(‘The Land,’ including where you rose from and will be or are buried, is the time of the South (in all its global variants, places, geographies)… until, if you go far enough, it becomes the North–or the cold, or the dry, or the wet or the hot or whatever. At any rate it blots out the sky–which the Machine now brings back, and on the back of the Steeple, the cross, the crescent and whatever flag is left; perhaps they all point to some form of infinity now. Or perhaps it will turn out to be the ‘bad infinite’ and we will all be crushed beneath monstrous heavens, Time, and the leavening of the human.)
The Time Machine
‘It would seem that we are condemned yet to speak excessively about reality. This is probably ideologism and it’s opposite are types of behavior which are still magical, terrorized, blinded and fascinated by a split in the social world.”
Roland Barthes Mythologies
Geo-futility+Geo-hope = Back Home
on passing through The Time Machine remake
and becoming saturated
Passing mile after mile of extruded plastic, shaped and colored into various clown villages, all dedicated to various forms of ‘fastness’: fast food, fast cars, fast shopping of every stripe, all of them attempting some masquerade of familiarity, comfort’ seduction, the road to the theater is a continuous paen to immediacy and you-can-have-it-allness. Each small shopping mall now having evolved and grown into it’s neighbor so that the five miles I have to travel is nothing so much as a single large, outdoor department store dedicated to the very Newest of the New.
This time however at mid-afternoon the rain had begun, overcast, slightly foggy with all the mist in the air. All the garish store frontage became muted. The rain adds a slightly inhuman air to everything, akin to cosmological signs and portents. The all-too-human seduction of all that STUFF loses some of its urgency. The weather is now perhaps the last vestige of any sort of ‘beyond’ to the human. Through the fog, everything immediately seems older, more needy and less pushy. Almost as if there is something behind the rain and the fog, trying to flatten everything. I have to eye the Shoney’s Big Boy holding up his giant hamburger in the rain slightly differently.
According to Hinduism, each world cycle is divided into four yugas or world ages. This whole cycle is called the Mahaa Yuga or “The Great Yuga’” and lasts 4,320,000 years.
It begins with Satya Yuga, then on to Treta Yuga, then the third, or Dwapara, then the last age, the age in which we are currently living, or Kali Yuga. For Hinduism, time (or kal) is cyclical; when Kali ends then Satya begins again, and begins in a kind of golden age, when Truth and Virtue were uppermost in the universe. In this age (long passed but due to come around again at the age of the long decline of Kali Yuga many thousands of years from now), Man embodied Truth and was aware of his five bodies — the gross physical body, then the breath body, the mental body, the intelligence body, and the bliss body: four inner bodies and one physical body, all characterized by immense spiritual and psychic powers, with individual identities lasting 100,000 years. The Satya age lasts 1,728,000 years. The overflowing light of the utopic Golden age, the age of Saturn.
In the next age, Treta Yuga, Man has lost one of his internal bodies, having at this point only three resulting in a general coarsening and densification. Man is still very evolved spiritually; there is slight but distinct diminishing of powers and life span. Dharmaa has decreased to 75% and life span is down to 10,000 years. Silver Age.
The third age of Dwapara, three quarters of the way through the Mahaa Yuga, lasts 1,296,000 years, powers and internal bodies continue to disappear and densify. Life span is at 1000 years, dharma down to 50%. Corresponds to the Bronze Age in Ancient Greek terms.
432,000 years marks the endurance of our own age, Kali Yuga, shortened due to a deficet of dharmaa, or moral substance. All powers have shrunk to the immediacy of experience, men no longer consort with devas, internal bodies have disappeared, and the materiality and density of the remaining body has become all-consuming. At the beginning of the Age of Kali, some knowledge of the breath body was known and Yoga was developed as a result. Now, moving into the second phase of the age, all knowledge of such esoteric regions has been lost and we have succumbed completely to the interplay of the gunas or the qualities of nature. Dharma down to 25%, life span is 100 years. Evil is rampant. The toughness and rigidity (but also fragileness) of an age of Iron.
As this age reaches its enantiadromic (Greek for: what goes up, must come down..and vice versa) zenith, a great destruction happens, followed by a great transformation and the Age of Satya begins again, with the development of great physical and spiritual powers. The down side is that we’ve got 427,000 years left to go in this cycle. So I guess you should keep up the cable payments for awhile.
everything is thusly a wheel within a wheel, with the basic human life following the general schema of the yugas: slow development, then decline, then starting over again, decline and dissipation everywhere crisscrossing.
Beyond this time frame, according to Heinrich Zimmer:
“One thousand mahaayugas – 4,320,000,000 years of human reckoning – constitute a single day of Brahmaa, a single kalpa. In terms of the reckoning of the gods (who are below Brahmaa but above men) this period comprises twelve thousand heavenly years. Such a day begins with creation or evolution (sristi), the emanation of a universe out of divine, transcendent, unmanifested Substance, and terminates with the dissolution and re-absorption (pralaya), mergence back into the Absolute. The world spheres together with all the beings contained in them disappear at the end of the day of Brahmaa, and during the ensuing night persist only as a latent germ of the necessity for re-manifestation. The night of a Brahmaa is as long as a day. “
From the human standpoint the lifetime of a Brahmaa seems to be very lengthy; nevertheless it is limited. It endures for only one hundred Brahmaa years, each year being composed of 360 Brahmaa days and nights, and concludes with a great, or universal, dissolution. Then vanish not only the visible spheres of the three worlds (earth, heaven and the space between), but all spheres of being whatsoever, even those of the highest worlds. All become resolved into the divine, primeval Substance. A state of total re-absorption then prevails for another Brahma century, after which the entire cycle of 311,040,000,000,000 human years begins anew. “
This remake of THE TIME MACHINE seems to be almost universally reviled by critics and a lot of ordinary movie goers. Mostly because 1) it doesn’t stick faithfully enough to either the original George Pal movie or to H.G. Wells book; 2) the movie is too ‘Hollywoodized’ (and George Pal wasn’t??!); 3) from Wells’ emphasis on allegorical class struggle (Morlocks vs. Eloi), to director and great grandson of Wells, Simon Wells’ emphasis on the male/female angle of Romance Lost and Found (the ads for the show even look like Harlequin romance bodice ripper covers). I would say rather that the allegorical weight has shifted to gender rather than class depictions. The Morlock all coming across as uber-males (actually as some sort of feminist worse nightmare of what a male is) and the Eloi as loving, kind, completely passive (i.e., old style feminine) folks, living in harmony with the environment. Meanwhile the Morlock, living down in their sulfurous digs, prey on the Eloi as their livestock.
But as I was coming out of the movie into the afternoon mist, I was thinking that you could see the morlock/eloi split along the divides of conservative/liberal and the farther regions along either side of the slash mark: fascisms, fundamentalisms, and ideologies of total control (mostly based on ideas of ‘blood and soil’, that is, national and ethnic identity always urging unity) and its alletes heading in one direction and (much like the split in the Frank Herbert Dune trilogy between the Harkonnen and their dreary industrialized planet and the mystical, drug using worm worshippers of the desert planet Arrakis) and heading seemingly in the diametrically opposite direction, values based on multiplicity, starting at the most simple liberal ideas of ‘strength in diversity’ (“can’t we all just get along together?”) to an active embracing of the decay of any armature of any human unification principal whatsoever. The latter ends in the disembodiment fantasies of cybernauts and extropians, while the former ends in the forced expropriation from your body and dismemberrments of Nazis and the Pol Pots of the world.
Ok, that’s all old hash and no need to sling any more than is already sticking everywhere. At this point in human history we’re pretty much aware of where both sides wind up in the great Eternal Return of history: the blood filled sacrificial pit. Both ‘sides’ wind up espousing doctrines of Total Control, albeit in different languages.
The interesting thing about this remake (and another source of the critics’ ire) is the addition toward the end of the movie of a third element in this dialectic. Our hero finds that there is a ‘master controller’ race behind the morlock and the eloi divide, a race which physically speaking is an odd amalgam of the features of both morlock and eloi.
I would say also that this third element has a vampiric quality to his appearance. This is in keeping I suppose with the current vogue for all things vampiric in late modernism (what used to be called post modernism) and whatever seems to be coming hard on its heels. There is definitely something going one with this fascination with the Undead or otherwise there wouldn’t be over 1500 vampire movies floating around out there. Maybe partly the desire that many of us humans have to submit to the vaguely erotic control of some powerful Dark Stranger; but maybe also the hint of another relationship to time and especially what is now called Deep Time.
The most striking thing about Life Now Under Total Capitalism is how servile that life is to the immediate, to the exclusion of historical considerations or, the worse of all, the ur-historical. Not that we suffering from any lack of depictions of Deep Time: the cable channels are filled with astounding recreations of Life in the Age of dinosaurs or depictions and restorations of Life in ancient Egypt or what life might look like a distant planet.
No wonder perhaps that I feel a certain collapsing of Impossible Far-ness into the All-Too-Nearness of the dinosaur in my back yard or the pharoah down the street.
Maybe the religious impulse, before it became mostly a social agenda, served up this helping of incredible unapproachable Distance. (‘Distance’ like the idea of the Secret has become one of the great shibboleths of the age of Instant Access, Transparency, and an always everywhere which is always On and Now.) Walter Benjamin put the notion of this collapse of the ‘aura’ at the fore front of this New World Order, said aura being defined as the “unique phenomenon of a distance however close it may be”. This distance within nearness (not as oxymoronic as it seems when you think about it for awhile) — what some commentators have perjoratively termed the ‘cultic’ — creates originality, singularity, and authenticity but under a regime of intensive technological reproduction and digitalization, this ‘distance’ (whatever it may be; seemingly it has both spatial AND temporal qualities) collapses; the ‘aura’ of, first, (art) objects disappears, to be followed by the disappearance of ‘experience’ and then perhaps even the vanishing of the ‘human’. This is not the disappearance of the human in ‘cultic’ terms, that is, contact and absorption by a divinity which is beyond the human but which still bears the impress of the human. It is not the emptying of a religious kenosis (the christic divesting of divine qualities in order to be re-embodied as human. Rather this new technologically mediated inhuman is firmly in the human sphere in all aspects and yet still seems to involute itself to an inhuman region of, for lack of a better term, ‘mechanicity,’ an implacable formalism and linearity, mathematic and geometric, a gulag from which there is no escape in a scientific age since that IS the scientific age. It is a non-kenotic emptying into formal structures of control and archive/memory, the divestment of the organic into its undead living other. (There is more than a simple phonic convergence between ‘mechanicity’ and ‘messianicity.’ The idea that there is Something Coming is deeply entrenched in a progressive, materialist, scientific, Judeo-Christian culture. It even has a certain eschatological materialist base with the concept of the technological singularity.
ok, well, we haven’t really left the movie biz at all. What confuses matters is that within this collapse of distance, within this extreme mathesis, the old image of the Imponderable Distance begins to take shape again. The most popular film is the movie which utilizes Special Effects, that is, the mechanical possibilities of replacing that very thing, the auratic distance-within-the-near, the cultic, which Benjamin thought was passing away.
But the third term (X marks the spot where the eloi and the morlock meet and give rise to the vampiric stranger — who actually gave RISE to the separation of the eloi and the morlock, the food and the hunter, the entertainer and the entertained; where the conspiracies breathe together, where the uncanny entertains us so [what the hell IS ‘entertainment’ by the way??!!]
All machines are Time Machines in that they crunch time into assimilable packets, whether telephone, tele-net, or automobile (at the same time, machinic ideologies attempt to turn it’s organic opposition into patholgies as in ‘tele-pathy,’ a distance-crunching not readily apparent or understandable as machine-generated. In as much as capitalism works hand in glove with these ideologies it is there that we find the most powerful antigens for every ‘allergy’ which theatens its hegemony, almost as if capitalism acted as the immune system for these machinic ideologies). And in so effecting collapse, machinic ideologies inevitable drift into allegorical depictions where “here, the realm of the uncanny, the spectacular and the daemonic meet” (Allegory, Angus Fletcher, ).
The inability to wipe out every trace of death continues to be the ‘rust’ in the system and not the lubrication that it would serve in an evolutionary system. The Time Machine remake is fascinating because the further into the future our hero flings himself, even to the exasperating stretches of Hindu time, the more that the end of time begins to resemble the beginning. In this Time Machine, there is not even any escaping the dismal inevitability of the Way Things Are Now through the machinations of evolution millions of years into the future since it brings us right back to the beginning and to the nuclear family, which capitalism (through a catastrophe based on the explosion of the moon due to tourism and entertainment basically) has engineered. All of human, and part of inhuman history becomes caught in a gigantic Nietzschean Eternal Return, continuous endings and beginnings, always departing and meeting in the same place. If we are reaching the End of History, as some pundits have announced, then we are also entering a Beginning of a movement, deep in the bowels of time, from which we can never escape, except in these allegorical (‘entertaining’) fashions, we circle the drain of the Singularity which is life, while that small sliver of hope escapes (just as in an actual black hole: we know that something is disappearing because of a phenomena called Cherenkov radiation. One atom goes into oblivion and its uncanny twin separates and spirals into visibility. Just so, in these allegorical entertainment moments; when the event splits into two sections [a major characteristic of the internet in my opinion; we have yet to determine what that phenomena means but it seems certain that advanced technology accelerates it]: “the whole point of allegory is that it does not NEED to be read exegetically; it often has a literal level that makes good enough sense all by itself. But somehow this literal surface suggests a peculiar double-ness of intention…” So don’t bust my chops by saying that the vehicle –ie movie–can’t support the load. It can support it [meaning] precisely BECAUSE of it’s weakness [surface, entertainment]. Further than that I shan’t go.)
But at any rate, it’s only a movie, only entertainment for a dreary afternoon, when eternity for a moment gauzily unfurls itself for a split second amongst the shards of bad acting inside and fading plastic outside. (Notice the little shiver/abandonment/disgust when I mention the word ‘eternity,’ like sometimes when you look in the toilet, the repulsion of seeing the thing you have rejected and yet fascinated that it came from inside you, over and over again, worlds without end, necessary, repugnant, endless … You can get off the toilet but you can never abandon it.)