On Time

I thought I’d be up to writing a full post tonight, but due to a sudden metabolic energy crisis, I’ll just put down this thought and hopefully come back to it:

Historical change has very little to do with the passage of time, as Bloch and others have argued.  It has everything to do with human perception, whether of the events in question, the “mentalite”/mentality of the age, or the passage of time itself.  This is why, for example, the American Civil War is over but not “just history” in the minds of many Americans.

So this invites the question, particularly in relation to a negative past, how do we move productively forward?  And if “forward” is too problematic, then how do we move away from this past?

Between the historiography class and the probably theory-heavy seminar on cultural memory, I suspect I will be able to fill this out in a big way by the end of the quarter.  Ohhhh good.

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2 comments so far

  1. Curtis Plowgian on

    If you think about it, mentality typically changes over generations, and generations generally change with time. So really, historical change that is brought about by a change in cultural mentality does come with time, even if it is not directly dependent of the passage of time itself. It’s at least indirectly independent, if you think about it. Time is the medium in which change takes place, in a Tillichian sense time is like the “ground of being” in which being changes and evolves. Or, if you’re a fan of “The Secret”, time is an illusion, and our thoughts are creating everything, including the passage of time.

    btw — Tillich said God was the Ground of Being, not time. I just think it’s also an okay image for time as well.

  2. zozer319 on

    Well, you could argue whether time was an illusion or not – after all the constraints of time and space may indeed be categories through which we perceive the world (possibly Kant, although I could be misinterpreting the little I know about him).

    And it’s true, “cultural mentality” (I take it you mean a set of definitions, assumptions, and values shared by most people in a particular group) does change over time. However, even if the “mentality” changes over time (and I put that in quotes not because it’s not a good word, but because it has specific historical connotations), subsequent generations can continue to refer to a certain concept/memory/narrative/myth of the past, such as Confederate flags hearkening back to the 1860s. So even if generations naturally change over time, sometimes they hold onto things that are much older than anyone actually alive at the time. See: religion.


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