Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Internal Time Consciuosness

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
~ T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

This morning, as with so many others, I woke a few minutes before my alarm. Yesterday, when I woke there were eight seconds left on my alarm and I marvelled at this strange and fascinating phenomenon of time consciousness and our internal clocks.

Today it brought to mind one of my philosophy professors at Ohio University, Dr. Mikunis. The first essay we studied was Kierkegaard and the Leap of Faith. I remember sitting at a table dissecting the concept with Dr. M and other students.

My second year at O.U., this being 1971, I lived in the co-ed Experimental Dorm on the South Green. I believe it was an attempt by the school to pander to the laxity of the times while simultaneously devising a way to keep students in school in order to collect tuition. (Speculation.) One feature of the Experimental Dorm was this: students could develop their own class curricula if they could get a professor to sign on as sponsor.

There was a certain seriousness among some student/professor relationships in this regard, though I remember some professors would nod an O.K. to anything proposed. The class I developed, with eight or ten peers, was a class on dreams. Each week one of us was to present a paper on dreams and dreaming from a different point of view. One student presented Freud, another presented Edgar Cayce, etc. We even brought a guest presenter from Washington, D.C. one week. The last class Dr. Mikunis presented his views.

Dreams had always been a fascination for me from my earliest years. In seventh grade I decided to start a "dream diary." It seemed that my dream life was more interesting than my day-to-day existence, and less predictable. I remember my first recorded dream had Tim Conway in it, from a TV show that was popular at the time.

All the way through high school I kept up with this diary, extensively developing the ability to recall up to four or five complete dream sequences.... not at first, but over time.

Dr. M changed all that. He presented to us the ideas of Husserl and phenomenology in such a manner that it seemed my dream life was no longer relevant. What is relevant, he said, is the "now" experience. My dreams last night were part of the past by the next morning, hence they had no importance.

Truth is, Husserl's concepts about phenomenology and the consciousness of time are difficult to grasp and might have been misunderstood. As I review some of Husserl's ideas today, I note the concept of retention, that things may be past but are retained in the present by our memory and consciousness, and may thus have present relevance after all. If this were not so, nothing we experience, including the understanding of a basic sentence, would make any sense. This sentence that I am writing making sense only in the context of the fuller blog entry here, which if you lived totally in the now, the only thing you would know is the very last word word word word what whoa where go uhmmm now

None of this explains what time is or what dreams are, or why when I go to Las Vegas my internal clock is still on Central Standard Time so that I wake at 4:00 a.m. no matter what time I crashed the night before.

Husserl's writing is a bit dense, so for more on Edmund Husserl's musings on The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness this is a good starting point. I'd share more on this, but I've run out of time!

Remember, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make the most of your present as you prepare for the future.


kasscho said...

Speaking of dreams, did you hear about the unearthing of Carl Jung's 'The Holy Grail of the Unconscious?' I just might have to get me a copy at Amazon for $103. Jungians are having a hey day with it.
Very interesting post. I hate to admit I obsess about the construct of time. What a waste of it!

ENNYMAN said...

No I had not heard that about Jung's Holy Grail of Unconscious. Did you read his Memories, Dreams and Reflections?

You are not alone in mulling over the meaning and implications of Time. It is a topic that has absorbed many a mind, whether while waiting for a pot of water to boil or for the weekend to begin. Sometimes weeks fly by like fingers on a keyboard, and other times it seems tomorrow will never come.

Anyways, thanks for the note.