Time’s Cartilage: Dust, Geometry, and Maps

Aakriti Kuntal


The sound of a river gushes around your ear lobe, it moves like a serpent, an eel, jelly, and particles. It stirs as if it were pearls in coherence, each molecule and atom singing with its cheeks inflated, askew, obtuse chimes, arms outstretched, each distinct entity swung into unison. The sound stretches endlessly, a catapult across seas, and one drops into the jaw of a singular moment.

What is Time? Einstein refers to time as a stubborn illusion. Is time then, the larger warp of reality projected by our shared consciousness? If persons A, B, C, and D share a series of certain events and find the experiences of these events synchronized, do they then develop the perception of a linear time?
Do we adapt to the idea of time as a result of our mortality? For how else, would we, in our great compulsion to make sense of all that moves and stays, comprehend and elucidate the dance of life’s events, its molecules and energies, each pebble, and each arch. Is it the decay of this biological body, the fluvial loss of youth, the impermanence of our own existence, the body–sublime, perspiring slowly against the dense garden of absurdity that gives birth to the vitality of defining time in our lives? Is change what makes us agitate and stir the notion of time? Who could really define time? It is perhaps likely to be a perceptive sphere, more hypothetical than material, in which our thought processes persist and spin; our linear lives with their definite ends seeing time as an arrow, shoving us from the point of origin to the point of dissolution.

Human beings have continually used external events and sources as a reference against which time’s abstract notion can be measured, made more tangible, day-night, astral bodies, sun-moon, the swiveling hands of clocks attached to the rhythms of batteries, all work to demarcate and bind our volatile lives with a sense of time.

However, what is time for you? Is time the collective passage of it in our shared narrative or our own experience of reality? In a space where time is not being measured or referred to through external events, what would time be to you? How would you experience ‘time’?


Film-maker Mani Kaul once said that if we have to perceive the passage of time, we have to stop all other things from moving; an apparently contradictory principle that he used in his movies.

Stillness is an art. One could sniff it from the most mundane of objects, the inertia in their bodies stored as a series of breaths. Bodies that don’t move unless made to, bodies that encircle and weigh upon their own girth— the teapot on the shelf, the untouched book, the stone on the balcony. Stagnant objects retain in themselves a glorious accumulation of silence and energy. Strung together, object beside object, A, B, C, here, there, there, objects in a room, in a painting, objects in the corridor of the eye, objects in a photograph, objects forge alchemy across space, a chemistry swirls between them, an aesthetic fluid that roams around the diluted antennae of the senses, a story, a narrative, a companionship, a structure both distinctly visible and yet invisible to the eye, bonds, atoms, and neutrons whispering within a complex molecule.

What is one to do with stillness? One could walk freely inside it. One could dispense all thoughts, all notions, all being and be reborn, one could touch, feel, graze, move, and slide in the large cavity of stillness. It is a room, a space, an entirety. In stillness, the eye glides across each object, separately or towards all at once, entirely consumed by its song. Does Mani Kaul then wish to hold the characters, the facial expressions, the angles and objects, the colors and moods, laughter and sorrow, the countless particulates of a composition in this weaved song of stillness, like a word on a child’s tongue, forgotten and yet forged forever? Is it in the absence of all else and in the birth of this new world, this world in which all has occurred to a stop, this space where bodies are interacting with each other endlessly, is it in this pause that time suspends itself entirely? When we hold a symphony of these cards of stillness, what do we get? Do we get a corridor, a staircase, a flight of music? Do we then walk from one realm to another; stillness weaved into stillness, each distinct with its own flavor, minute yet endless? In this passage of endlessness, in this dream of images, does time become a molecule? —Awake, distant, finally separate from all external forces, a single droplet floating with the reader’s mind and eye.


When thinking of time one finds oneself transported to one’s physics classes, one is immediately reminded of Cartesian graphs and linear axes. The body, the mind, the being are point O, always point O in this strange universe. Point O is the point of observation. All our comprehension of truth depends upon O. O sees the universe, and hence the universe is. I imagine O and all other objects moving and falling, spinning and running. O is the witness, the default participant. O observes life occur around her. It is perhaps through this continuous entropy, this movement of things, vibrations, sounds, dances, the movement of all life and its elemental energies that O reasons and perhaps disappears into the salivating net of time, both arguing and forging its existence, a necessary parameter that binds existence to itself, the fluid-structure, the rhythm, the pattern, the measurements, the construct that lend life’s strewn wool the resemblance of a finer garment.

Movement is intricately linked to our understanding of time. Movement gives birth to events, events are changes; it is in this sailing boat that man perhaps registers the notion of linearity, of passage, of death and occurrence, of time and being. In the absence of all events, external and bodily, the body reduced to a constant at all levels, in an eternal recurrence of the same image, an eternal pause, does time stop being? Is ‘present’ amusingly the closest we come to abandoning time? The body, the mind, the spirit free of all thought and notion roam in a cerulean bowl, bones of gleaming emptiness on space’s wavering tongue. Is this moment, this realm, this absence of all noise, a cave in which time can roam endlessly, echoing as its very own death?

The passage of time is felt, experienced. While the universal definition of time is molded by laws from our limited comprehension of it the malleable definition wishes to unravel and poke. Imagine four images, A, B, C, and D, each with the slightest possible change spanning linearly from one to another. These images exist adjacent to each other such that when observed one after the other in a video, the human eye cannot distinguish and discern the changes that are occurring. However, if one performs a time warp on their tapestry, one can observe the changes on an atomic scale, slowly spanning across the mesh of their eyes. Would one experience time differently in both cases? Is the experience of time then also a direct consequence of our ability to observe?

Is time an insect swiveling between movement and stillness, observation and suspension?

One feels as if time is a notion, a bodily experience felt on an atomic scale, our most intricate interactions with our surroundings and our selves, our own flesh and molecules, determine for us this passage of time, this expanse of our being. To the logical mind time seems to be sprouting from shifting things–lives, bodies, objects, shared events. To the spirit, time seems to be the opposite, it is an ocean, and one could wear each wave, droplet after droplet rising in a motionless storm, spread flat on its white bed, untethered and unborn, naked, violet, anew, a blue spawning surrendering to its concave breath.

Time, a perception that births from our innate experience of reality and our ability to comprehend it—Is time truly a linear progression? Could time just be our minuscule diffusing states and our attachment to them? Is freedom from the notion of all being also the space where time stops existing or perhaps, in a stranger reality, one could amuse oneself by thinking that our tiny linked realities spurring in a shared macro consciousness, bound to fragments of immediate experience, condemn us to the bondage of time. Perhaps, in this strange imagination, our experiences are continually occurring chemical events occurring in the universal mind where everything erases as soon as it happens, a dance that reverses to point zero, a circle, nonexistence, the God in zero time, and even memory is just a flaw, a feature perhaps, a reflection to merely reaffirm the validity of our realities in the biological construct of our tiny human dimensions and fields.


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