The Amplitude of Time

Summer Fundraiser 2013, Day 1

And whether I come to my own to-day, or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.
My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite;

I laugh at what you call dissolution;
And I know the amplitude of time.

               — Walt Whitman, from “Leaves of Grass”

Well, it’s that time again. Once every quarter we make a pitch to our readers for help in covering the operating expenses of this blog, and this summer is fast running out. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? Actually, once you reach a certain age, time keeps on flying, regardless of the fun quotient.

The passage of time is the theme of this fundraiser. It came to me a couple of weeks ago, after an email exchange with one of our Scandinavian readers. He wrote with a tip about Professor Jonathan Friedman, a decidedly politically incorrect American professor at the University of Lund in Sweden. I told him that our first translations from Scandinavia (or anywhere else) were of an interview with Professor Friedman more than eight years ago.

How could that have been eight years ago? I remember it so clearly — our blog was just beginning to wade into the European morass, and those translations by Rune attracted considerable attention in Europe, prompting more translators to volunteer. Fjordman came on board the following year, and the current enterprise we now run began to take shape.

Tip jarThat memory is so clear, yet other more recent events have become quite murky. Much of what occurred in the months before Breivik’s attacks two years ago is now lost in the mists of ancient history. Heck, I can barely recall most of the articles I edited and published three or four weeks ago. They come in, I do what is necessary to the text, find illustrations for them, post the result, store the titles and URLS in the database archives, and then promptly forget about them.

Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

               — Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2

The difference is between what is exceptional and what is routine. Time flows differently during routine events than it does during momentous occasions.

This phenomenon is analogous to a process observed by evolutionary biologists known as punctuated equilibrium. Paleontologists have discovered that evolutionary changes do not usually happen imperceptibly, but rather accelerate in sudden bursts under the pressure of environmental changes. Species remain all but unchanged for millennia, or even aeons, and then rapidly evolve in a relatively brief span of time when ambient conditions change, returning to stasis afterwards.

The same is true of our ordinary, brief human existence.

The bulk of daily living consists of humdrum routine — and, if you’re like me, you prefer it that way. You get up in the morning and make the coffee. You walk the dog. You go to work and perform a day’s labor. You come home and have a glass of wine before dinner. For most people television follows, although not for us, since we have no TV. Then comes bedtime, and the blessed relief when your head hits the pillow.

The week has its own rhythm, with Saturday and Sunday filling their own specific functions. The cycle of the seasons passes in the background. Then you look in the mirror one morning and notice with a start that your hair has gone almost completely white. How did that happen? I must not have been paying attention…

This banality of quotidian existence occupies the vast bulk of one’s life — or at least my life. Most events are eminently forgettable, so most are rapidly forgotten.

I make the coffee every morning in our house before Dymphna gets up. Since we bought our new espresso machine six years ago, the process has remained the same. It involves a pleasurable series of steps that require conscious attention and careful actions, yet except for this morning and maybe yesterday morning, I don’t remember any particular day’s coffee-making. They’re all approximately the same.

Such is the equilibrium. The punctuation appears when, say, something goes wrong with the equipment and steaming masses of water and scalding vapor spray all over the counter. Now, that’s a morning to remember.

The larger punctuations are the ones that occupy the bulk of long-term memory, for good or ill. Births, deaths, marriages, divorces. Buying a new car. Crashing that car. Getting a new job. Being fired from that job. Undergoing a terrible illness. Experiencing a miraculous recovery. Acquiring a debilitating and permanent medical condition. Watching a tree fall onto the corner of the house during an ice storm.

Stasis, and then disruption. Punctuated equilibrium.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The same process of punctuated equilibrium applies to the blogging world. I soon forget most of the cultural enrichment translations and posts about each new Islamic horror in the Middle East; those are routine and part of the equilibrium (although not for the unfortunate people who have to experience them). In contrast, our first custom translations provided an exciting moment of punctuation, as did other notable occasions, such as the first guest posts by some our better-known contributors.

Many punctuations end up being negative; such is the nature of the beast. Looking back on the almost nine years we’ve been doing this, I’ve compiled a partial list of our major punctuations, just off the top of my head:

  • The “Bill Gates converted to Islam” hoax (April 2005)
  • My visit to the Jamaat ul-Fuqra compound in Red House (October 2005)
  • Joining Pajamas Media (October 2005)
  • Fjordman’s first essay for Gates of Vienna (March 2006)
  • The founding of the 910 Group (September 2006)
  • The first Counterjihad conference in Copenhagen (April 2007)
  • The first Brussels conference (October 2007)
  • The LGF Wars (October 2007 — February 2008)
  • Being kicked out of Pajamas Media (April 2008)
  • The Anders Behring Breivik massacre and its aftermath (July-September 2011)
  • The second Brussels conference (July 2012)
  • Migrating from Blogspot to WordPress (January 2013)
  • The beheading of Lee Rigby in London (May 2013)

As you can see, some of these occasions were unpleasant or even horrific. But there was a lot of good punctuation in there, too.

Fundraisers don’t really count as punctuation. They’re part of the seasonal flow of events, like the first snowfall of winter or the blooming of the forsythia. You never know exactly when they’ll happen, but they’re a predictable part of the blog’s routine, just like the news feed.

Yet they certainly contribute their share of dramatic tension to our bloggy existence. Fundraising week is a grueling process, and sucks up a lot of time, usually at the expense of sleep. All the while there is that nagging feeling of apprehension: Will we collect enough to make it through another quarter?

And somehow we always do, every time. Through the astonishing, miraculous generosity of our regular readers, who always pitch in…

Just in time.

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One thought on “The Amplitude of Time

  1. This is my quarterly hats off! to the intrepid translators and Vlad without which I would never get the news that you so generously offer me on a spoon…

    Not to be undone, our English correspondents that send in video of, unfortunately, developments in GB which seem to be getting worse and worse.

    To the Baron and D, thank you for putting up Pat Condell’s videos and those of the EDL, UKIP and British Freedom Party. The tide simply must turn at some point.

    Here in the states we now understand that the average American citizen is having literally every electronic aspect of their life recorded in some building in NV
    (the building has more square footage than the Pentagon!) This is not sitting well, as it shouldn’t.

    The entire Western world is barreling toward a police state; some in Europe already live in one although they don’t know it. This is being sold to us under two banners; the fight against terrorism and cultural tolerance. I reject both.

    Again, my quarterly thanks for your site, the translators and Vlad.

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