Time-Travel Literature and the Joy of the Eternal Now

Time travel turns up in the day’s bouquet of signage. Tiana Clark tells of “books by Black authors / about joy and pleasure and time travel.” Not just books that tell of pain, like the pain of “temporal displacement.” Rasheedah Phillips’s essay “Black Timescapes, Time Travel + Temporal Displacement” is one I hope to share with students in my course “Rabbit Holes, Time Machines, and Doors in the Wall.” We could also watch Phillips’s short film Recurrence Plot: The Family Circle. “Time feels layered in Afrodiasporan traditions,” writes Phillips. “The past is always layered over the present moment — our ancestors reside with and within us, even if on a different temporal plane / scale.”

Monday June 14, 2021

Harmonica on the beach. And a golden sun at the center of the sky gleams down. Mind clear, inner chatter silenced, I listen to the waves. We trade rides on a store-bought boogie board. The world hisses, sprays / spits with love. Day of summer, day of sizzle. Application of coconut oil to bare skin. Afterwards I sit on the deck feeling “happy, happy, happy!” as the baby’s fond of saying here at our macrame / woven-art Airbnb. When Sarah returns from taking Frankie to the park down the street, I take over and do the same. Frankie marches me around, marches up slides, climbs a set of plastic mountains, majesty arranging herself to her liking on a swing. Birds sing as wind rustles the leaves of a neighbor’s palm tree. What a life. “What we need,” you say, “are places like this, but free.”

Saturday May 8, 2021

“If the best way to learn is by doing,” argue the members of the Chicago Surrealist Group in a piece on the 1992 L.A. Rebellion written for the Winter 1993 issue of Race Traitor, “There is every reason to believe that in some seventy-two hours of popular, creative destruction, L.A.’s insurgent population learned more than they did in all the years they spent confined in classrooms” (8). The Group touts humor’s role in the Rebellion as both teaching implement and weapon. “Few things are more consciousness-expanding,” they write, “than a good joke at the expense of cops, bosses, and bureaucrats” (9). Cops can police love all they want, pretending their repressed lives matter ‘til blue in the face. Let us laugh as we dream ourselves out there again, dancing in the streets—and let this laughter of ours eat right through them (like acid etching new ways of being), desire educated by joy in doing until, hearts opened to the possibility of next time made this time, precincts go up in flames.

Saturday May 1, 2021

We row-row-row our boats gently downstream into what Ursula K. Le Guin calls the ever-deepening mystery of the real. Little red cabooses, chug-chug-chugging. So goes the tune of our getting together amid friends and comrades in celebration of Beltane and May Day. Picture us there, rallying, glowing in each other’s presence, friends leading us in song with handmade songbooks. We clap, we stomp our feet. We cheer, we feel elated.

Tuesday October 9, 2018

I sit in a chair in my office attending to words and phrases as they well up inside me. There are moments each day when exposure to social media translates into spells of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. A friend and I text about the election of Brazil’s far-right “Trump of the Tropics,” Jair Bolsonaro. Historical agency is consolidating into the hands of the “Tough Guys,” the well-armed, militarily-unstoppable few. How do we turn this around? By what behavior might we resurrect in this world a world dedicated to love and play? We just do it: we listen, we dance, we read signs. We communicate to others our vision of a joyous cosmology. We project this cosmology outward. We enliven. We embolden. We embrace the anomalies of the particular and our subjective feelings as observers. Following philosopher Paul F. Schmidt, we imagine “feelings” to include “thinking, acting, observing, believing, willing, remembering and hoping, in all their modes and moods.” We channel our hopes into radical concreteness, the “true-for-me,” Sartre’s “being-for-itself.” Let us confess to our thinking. When we allow the voice of the loving individual to be heard, we heal. Schmidt’s book Rebelling, Loving and Liberation is astoundingly good, by the way, as is the view of time expressed in T.S. Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton.” Both are instructive of how to preserve concrete being in an administered society, if by “concrete being” we mean living in a present that contains many presents, many single concrete inclusive complete wholes, each one lived in the here and now of its own happening.