Time has no memory. The fact that one image is made today, and another was made a year ago, or two, or ten doesn’t matter to ‘time’ at all. They are all the same. So, if the onlooker returns to the same spot and creates another image there, only the looker really knows the spirit of return and having returned to it. To all else, who might ever view these ‘memories’ of the onlooker, even these words are nothing but a footnote, and really, when you get down to it, not a very important one. The onlooker can of course play a little bit. The equipment can be changed up, and the result will be a distortion—or an adaptation—of the vision of wherever the looker had once stood. These themselves will easily give the impression of history—time’s immodest patina that paints the world in the palettes of Diana, Holga, Nikon, and Leica, and so forth.
In the prehistoric images first drawn upon the walls 32,000 years ago of the Chauvet Cave, identically drawn animals painted near and atop other images of identically drawn animals, one, two, or five thousand years apart, were drawn upon the curved inner stone walls almost exactly as they had been one, two, or five thousand years the last time they had been drawn there before. In other words, nobody erased them. And thousands of years later, somebody else came, and sometimes drew the same images again beside them. And then this happened again. The enormity of this can only really start to make sense when one considers that all the ages that have passed since the time of Ancient Greece and now are like a blip between one painter’s hand in a cave and another’s thousands of years later.
There is a place called Ontario. I had been there, long, long ago. In it was a lake and an island. On the island was a cabin. There was no running water, and there was no electricity. This was long ago. For water, visitors to the island walked down the pine needle-covered winding path to the lake with galvanized buckets, and carried them full of water back up to the top. To call this a memory is improper. To call this the ‘past’, too, is improper. Neither the past, as it once was, or—might have been—known, nor memory itself, exists anymore. They have all been smashed on the head of a pin, which formerly stood—the pin, or the head of the pin, in particular—as the image or the metaphor for the opposite or counter-reason for time being stretched out. Which is to say that if it were not ‘stretched out’ then everything that was shall already have been. That was the argument. However the instantaneity, the technological ubiquity of everything all at once, the operational ease with and by which any object or factum or ‘thing’ in the known universe can be summoned digitally by the wizard wands which persons today so commonly wield & possess, this has made the dimensions of time itself as we humans (when we were such) altogether, and if not that, then altogether quite, vanished from the planet. What were once imprecise and fallible and even unreliable memories become data points, scattered across a Cartesian coordinate system, perfectly locatable wherever they be, having no more nor any less value or meaning than any other dot or datum, virtually anywhere in this vast nebula qua network. In sum, the eternity of everything has made our own human living somewhere in the galaxy, this ‘Milky Way’, now pointless, useless, and any remaining nostalgia for the rag and bone complex of life itself is become its own remnant that in its hum-drum biology is only a superfluage which so far can’t be gotten rid of, like other things that once were discarded by hands as ‘excessive’, or ‘obsolete’, or ‘gone past’, or ‘let go’.
Picture an Operating System called Extinction. When this system is installed successfully, and enabled (or activated), the user becomes extinct. In the ever-increasing acceleration of the march of time, this is not so far-fetched. The speed with which the acculturation of technology spreads around the globe speaks to this. Slogans that are rooted in an overall system that to give a laptop to a child in the third world can change that human being’s life, presume much more than literacy and democratic opportunities. That child will become an operator of that computer or technological system on par with a child in North America or Central Europe or any other spot on earth where, like brushfire, technological advancements are occurring at their own pace, a rapidity behind which, like the ruts of a wagon’s wheels once left in the prairie grasses of Nevada, the past as biology is left far behind forever. My own written notes and scraps [a child’s]—stories, reports of family trips, poems—left in a three-ring binder and a scientific record book whose maroon plastic cover guarded the inscribed contents against chemical accidents and laboratory spills, will be, if they are not destroyed soon, readable by a human being in a thousand years, just as Catullus’ poems uncorked from a merchant’s wine bottle breathed new life into the world of love a millennium later. But, already, writing that I committed to a computer’s operating system even twenty-five years ago is not just obsolete: it is gone. It cannot be read. Either the machine on which it was recorded or the program by which it was saved, these devices in the service of keeping memory, that is to say, in the service of passing on human memory beyond the existence of that human’s biological existence, are already gone, or as good as gone, before I myself have died, within barely just half of my mortal lifetime thus far. Thus we live, or we are about to live, in an age where there is and the can be no difference between Gabriel’s horn being blown and the blowing of Gabriel’s horn, between one moment and the next moment, but during which we are all in and a part of the process of recording it, the motions and sounds of erstwhile human life, become now a giant God-less movie in a giant outdoor (and indoor, too!) theme park for nobody watching.