The daily life of the last weeks, passed under the influence of various solicitations, which end up adapting our daily life to a rituality that is both familiar and strange to us.
The liveliness of the rituals to which we adhere during those days, evokes the Nietzschean idea of the “eternal return of the same”. Despite appearances, and Nietzsche’s, there is no such “return”, as daily experience shows us, allowing us to see novelty and change in our environment; and, if that were not enough, the convincing Nerudian statement is there to remind us that: “we from then are no longer the same.”
Against all odds, the rituals persist and evolve, adapting to the needs of the new times.
Rituality (“Observance of the prescribed formalities to do a thing”, according to the Royal Spanish Academy), contributes, in many ways, to facilitating relationships between individuals in the community and with it with nature. So it was from time immemorial; indeed, rites, liturgies and ceremonies were and continue to be structural elements of human life, both in the earthly domesticity of everyday life, and in the unfathomable timeless complexity of the individual and social imaginary.
Among the numerous regulatory functions assumed by rituality, there is one, which we can consider the task of tasks, namely:
That of capturing time, or at least modulating its course, tempering its oscillations, and making its rhythm predictable. Here is what the polychromy of the ritual’s hides, what is weakly heard under its polyphony, what is barely glimpsed after its blinding pyrotechnics.
Actually, the rites tell us about time, or rather, about us and time.
We are assuming, right or wrong …, the closing and/or opening rites of an annual cycle.
What a routine and strange thing than time!
“What is time? – Saint Augustine asks himself – If nobody asks me, I know; if they ask me and I want to explain it, I don’t know anymore.” (1)
The “doubtful evidence” of Saint Augustine, inaugurates a fruitful reflection for which time seems indefinable, ungraspable, as if it only existed in its leakage, as if it only appeared with the condition of always disappearing, and so much darker in its conceptual aspect as clear in experience. “It is testimony and mystery: it is only revealed by slipping away; it is only delivered in its loss; it only imposes on us in the very movement by which it escapes. Although we all know or recognize him, no one sees it face to face.” (2)
“What do we owe to the past?”
A millennium later, Pascal will say that time forms things whose satisfactory definition is “impossible and useless”: “Who can define it? And why try it, since everyone conceives what we mean by speaking, without designating it further?” (3)
For our consciousness, time is initially a succession of past, present, future. Now the past is not since it is no longer. Neither does the future because it is not yet. As for the present: either it is divided into past and future, which either are, or is “a point of time” without any “vastness of duration” and therefore, “ceases to be time.” (4)
Montaigne had already drawn attention to it saying that: “… as regards these words: present, instant, now”, with which we apparently base and affirm mainly the intelligence of time, finding [at the time] the reason it destroys immediately: because it splits it without delay and breaks it from the future and the past, as if it wanted to see it always divided into two. (5)
It should be said that reflection on time has not ceased, knowing an unheard extent and depth, involving all domains of knowledge.
“Time is the present. The past is not, because it is no more, the future is not, because it is not yet: there is only the present, the only real time.” (6) It is about our present, in which time and space are articulated, the referents sine qua non of human existence.
The sovereign reality of the present does not disconnect us from the past, it forces us to look in it for many of the keys to the “here and now.” Real present that also forces us to consider our future, not as a predetermined destination, but as an emerging reality of the present in which we live.
What do we owe to the past? GRATITUDE and not nostalgia, Spinoza tells us; and in the future, what can link us? Spinoza responds: TRUST and not hope. (7)
(1) Saint Augustine. Confess.
(2) Andrés Comte-Sponville. What is time? Ed. Andrés Bello, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile. P.19
(3) Blaise Pascal. Think
(5) Montaigne Essais.Apologie by Raymond Sebond.
(6) A.Comte-Sponville. Ibidem.cmxm
(7) Baruch Spinoza. Ethics.