Saturday, September 13, 2008

Meaningless rambles about time in a hospital window


The lighted window
in the dark of night
in the light of day.

(first draft, written 9/11/08)

I wrote this while I was at a hospital this week (I drove a friend to have laser eye surgery, so don't get too alarmed!) and while I was in the waiting room (time) I noticed something really interesting. We had to be there by 7 a.m. (I know! - and with the 1 hour commute...!!! - again, time) so it was really early and had that pre-dawn beauty that most of us new media people never get to see. Therefore this odd light holds a fascination for me. I was waiting (time) and watching the world around me when I looked out the window and across the way was another wing of the hospital with another window into a room with the light on. Since it was sooo early in the morning, the window was a harbor of light against a dark wall, and even though the window only looked into a room with linens stacked up, it was fascinating (plus it was 7 in the freakin' morning, so for a night owl like moi the sleep deprivation that accompanies early morning is a little like having a buzz, so everything is fascinating!) I pondered it for a bit (not much else to do in a waiting room) and then started reading the interesting yet academically written book "Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture" (yes I am a geek, and be thankful for the books we are using in this class - I got this book with the idea it might be good for this class...but not so much, although I do recommend it...) Any way, after about 30 minutes, and only 3-4 pages (that should tell you something and it also says something about time!) I looked up at the window again and was stunned!!!

The beacon of light in the darkness was nothing more than a dull tan and white rectangle in a vast sea of dull tan bricks! Over the course of just a few minutes the sun had continued to rise as my attention was focused elsewhere, and even though I expected the view in the window to be the same alluring image it had been when I last glanced at it (I don't know why, I just did - guess my brain was in a different time stream,) the light had changed, bleeding the contrast from the image and completely changing it. There was hardly anything that would have caught my attention had I not seen it before. I looked to see if the light was still on in the room, and the telltale greenish glow of fluorescent lights told me it was, but, at least for me, especially compared to how arresting it had been before, it was not a visual experience I would remember... Had the light been off in the room it would have created a negative image to the one I had seen before, but the light was still on, so time was really the only thing that changed (plus the rising sun, of course. Funny how just a little time and distraction can completely change someone's perception of a thing. The window, the light in the room, the bricks of the building, the linens - they were all exactly the same as they had been before. But now they were meaningless to me.

So therefore, I believe that meaning can only exist in context and in time... And conversely, time is only relevant if it has meaning. And meaning depends on a person, and context depends on people and time. It goes back to that old "If a tree falls in the woods..." conundrum. And I also wonder if the significance of the date (9/11) had any bearing on my thoughts, even though I did not consciously realize the date until later in the day...

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