Monday, April 18, 2011

On the Fantasy of Stopping Time: Making the Transient Past the Permanent Present

He then sat down in front of his desk, opened a leather folder, and began to write with a fountain pen on a large sheet of paper.  At first he sat rather stiffly, looking at the camera while I prepared to take his picture, but after a few moments he turned to his desk and became so engrossed in his work that it seemed the
outside world had disappeared for him.
Edmund Engelman, Berggasse 19: Sigmund Freud’s Home and Offices, Vienna, 1938.
The image froze.
Philip K. Dick, The Mold of Yancy.
He and I were . . .
O. Henry, After Twenty Years.
        . . . really almost reaching out in imagination—as against time—for . . .
Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle.
                . . . the illusion that we can stop time, that something is permanent even if we are falling short . . .
Adam Phillips, The Beast in the Nursery.
                     . . . of recognizing that in reality . . .
Remarks of President William Jefferson Clinton in Announcement of the Annenberg Education Contribution (December 17, 1993).
“Words are the only things which last forever.”
Harold Evans, His Finest Hour: Roy Jenkins chronicles the life of the prime minister who led Britain to victory over the Nazis.


Gary Freedman said...

The Crossing of the Red Sea (Hebrew: קריעת ים סוף Kriat Yam Suph) is a passage in the Biblical narrative of the escape of the Hebrews from the pursuing Egyptians in the Book of Exodus 13:17-14:29. It marks the point in the Exodus at which the Hebrews leave Egypt and enter into their wilderness wanderings.

Gary Freedman said...

The excerpt from Significant Moments is taken from the final section.

Freud is preparing to leave Vienna for London. The entire section is symbolic of the Exodus.

Somberly . . .
William C. Bullitt, Foreword to Freud & Bullitt, Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study.
. . . on the second day . . .
Jack London, The Night-Born.
. . . Freud, . . .
E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime.
. . . who was in the room . . .
Arthur Rubinstein, My Young Years.
. . . said that he had not long to live and that his death would be unimportant to him or anyone else, because he had written everything he wished to write and his mind was emptied.
William C. Bullitt, Foreword to Freud & Bullitt, Thomas Woodrow Wilson: A Psychological Study.
Indeed, . . .
Adam Phillips, The Beast in the Nursery.
. . . . he was as little able to know a fear for his future as to know a hope; so absent in short was any question of anything still to come.
Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle.

Passover Haggadah

When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, a sheaf of new-cut barley was presented before the altar on the second day of Unleavened Bread. Josephus writes

On the second day of unleavened bread, that is to say the sixteenth, our people partake of the crops which they have reaped and which have not been touched till then, and esteeming it right first to do homage to God, to whom they owe the abundance of these gifts, they offer to him the first-fruits of the barley in the following way. After parching and crushing the little sheaf of ears and purifying the barley for grinding, they bring to the altar an assaron for God, and, having flung a handful thereof on the altar, they leave the rest for the use of the priests. Thereafter all are permitted, publicly or individually, to begin harvest.

Gary Freedman said...

In "The Dream of the Four Miltons" I quote from the next to last scene of Goethe's Faust -- the scene in which Faust utters the forbidden wish that time stop: "Then to that moment I could say: Linger on you are so fair!" At this, Faust is struck dead per the bargain he made with Mephistopheles.

"9. As an expression of a need for narcissistic mirroring the construction of Milton Hershey's model company town, Hershey, Pennsylvania, is dynamically related to a celebrated literary idea: Faust's image of an idealized new land, a paradise to be created on a reclaimed swamp (See Goethe's Faust: Part II, Act V, "Great Forecourt of the Palace," lines 11559-11586). (Note that Faust's occupation was alchemy; compare the occupations of Primo Levi (a chemist) and John Altus (a pharmacist 2/), in the dream narration. Also, note the similarity between Faust's imagined paradise and the Zionists' vision of the land of Israel; Jesse Raben, a fellow legal assistant at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld--where I was employed at the time of the dream in March 1990--had lived in Israel.)

Faust: A swamp there by the mountain lies,
Infecting everything attained;
If that foul pool could once be drained,
The feat would outstrip every prize.
For many millions I shall open spaces
Where they, not safe but active-free, having dwelling places.
Verdant the field and fruitful; man and beast
Alike upon that newest earth well pleased,
Shall settle soon the mighty strength of hill
Raised by a bold and busy people's will,
And here inside, a land like Paradise.
Then let the outer flood to dike's rim rise
And as it eats and seeks to crush by force,
The common will will rush to stem its course.
To this opinion I am given wholly
And this is wisdom's final say:
Freedom and life belong to that man solely
Who must reconquer them each day.
Thus child and man and old man will live here
Beset by peril year on busy year.
Such in their multitudes I hope to see
On free soil standing with a people free.
Then to that moment I could say:
Linger on you are so fair!
Nor can the traces of my earthly day
In many aeons pass away.--
Foresensing all the rapture of that dream,
This present moment gives me joy supreme.
(Faust dies.)"

The theme of time standing still is also an important one in "The Dream of Craig at Wanamakers."