see the past and the present, and the future happens whether we want it to or not.


Is this a forward or backward expression of time? Either/Or, Neither/both?It's in the present-tense. It's a description of state and potentiality.

AMCrenshaw
09-18-2008, 05:38 AM
Ruv, it's in the continual present-tense. Not the simple present. As it's continual, is it continual forwardly or backwardly? Is there such a thing? Is the present "moving" at all? If so, by this statement, which way does it move/do we perceive it moves? Potentiality reaches which direction (i.e., which direction [forward or backward] is the future?]

AMC

Ruv Draba
09-18-2008, 03:34 PM
Ruv, it's in the continual present-tense. Not the simple present.I described it as present-tense but discussing potential.

As it's continual, is it continual forwardly or backwardly?We're talking about expression here I think, rather than the physical properties of time. If I write 'I am hungry' and post it to the forum, then it will only be true for a period of time. The temporal context is implicit and maybe a bit ambiguous (unless readers check the posting time).

If I write 'ambition leads to destruction' then it's present-tense but presumed to apply beyond the time in which I wrote it. Whether it means that ambition always leads to destruction, or can lead to destruction, or mostly leads to destruction is debatable - especially since 'leads' does not mean that one has to follow. Maybe a more logically precise form is something like 'for the intended period and domain of consideration, the speaker notes that those with high levels of ambition also have high risk of destruction'.


Is there such a thing? Is the present "moving" at all?Well, 'the present' is a bit of a contrivance, isn't it? The two examples above show that our expression is really talking about fuzzily-defined and often unspecified intervals.

Experientially though, we have some perception of the present. It's probably a contrived perception because there are noticeable delays between sensing something, understanding it and reacting to it, but it seems to work reasonably well both in our actions and our communication. It's fictional, but a fairly functional fiction.

The 'real' present - the one where things happen simultaneously - seems to be defined only locally, and fairly fuzzily too. It's affected by the speed of communication, and our certainty of where things are and what they're doing... all of which introduce some imprecision. On the other hand, we see that it's a fairly orderly present - in that effect follows cause. So the fuzziness isn't exactly chaotic.

ZeroFlowne
10-07-2008, 12:19 AM
I think this is an issue of focus.

From a personal perspective, this shows most people's lack of ability to live in "the moment", opting instead to look at the past or the future (not represented in this metaphor)

From the perspective of humanity, this seems like a very strong statement that as time goes on, humanity is mired and blinded by its old traditions, keeping its gaze away from where it should be.

Religiously/mythologically, I'm reminded of the story of the Pillar of Salt, or maybe of that one Greek story where the main character looks back at his love and loses her forever.

AMCrenshaw
10-08-2008, 12:22 AM
A few small reflections on well-known stories:

1

In Atonement Briony is, by the end of the novel, known or assumed to be "the author" of the text. So it is, within the framework of the novel, she who narrates herself. Her use of narrative to re-write an acceptable and bearable history is reflective of the individual's freedom to do the same. What makes the narrative so compelling is its use of possible and probable experience to create a believable alternate reality, and the recentralization of the narrator as the manipulator of said reality. Yet the narrative is also satisfied by the revelation that much of it is a lie.

2

Who is the author of Dr. Jekyll's confession? We know that Hyde can imitate Jekyll's handwriting and that Hyde is the one (between the two) who is found dead. When did the transformation take place? The possibility is open that Hyde wrote the confession-- but to what end? It is quite possible to see the split between Jekyll and Hyde as the split between the narrator-self and the narrated-self. If viewed this way, the story probes at the freedom to manipulate history: if, for example, Hyde had written the confession, is it not possible Jekyll was the fictive half of Hyde, rather than the other way around, and that Hyde had written a "believable" history to convince us the opposite?

3

In Time's Arrow, time flows backwards. Everything "undone" is technically already done. Rather than walking backwards into the future, we are walking forward into the past. There are moral implications of such a representation of time: killing is creating, fixing is breaking, etc. In the context of the novel, there is a clear idea: only through the backward representation of time (and within that version of reality, thus the undoing of the Holocaust) can the Holocaust ever be redeemed. But also in the context of the novel, when we encounter the Holocaust, the reality of our history cannot allow the atrocity to remain, in the narrative, as one of the most well-known examples of mass creation. Instead, we reconfigure the reality presented to fit our own. There is, it seems, a limit-- contained by a sense of morality perhaps-- to how far we can allow time to be symmetrical.

AMC

jillbrenna
10-14-2008, 07:47 AM
Have you ever seen the movie Memento? This is the closest thing I've seen to a narrative form doing what you speak of. This movie starts at the end and moves consistently back toward the beginning - each scene of course moves forward linearly, but, strung together, they go sequentially back in time. And it's darn freaky!

It's a fun movie to watch because you have to think about it so hard, and you'd think it would be boring to know the ending first, but it's SO suspenseful (scary, really!) ... even though the characters are moving forward through time (one of the limitations, I guess, of our understanding as humans - we have a fixed cultural definition of time in which we need to operate!) the narrative moves backwards, and it's a fascinating exercise. It definitely takes the right kind of story - if you watch the movie, you'll know what I mean.

I would personally LOVE to see this done in prose... if you're doing it now, DO SHARE!!!

Ray Dillon
11-05-2008, 02:50 PM
I think it's a forward expression of time. Time is always moving forward. We're moving backwards in that we're heading towards our end. And the future, being the future, is never-ending and always heading in a forward motion. Once you get to a step in the future, it's no longer future, it's present and past and there is still more future for time itself to look forward to. But, we individually and as a people are forever winding down.

Ray Dillon
11-05-2008, 02:52 PM
This question and my wobbling explanation of it made me think of this quote:

"Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop." - King of Hearts

AMCrenshaw
11-05-2008, 07:14 PM
Have you ever seen the movie Memento?

Yes, I have. If it were written like Time's Arrow the whole film would run in reverse, though (rather than begin at the "end" and regress analetically into the "beginning".


I think it's a forward expression of time. Time is always moving forward. We're moving backwards in that we're heading towards our end. And the future, being the future, is never-ending and always heading in a forward motion. Once you get to a step in the future, it's no longer future, it's present and past and there is still more future for time itself to look forward to. But, we individually and as a people are forever winding down.

What interests me about your post is that you suggest motion and stillness at the same time, or at the very least you evoke a moving present. Are past and future real to you? Is the past "fixed", "finished", while the future remains "open" and "yet to be seen" ?

AMC

Ray Dillon
11-05-2008, 09:56 PM
Absolutely. The past is inanimate. The future is organic. Living beings are winding down to their deaths and get to experience a segment of each and hopefully make a mark in their past that will be remembered in the future.

AMCrenshaw
11-26-2008, 10:22 AM
Absolutely. The past is inanimate. The future is organic. Living beings are winding down to their deaths and get to experience a segment of each and hopefully make a mark in their past that will be remembered in the future.


As one noted, history and science-time are separate. But history is in one sense an emergent phenomenon itself: the same material that produces science-time produced humans.

But do you think the science-past exists now?

I don't (er...crocodiles might argue. They're so ancient-looking). It has happened. The narrative past (history), however, happens all the time. It happens repeatedly. Only the narrative function allows that to occur. Being me, I think of history as being one giant semi-collective identity-maker (frightening idea considering Jekyll, Hyde, and Briony), a text of texts. Isn't this text of texts of imaginary (in that they don't any longer exist) events mutable? (If) it is mutable, is it open? This might offend the honest historian, but it shouldn't. We're all implicated in the writing of this collective text...aren't we? The last question aside, the idea that "naturally" the past is mutable might make it open, like the future.


AMC