5 JUNE 1905Posted: 2009/10/13
From a description of the location and appearance of rivers, trees, buildings, people, all would seem common. The Aare bends to the east, is sprinkled with boats carrying potatoes and sugar beets. Arolla pines dot the foothills of the Alps, the trees’ coneladen branches curving upward like arms of a candelabrum. Three-storey houses with red-tiled roofs and dormer windows sit quietly on Aarstrasse, overlooking the river. Shopkeepers on Marktgasse wave their arms at all passersby, hawking handkerchiefs, fine watches, tomatoes, sour bread, and fennel. The smell of smoked beef wafts down the avenues. A man and woman stand on their small balcony on Kramgasse, arguing and smiling while they argue. A young girl walks slowly through the garden at the Kleine Schanze- The large red-wood door of the Post Bureau opens and closes, opens and closes. A dog barks. But seen through the eyes of any one person the scene is quite different. For example, one woman sitting on the banks of the Aare sees the boats pass by at great speed, as if moving on skates across ice. To another, the boats appear sluggish, barely rounding the bend in the whole of the afternoon. A man standing on Aarstrasse looks at the river to discover that the boats travel first forwards, then backwards.
These discrepancies are repeated elsewhere. Just now a chemist is walking back to his shop on Kochergasse, having taken his noon meal. This is the picture he sees:two women gallop past him, churning their arms wildly and talking so rapidly that he cannot understand them. A solicitor runs across the street to an appointment somewhere, his head jerking this way and that like a small animal’s. A ball tossed by a child from a balcony hurtles through the air like a bullet, a blur barely visible. The residents of no.82, just glimpsed through their window, fly through the house from one room to the next, sit down for an instant, shovel down a meal in one minute, disappear, reappear. Clouds overhead come together, move apart, come together again with the pace of successive exhales and inhales.
On the other side of the street, the baker observes the same scene. He notes that two women leisurely stroll up the street, stop to talk to a solicitor, then walk on. The solicitor goes into an apartment at no. 82. sits down at a table for lunch, walks to the firstfloor window where he catches a ball thrown by a child on the street.
To yet a third person standing under a lamppost on Kochergasse. the events have no movement at all: two women, a solicitor, a ball, a child, three barges, an apartment interior are captured like paintings in the bright summer light.
And it is similar with any sequence of events, in this world where time is a sense.
In a world where time is a sense, like sight or like taste, a sequence of episodes may be quick or may be slow, dim or intense, salty or sweet, causal or without cause, orderly or random, depending on the prior history of the viewer. Philosophers sit in cafes on Amthausgasse and argue whether time really exists outside human perception. Who can say if an event happens fast or slow, causally or without cause, in the past or the future? Who can say if events happen at all? The philosophers sit with half-opened eyes and compare their aesthetics of time.
Some few people are born without any sense of time. As consequence, their sense of place becomes heightened to excruciating degree. They lie in tall grass and are questioned by poets and painters from all over the world. These time-deaf are beseeched to describe the precise placement of trees in the spring, the shape of snow on the Alps, the angle of sun on a church, the position of rivers, the location of moss, the pattern of birds in a flock. Yet the time-deaf are unable to speak what they know. For speech needs a sequence of words, spoken in time.